FARMINGTON — Carlton Rollins sells pictures almost every night and sits by his car in downtown Farmington.
Rollins, 73, is a numbers person: He estimates he’s sold over 5,000, maybe 6,000 paintings and over 2,000 rock art since the 1970s; He can make up to 24 paintings and 50 rock paintings a day, he said.
Rollins hails from Harpswell, where he taught himself to paint when he was about 10 years old. He quickly discovered that art was a wonderful way to make connections and cope with life’s hardships.
In 1974 he moved to Franklin County to study art and English at the University of Maine at Farmington.
For the nearly five decades that followed, Rollins spent his time writing poetry and painting canvases, rocks, and murals across the country—particularly at his home in New Sharon and from his car in downtown Farmington.
Rollins said his artwork has reached all 50 states, 30 countries and five continents. It is sold to locals, Mainers, travelers and exchange students. His artwork has also graced gallery walls in New York City and Farmington.
“‘From my homestead in New Sharon I reached out to the world,'” Rollins is fond of saying.
He’s particularly proud of these numbers because his favorite job as an artist is “sharing things with other people.”
“I love that they rise up and find some happiness in the poetry and art that I make,” he said. “I love being in public and meeting people.”
That’s one of the reasons Rollins moved his “gallery” to downtown Farmington, where he can reach more people, he said.
Rollins sets up its shop along the downtown sidewalk from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. most weekdays. He lays out many of his paintings on the windshield and roof of his car, and others on the floor – certainly an ingenious system.
The back seat of Rollins is filled with paint boxes, other artist paraphernalia, and countless other paintings—many of which are still in progress.
“One woman said to me, ‘You have a whole art studio in your car!'” exclaimed Rollins.
His artwork focuses on a variety of subjects — “whatever comes to my mind,” he said. He describes his artistic style as “surreal impressionism”.
Sometimes he paints abstracts and landscapes, sometimes flowers, sometimes figures.
Back to the numbers, Rollins said he’s done over 400 paintings of Clearwater Lake in Industry, 30 of Smalls Falls near Rangeley, and 24 of Mt. Blue – all of which are in high demand among his clientele.
Lately, however, his favorite painting is Puffins and Lighthouses.
However, Rollins likes to paint what people like – which is why Clearwater Lake features in the many paintings for sale surrounding his car.
In a way, painting is a means to an end for Rollins – especially given the recent increase in the cost of living. But Rollins said connecting with others could sometimes come first.
He recalled one day a group of older women admired his paintings but said they couldn’t afford them. Rollins said it was an easy decision to give away some of his paintings to the group.
“Generosity is important in all aspects of my life,” he said.
A downpour sets in, but Rollins doesn’t leave it anytime soon; His paintings are all waterproof.