People figure Molly Sieburg Courcelle got her artistic skills from her mother, well-known local painter Bee Sieburg. The two even work out of adjacent studios in the River Arts District.
But Molly is adopted. So in this case, exposure prevailed over inherited traits.
“Growing up, she took me to art museums and galleries and pointed out beauty wherever we went,” remembers Molly. Bee also gave her daughter “lots of art supplies” and taught her to really use her eyes to see what she was painting: “… that the sky isn’t only at the top of the canvas, for example, or that the bark on a tree is more than just brown.”
Courcelle earned a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in painting from Wake Forest University, but she remained uncertain about her future: “I wasn’t sure [painting] was exactly what I would pursue.” Meanwhile, other opportunities arose.
When Courcelle was growing up, she helped her mother in her floral-design business. So after college, she found it easy to find work in floral shops. Later, she was recruited by Starbucks, working her way into management.
When she moved to Asheville in 1997, she again found work as a florist. Meanwhile, her mother, already living in the area, had long dreamt of having a curated floral-and-gift boutique, and finally opened The Gardener’s Cottage — a shop that received national attention, including a feature in Flower magazine — in a historic Biltmore Village building.
Bee ran the floral side of the business while her daughter handled retail operations. “The Gardener’s Cottage role was creative,” says Courcelle, “but left very little time for [making art].” Suffering from burnout, they eventually sold the business. Then they turned their attention to painting.
Courcelle works primarily with oils, in paint and stick form, although some of her works incorporate watercolor, graphite, and pastel. Not attracted to faster-drying acrylics, the painter says she’s willing to sacrifice speed for the finished look she seeks.
Ironically, a timed warm-up exercise in a college life-drawing class became the impetus for her future work: “A nude model would pose for one minute at a time [and] we were to quickly capture something about the pose.” These exercises produced some of her favorite drawings — “loose, gestural, fluid” —elements that now distinguish her soft, colorfully lush abstracts. Many of them are based on the flowers she loves.
But Courcelle’s biggest inspiration is Christianity. “There is such depth and imagery all throughout Scripture. As I study the Bible, I feel as if I’m constantly inspired visually,” she says.
Her faith also has professional advantages. Many of her paintings are commissioned works, where clients bring her a specific Bible verse or spiritual theme they’d like to see interpreted on canvas. “I find this to be very exciting, visually creating something from the words I am given. … I hear all the time that my work brings people peace and comfort. I love that.”
Molly Sieburg Courcelle, The Wedge, Studio 2A, 129 Robert St. in the River Arts District. 828-275-0640. www.mollycourcelle.com. Courcelle’s work is also sold at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., Asheville, woolworthwalk.com), Lizzy Summerlin Interior Design (7 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village, lsinteriordesign.com), and Peace & Nice Boutique (32 All Souls Crescent, 828-505-8880). On Thursday, July 18, Courcelle and her mother, Bee Sieburg, will have a one-day indoor and outdoor exhibit of their paintings at The Gardener’s Cottage (34 All Souls Crescent), with a ticketed lunch and demo at 11:30am (reservations required; call 828-277-2020) and a free, public champagne reception in the evening from 5-7pm. www.thegardenerscottageasheville.com.