The making of an artist

What makes someone an artist?Looking back I see early signs. Color, shape, texture were always catching my attention. The media of a child’s play in the 1940’s–crayons, paper, scissors, paste could absorb me completely.

And the world of radio opened my ears to the joys of sound, not only music and instruments, but particular voices or instruments. But most of all my hands actively craved making things. I would grab the Sunday newspaper, discarded by the adults, to stare at the pictures of people featured, some of them even in color!

Young Carol-Lois

But the family drama that I lived in made me cling ferociously to these little pleasures. It made me cling to these little pleasures. My play times were special: that freedom was rare. In our unusual household, as early as I can remember, I was my younger brother’s nanny, responsible for keeping him safe, amused, clothed, fed. And soon, when my parents work schedule got tighter, I also purchased the food for dinner at the grocery and cooked it. While I also continued to baby-sit my brother, before and after school.

Time for myself alone or space of my own was rare. But the hardwood floor of the living I adopted as my art table. And the music on the radio was major entertainment. Instead of having much adult supervision, really I was performing in adult roles myself, most of the time.

Fast-Forward to age 50, when I was stricken with Lyme disease, but it went unrecognized, undiagnosed for more than a decade. But the chronic infection did bring the collapse of my existence. Continuing my life as the efficient nonprofit executive became utterly impossible.

But eventually an outstanding physician recognized my problem and treated me successfully.

Now I saw myself as someone that medical science had rescued–and offered decades more of life!

That perspective meant I gratefully chose –to live these bonus years out as an artist! Learning how close I had come to extinction caused a rebirth! This isolated, abused child found her best self in her mature years. About 20 years ago, I took up the challenge of the popular book, The Artist’s Way–to claim my calling as an artist. This approach set the outlines for my daily artistic practice. I took my freedom to move into creativity as a life style. And full speed ahead!

Why Figure Painting?

A recent view of art*–by another who also entered the field late in life–struck a deep chord in me. He said, Art is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion.

I would add that it could also be, not the experience of personality, but the escape from personality.

Figure painting has been my main subject for the past 15 years. And it was central for me as a child and all along. What is its source? It comes from a craving for intimacy. And that is intensified beyond the ordinary by another challenge.

Which is, my innate inability to satisfy it it effectively. Close companions would be happy to verify this painful judgment.

Yet I do keep tolerating the intense physicality of the figure studio process.

It’s for the sake of some interesting artworks.

Sack’s analysis* fits my artist’s life very well. My working is conflicted and driven. But it offers an exorcism, an intense release.

Altogether figure painting is too wonderful to have it any other way!

*See Joshua Rothman’s profile of artist Peter Sacks: Artist’s Archeology of the Mind, The New Yorker, March 25, 2019, p. 45-54.

Carol-Lois Haywood

Rick, Backlit, charcoal on toned paper.

J

2005 – 2008

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2012 – 2015

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2008 – 2012

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2015 – Present

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The Witch of the West. Self-Portrait.