Artist Carolina Lara Corona is an avid hiker.

When she embarks on a journey to a waterfall, a beach, or a mountain, she writes little notes to herself about the colors and textures she sees — notes to which she refers when she sits down to paint.

“Nature offers a lot of inspiration for me,” she says. “I go to a lot of different places. In Arizona this past spring, I wanted to see the wildflowers and the cacti bloom. I went to a spot with a lake, which was like a desert oasis.”

Corona, a 2015 graduate of Salem College, has shown her art at various galleries around Winston-Salem, and is preparing for a solo show at her alma mater in October. She also runs Corona Fine Art, an online gallery through which she sells her work.

Her paintings include depictions of the sunset at Fort Fisher, Cullasaja Falls in Macon County, and Pilot Mountain draped in copper-colored hues.

“I draw inspiration from the classical landscape with mountains and wildlife,” she says. “From a beach in Rhode Island, where the coast is rocky, to a beach in North Carolina, where it’s just sand and water.”

She also likes painting the feminine form, and one canvas shows a blue-colored woman set against a like-colored background, surrounded by flowers.

“That one is titled, ‘Nature Cycle,’” she says. “Sometimes I use different colors for skin tone because I don’t want there to necessarily be a race attached to it.”

She goes on to explain the significance of the work’s title.

“From her chest there’s an orchid growing, and the orchid is feeding her at the same time,” she says. “It’s a cycle; everything is in harmony living together. It shows how we’re dependent on nature to live.”

Kimberly Varnadoe, an art professor at Salem College, says Corona’s work combines fantasy and reality.

“There’s a lot of emotion in her pieces,” Varnadoe says. “You can see how much she enjoys nature in her work. But, rather than just doing landscapes that are representational, they always go a little bit further. There’s always some kind of symbolism that makes them a little more intriguing.”

A native of Veracruz, Mexico, Corona says she got her start as an artist watching a television show about craft making when she was a little girl.

“I had a little box filled with art materials,” she says. “And when the show came on, I would run to get my box of materials, and sit in front of the TV making these little crafts.”

Her parents also had creative tendencies.

“My dad was a construction worker, and I saw the craft required in his profession,” she says. “My mom used to do all kinds of things with fabrics. One time she made me a doll. She made the body from fabric, and she made the dress herself. She would also make Christmas decorations, and would sell them.”

Corona moved to Wilmington with her family when she was 10. Since she could not speak English at the time, she saw art as a way of being able to express herself. She took up painting after her father suggested she try re-creating an image of a tiger from a piece of fabric that came off a boogie board.

After studying art at Salem, she worked for a few years as a high school art teacher.

“My students were great,” she says. “But I found myself really yearning to paint. I would walk around, see my students painting, and felt I wanted to be the one creating, so that’s really what sparked the desire to go out on my own.”

Varnadoe says she and Corona have talked about the entrepreneurial aspects of art, and how to make a living as a full-time artist.

“Not everybody’s brave enough to try to do that,” Varnadoe says. “She’s been very successful at it, getting her work out there, marketing it, visiting museums and galleries.”

Corona works mainly out of her apartment, and puts a tarp down when she paints. Sometimes, though, when the urge hits her, she’ll just grab a brush, and try to be careful about not dripping any paint onto the carpet.

Eventually, she would like to open a physical (rather than digital) gallery of her own, possibly on the coast, and maybe also one in Mexico.

“I really want to have a space to share my artwork with others,” she says. “My space would be a main gallery with a courtyard and a fountain, a little patio, where I can do parties; I really want people to have a connection with my work, the colors, the culture, and rhythms.”

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