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Carolina Home + Garden, Winter 2013 Garden of Verses

Molly Courcelle recalls her favorite art class in college: live drawing, where each student had just one minute to capture the model’s form. That quick study, she says, trained her to focus on line and gesture, something that still informs her work today. Her nature-inspired paintings start with a dark (sometimes warm) ground applied with a house paint brush. Then she fills in the space with a small brush loaded with white, leaving a suggestion of form — leaves, vines, petals, or a ginko leaf for example — to come through. “It’s a push and pull” between the dark and the light that produces the movement and color in her work, she says, and that creates a certain mood (ranging from soothing to energizing), that makes her work so popular. But in recent years, her work has been driven by a force more powerful than popular design: her Christian faith.

Growing up in Winston-Salem as the daughter of well known  painter Bee Sieburg, Courcelle says she was constantly exposed to art: her mother took her out to paint plein air and the family frequented museums, especially when they lived in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. Courcelle majored in painting at Wake Forest University, teaching art at Camp Greystone in Tuxedo during the summer. She moved to Boston after college and worked in floral design and retail, but relocated to Asheville after her parents settled here.
"Growth Pattern"
Together, she and her mother opened The Gardener’s Cottage in Biltmore Village in 1998, with Sieburg operating the flower part of the business and Courcelle running the boutique. The mother-daughter team owned the business until selling it around the time the first of Courcelle’s two sons was born.

The two now work across the hall from each other on the second floor of the Wedge building in the River Arts District, each with her own painting studio. They sometimes teach workshops together. Courcelle’s retail background has aided her success as an artist. She keeps up on design trends and works closely with an Atlanta gallery owner finding ways to interpret her aesthetic to marketable works. When her sons were very young, says Courcelle, she was content to paint what was popular. “I could paint a bird a day,” she says. But having the technical skills to do so didn’t necessarily make her feel fulfilled. She looked for a way to tie her work more closely to her growing faith.
Before meeting Asheville artist Carol Bomer, Courcelle says she never, felt “bold enough” to put references to spiritual themes in her work. Faith was strong in her family growing up, but it was a private matter. But Bomer — who has a studio across the street from Courcelle — offered an example of an artist whose work expresses Christian beliefs without being too representational.

Courcelle started to focus her work on exploring different scriptures, trying to capture the essence of their message in paint. Rather than use liturgical images, Courcelle uses familiar motifs such as flowers and vines, or her signature loose, gestural abstracts. “I try to be gentle about it,” she says. A passage in Isaiah, for example, relays teachings about nurturing and growth. On the canvas, the teaching is expressed as a blossoming vine and branches emerging from a soft white background.

While viewers can appreciate one of her spiritually motivated paintings simply for its aesthetic values, they may also find deeper meaning in them if they are so inclined. A client might walk away with a painting, print or postcard that touches them visually, but later discover that Courcelle’s intention behind it speaks to them, too.

“Art is a gift that I’ve been given, but at times being an artist can seem self-involved,” she says. “This is a way to give my work more purpose.” Her faith-driven approach to work renewed her energy and commitment to painting. “It’s true to my own voice,” she says.

Molly Courcelle’s studio is located in the Wedge Building in the River Arts District, at 129 Roberts Street and is open most weekdays and Saturdays. More of her work can be seen at Her prints, paintings and cards can be purchased in her etsy shop at

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