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C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 6 175 hen Carol Cronin traveled to Carmel from her native Ireland last November, she expected scenic coastal vistas. But, she didn't expect to be so taken that she would rent a Big Sur studio and return to paint for five weeks over the winter. "When I got here, I thought, 'Oh, hold on a second. This is incredible..." The only thing I wanted to do was get an easel, get a studio and start working," she says by phone, back in Ireland. "I was only supposed to be in Carmel for a 10-day hol- iday, but I left with full sketchbooks and I was buzzing about getting back." The California coast proved an inspiring spot for Cronin, whose richly lay- ered seascapes capture the ocean's wild, churning complexities. Her work has an engaging sense of drama that Alik Elzafon of Carmel's American Art Gallery calls "breathtaking." "The bottom line in art is the quality. I can't really put a finger on it, except that in front of her paintings, your jaw just drops," says Elzafon, who displays select Cronin paintings in his Dolores Street gallery. "You can stand there and see the depth of the waves." Cronin's bold oil-on-canvas creations start as pencil drawings. She'll sit along the shore for hours, sketching waves and clouds and sparkles of sunlight on the water. Cronin keeps those sketches in mind when she sits down to paint. She likens the process to a chess game, where one thoughtfully makes a few moves, and then gets lost in the process. "I'm not somebody who knows what I'll be painting before I paint it," she says. "When I paint the sea, I'm painting from a memory, from what my per- ception of the sea is. I'm not tied down to anything. The colors come from my imagination, as does the movement…It's about the vastness of it, and the weight of it, and what's under the sea." Cronin studied abstract art in college, and later refined her sketching and painting technique while working on the lush, mountainous Great Blasket Island. Cronin was based in the Netherlands when she visited this rugged stretch of County Kerry, along Ireland's southwestern coast; she felt such a connection to the landscape that she moved there a few weeks later. Today, she lives, works and maintains a gallery in nearby Dingle. Renate Quigley, a Carmel homeowner who also has a home in Dingle, first encouraged Cronin to visit Carmel. Quigley came across the artist's work in an Irish magazine, and she has since become a collector of Cronin's work. "When you look at Carol's paintings, you're not just looking at a seascape. W

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