Painting all in the family for Forbes, Carolan

Not surprisingly, mother Nancy Forbes and daughter Joanna Carolan are very close.

They’re both the first-borns of their siblings, they both claim to have been very bossy little girls, and both have the talents of a watercolor artist.

The two will have their first art show together at the Kaua‘i Museum in Lihu‘e.

The art show opening reception will be Thursday at the museum, starting at 4:30 p.m.

But, their story is not one of a daughter following in her mother’s footsteps. In an act of role-reversal, daughter Carolan was actually the artist first, having picked art up while she was still a toddler.

“She would be painting at the easel, and would be there for an hour,” Forbes said of her daughter.

“You could ask her about what she was painting, and she would go on and on and explain everything. Her imagination was enough to blow you away.” Instead of discouraging Carolan’s hunger for art, Forbes decided to feed it. She gave her crayons, paints, even Play-Doh to work with; anything to help her mold her craft.

“It wasn’t just me (noticing her talent), it was everybody,” Forbes said.

Carolan said Forbes kept every work of art she ever did.

“She was just one of those mothers who just saves everything,” Carolan said of her mother.

“She said she just couldn’t throw any of it away. I should hang up some of that art next to some of my new art, and be like, ‘which one did I do when I was 4?’” Raised in California, Carolan spent her summers with her grandparents here in Kapa‘a.

It seems as though the islands C1chose her fate for her.

“She doesn’t remember this, but she came back from visiting her grandparents when she was a teen-ager, and she put her arms on her hips and said, ‘It’s hard for an artist in Kaua‘i. When I grow up, I’m going to hire artists.” She studied design at the San Francisco Institute of Design and Merchandising, watercolor painting at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and ceramics in Sydney, Australia.

In 1991, Carolan made Kaua‘i her permanent home, and founded the Banana Patch Studio in Hanapepe.

In what started as a one-woman-run studio displaying ceramic tiles, pottery and art, she now has another studio in Kilauea, and employs more than 20 artists. Her mother is one of the artists whose work is displayed at the studio.

Unlike Carolan, Forbes picked up art later in life. After spending more than 25 years as an educator, Forbes didn’t start painting till about eight years ago, when she retired and moved here.

She grew up taking ballet and piano lessons, and not art classes. She was surprised when she took it up that she possessed the talent to paint, just like her daughter.

“I was very surprised. But I’m still learning. I feel like I have a long way to go,” Forbes said.

Carolan was less surprised than her mother.

“My mother always did crafts,” she said. “All of her projects were creative. She thought I got my talent from my father, but I think she had as much talent as she thought I’d had.” Another thing they have in common is the fondness for Kaua‘i underwater life. Their art show which opens next week will have a sort of underwater theme. Forbes loves to paint turtles. Carolan is into the koi fish.

Forbes observed her turtle subjects in Kukui‘ula, in the cove next to The Beach House Restaurant. Carolan visited the multiple koi ponds around the island, one being the pond at Duke’s Canoe Club Barefoot Bar & Grill at the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club on Kalapaki Beach.

But Carolan tends to take her art to another level. When she paints something, she has to know about it. Not only did she observe and paint them, but she studied the evolution of koi.

“I started studying how the breeding evolved, and the different markings of the koi,” she said. “I think it enriches the experience for me, and I think that has to come through in the painting.” The two have talked about doing a mother-daughter show for a while, but never really had the opportunity until now.

“I thought it would be much more fun to do what we’d been talking about,” she said.

The two both hope their inaugural mother-daughter show paves the way for future collaborations.

“I think people will see the differences in our work, but I think our work really compliments each other,” Carolan said. “This is really a show of new work. None of it is in the gallery, and most are not on the Web site.”


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