Sometimes the painting process is more than determining scale and color value. It's also about feelings.

Maybe a moment or place or even the verse of a James Taylor song can spark inspiration.

That's what happened when Nanci Charpentier was working on her oil painting, "Tried to Go Back, As if I Could."

The piece hangs in the Associated Women of the Arts' spring exhibition, "From Study to Studio," which runs through April 28 in Louisiana's Old State Capitol's Senate chamber.

The format focuses on the artists' process, with each painting hanging above framed items used in creating them. All pieces, including the framed items, are for sale.  

Some frames hold the expected — color swatches or preliminary sketches. Others hold surprises, like the verse from Taylor's "Copperline."

The verse is coupled with a preliminary study of a Spanish Town home, hanging below Charpentier's finished painting of the same structure.

"This house gave me a feeling that brought me back to a time when things were different," Charpentier says. "There's an American flag in the yard, and there's a sidewalk in front of the house, and the house is from a different time. It just reminded me of a time when kids would ride their bikes on the sidewalk during summer."

And with that thought, the "Copperline" lyrics played through her memory, breathing even more life into her painting. The singer-songwriter was as much a part of Charpentier's process as her memories.

And they're represented in this show of some 35 paintings by 30 members of the Associated Women in the Arts

The idea for this show came about when some of the group's artists were outside making plein air paintings. Bystanders asked them about the process.

Suddenly they had a format for their spring show, where no two processes are exactly the same.

For Debbie Denstorff, the process began with family history when she began work on her oil painting, "Hitching Post." The centerpiece of the painting is an iron, horse-head hitching post, still a popular sight in New Orleans' French Quarter.

"When I was growing up, my father had these in front of our house," she says. "It's a good memory for me. I love them."

The watercolor study for "Hitching Post" hangs beneath the painting.

Charpentier credits fellow association member Marla Hoppenstedt, owner of Studio de Chene, for framing the process pieces for only the cost of the 12-by-12-inch frames.


From Study to Studio

The Associated Women in the Arts' annual spring exhibition

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 28.

WHERE: Louisiana's Old State Capitol, 100 North Blvd.

ADMISSION/INFO: Free. (225) 342-0500 or louisianaoldstatecapitol.org

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.