Olympic inspiration


ArtSplash painter traveled all the way to Sochi, Russia, to find motivational stories in the world of sports

By Adam Aasen

Every painting tells a story. Whether it’s a warrior heading into battle or a mother holding a child, people stare for long periods of time, discussing what the tale might be behind those brushstrokes.

The world of sports is one area full of stories. And Donna Carr, a local painter at ArtSplash Gallery, watches athletes and sees stories worthy of paintings.

A desperate boxer – sweaty and bruised – stares down his enemy. A focused football player pushes his way through his opponent, eyes locked onto victory.

There’s determination, victory, loss, pride, joy, majesty. Everything a painter needs to tell a story.

“There is so much emotion,” she said. “I have to have a passion about an image and that’s when I do my best painting. When I see their passion and emotion, it makes me passionate.”

‘Football was kind of my passion’

Carr is working on a series of portraits depicting athletes in action. She recently returned from Russia where she took photographs of Winter Olympic athletes in Sochi. Now she’s turning her photos into watercolor and oil paintings.

She said she plans to turn it into an exhibit at ArtSplash, but she’s already getting quite some demand for her sports paintings. One her paintings of Russian Olympic athlete Viktor Ahn is going to be on display at the new Hoosier Salon gallery and will be published in a Russian sports magazine.

Sports have always been a passion of Carr’s. Growing up in northern Ohio, her father was obsessed with football.

“My father was a real avid football fan and I remember he’d have a console TV with one football game and a portable TV with another game and other games on two different radios,” she said. “Football was kind of my passion growing up.”

Finding other subjects in Sochi

Her husband, Gary Roberts, is dean emeritus of the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI and a longtime expert in sports law. He’s a former attorney for the NFL and was interviewed on CNN recently about the Donald Sterling controversy.

Roberts was invited to be part of the Court of Arbitration for Sport ad hoc Division, which settled all legal disputes related to the Olympics.

So Carr traveled with her husband to Sochi where she found plenty of artistic inspiration.

She took photos of the Russian skater and hockey players. She got some great shots of Lolo Jones and the bobsled team. She even took photos of Nick Goepper, the Olympic skier from Indiana.

She also was emotionally moved by the stray dogs wandering the streets of Sochi, which might become a painting as well.

One dog in particular she caught her fascination. He was nicknamed “Crow” because he would beg for food from strangers. He had a scar on his face that might have been the result of a street fight with another dog.

Carr said it’s another example of how you can find stories in just about anything.

‘I always make changes’

This isn’t her first foray into artwork about sports. She had a painting of former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday on display during a special exhibit when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl.

Parents of athletes have also commissioned her to do portraits of their kids, such as a teenage hockey player. And she has completed several paintings of race horses.

With each project, she starts off with photography for inspiration, but she isn’t afraid to add her own artistic touch.

“Even when I stay realistic in the portrait, I always make changes,” she said. “I change tones. I add shadows. I take out other body parts.”

When she worked on the Jeff Saturday portrait, there were bodies lying on the ground and lots of background action that she felt, “took away from him,” so she made the changes.

Carr is plugging away to finish her Olympic series, but with her hundreds of photographs to browse through, she said it might take her a while.

She is hoping to perhaps mix some of her completed Olympic images with her existing sports portraits to create a fun display soon at the ArtSplash Gallery, located on West Main Street in the Carmel Arts & Design District.

For more information visit her online at www.carrart.com.