With a sable watercolor brush, Karol Wyckoff has spent more than 50 years as a self-supporting, Cape-based artist. She is proud that she provided for herself and her two children as a single mother, putting her kids through prep school and college solely with her artwork.
Wyckoff approaches the business of art with a spirit of collaboration, making it a priority to be active in her community. She supports two different scholarships for art students, one through the Hyannis Rotary Club and one through her alma mater, Rhode Island School of Design. She has had pivotal roles in organizations such as the Cape Cod Art Association, the Scholastic Art Awards, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, and the Cape Cod Museum of Art. Wyckoff has been a teacher, judge, mentor, and adviser to the Cape arts community.
“I always knew that I wanted to be an artist,” she says. She had supportive parents. By the time she was in high school, she was already winning awards and developing her craft, and in her junior year, she was offered a scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. Early years spent working in the commercial art, illustration, and advertising fields allowed her to hone her skills as a draftsman and colorist. To this day, she stresses the formal foundations of her work: composition, color, drawing, and movement.
While Wyckoff paints in a variety of media, she prizes her watercolors—she pushes and pulls the paint at will. “With the paint, I can be either loose or tight—the way watercolors should be,” she says. Wide-ranging in her choice of subjects—from vases on a windowsill to a line of catboats on the Bass River near her home—Wyckoff relishes the opportunity to capture the world around her. Her paintings are so technically pristine, “serene” in her words, that they almost feel like fantasies. Not life as it really is, but as it should be. Her pieces are often literally or metaphorically sunny, a reflection of her disposition. “I’m a happy person to begin with, so my paintings are normally bright,” she says. While seascapes and landscapes are frequent, her portfolio is also dotted with portraits, still-lifes, and images of daily life.
The Cape has featured prominently in Wyckoff’s subject matter, but also in her life. She spends half of the year in a house just off Bass River in South Yarmouth. A Mayflower descendant, she traces her family back to this area. She ran her own Wellfleet gallery for years. “I love Wellfleet,” she says. “It’s a beautiful unspoiled part of the Cape.”
While Wyckoff claims to be in retirement, she is as busy as ever. This summer, her work is in a solo show at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. She is preparing for a retrospective, scheduled for 2014 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. She attests that she will slow down. But then again, she says, “I’ll probably never retire from painting.”