Charles St. Charles, Corcoran, Detroit, Emil Nolde, face, figure, improv, James Ensor, mask, monotype, painting, Paris, printmaking, psychological power, Rome, Rouault, Season Six, Spirit Bear, Theatre Lab, touchstone gallery, Upright Citizen's Brigade, Washington Improv Theatre
Charles St. Charles toggles between working as a lawyer and expressing his creativity through art and the improv stage. In other words, he lives life to the fullest, a Renaissance man with a broad range of intellectual and artistic interests.
As a child growing up in Detroit, Charles was always interested in the arts, but respected parental expectations to study business and law, finally ending up with a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. As luck would have it, he won a car on a game show while in Los Angeles, sold it when law school ended, and headed for Europe with the proceeds to pursue the proverbial bohemian life. He spent four years in Rome, touring, taking art classes and teaching at an American college in Rome. His obsession with art continued unabated during his next two years, living in Paris.
Eventually Charles returned to the U.S. and landed a job with a law firm in DC. But art was still dominating his soul. He’d invite friends over for dinner then enthusiastically bring out canvases for everyone to paint just for the fun of it. Gradually he saw that his guests weren’t as head over heels about painting as he was. So he decided to stop sharing art supplies and, as his evenings cleared when he moved to a government day job, he took a dozen classes at the Corcoran. Particularly obsessed with faces, he took the portrait painting class twice. He found studio space at the Millennium Arts Center and, when that closed, in Mount Rainer. He’s been a member of Touchstone for nearly ten years, during which time he’s had four solo shows, each with a face theme.
At the same time he was beginning at the Corcoran, his release of pent up artistic force steered him toward acting classes at the Theatre Lab where he was in the Conservatory’s first graduating class. After performing in several scripted plays, he discovered comedic improv, completed Washington Improv Theatre’s curriculum, and is now on WIT’s faculty and its Season Six and Spirit Bear ensembles. He continues his improv training at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in NYC. Performing without a script, he says, keeps his imagination active on and off stage and makes in-the-moment engagement with the world easier and more fun. It’s helped him become a better listener.
When he is not doing improv, he’s probably in his studio making art. In his trademark monotype technique, Charles paints onto a glass or plastic plate with printing ink then transfers the image one time to paper, usually by applying pressure with a roller or his hands. He carefully pulls the paper from the plate to see the surprises in the transferred image resulting from the ink’s thickness and moisture, and the amount of pressure applied. Recent experiments in direct oil and acrylic painting, use of textured cloth and inclusion of text point the way to future work; yet the faces inhabiting his current show will probably remain.
Charles has been influenced, not only by his stint in Europe but by Parisian expressionist painter/printmaker Georges Rouault, German expressionist Emil Nolde and Belgian artist/musician James Ensor. Each was interested in how paint and printing inks can make visible the personality of a figure and reveal the psychological power of the face or mask. Charles finds this relevant to his art, acting and, most likely, his lawyering as well.
Charles St. Charles solo exhibit, “Faces Many Ways,” focused on workplace life and relationships, continues through March 30, 2014 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave, NW, Washington DC. http://www.touchstonegallery.com; firstname.lastname@example.org 202-347-2782.