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Interview with the Artist

Gordon Napier interviews Carole Humphreys about her Art

snoutie

Gordon:
Do you remember when you first became an artist, or resolved that you would like to become one? What do you think triggered that decision?


Carole:
As a small child, my father's paintings were hanging in the kitchen (along with animal-face models that you used to get on the back of weetabix boxes).  My first experience of a gallery, I guess.
I started drawing more or less as soon as I could pick up a pencil.  I drew big swans on the bedroom wall (lemon wallpaper) - my father thought they were marvellous, while my mother was furious
.


Gordon:

You had a mixed critical reaction, then. So would you say art was in your blood? Were any other relatives artistically talented?


Carole:
My mother was too- very good at copying; while my father was more into landscapes.  My mother stopped making art once she married; but she was prone to use a knife and draw ships and houses on our bread and butter when the kids were young. My brother, Andrew, is a bit of a bird artist.  While my elder brother used to draw soldiers, cut them out, and have wars going on in his bedroom.


Gordon:

Quite a colony of artists then. Interesting what you say about your mother. Did you find anything similar with regard to your artistic output when you married and had a family?

Carole:
I kept making art, even if the circumstances were not ideal.  My two children didn't seem to mind, and if it was a commissioned piece, I'd usually work on it into the night while they were asleep.


Gordon:

You mentioned your earlier improvement to the wallpaper. Were those swans your first memorable creations? How long did it take you to master your craft?


Carole:
I'm not sure which came first, the swans, or an act of forgery.  I once found a drawing of a horse the morning after my parents had had guests, and I was irked that the artist had missed off the hooves - so I added them, then proudly showed off the drawing.  The praise I received encouraged me to think it was not such a bad idea becoming an artist. In infant school, the teachers used to pat me on the head for my Jesus pictures (biblical scenes) - I soon realised grown ups could be suckers for being impressed easily. I became a bit of a little prodigy and friends of my parents would ask me to draw them pictures.  At around the age of 12, one of them requested a large frieze with charging white horses, and my mother was a little peeved that I'd never made anything like that for her.  After she died, I discovered
she had kept a lot of the greetings cards that I had made her over the years
but she rarely praised my art in front of me.


Gordon:

Have you kept much of your early work?


Carole:
I have very little of it - I've got a wicked birthday card that I made for my mum where I depicted her as a stripper, dancing with strategically placed large feathers.  There's also a book mark that I made her with a librarian on it saying, 'Shush!'


Gordon:

Would you say you are interested in exploring the full spectrum of human emotions? Are there any particular themes you find most interesting?

glumgirlCarole:
I think my subject matter has got darker as I've got older; once it was all fairies, mermaids and fantasy themes; but often now, I seem to be depicting dead women, generally inspired by literary themes. I don't think I draw or paint happy people very often, that's worrying ... maybe sad mouths are easier to draw. My art certainly got darker after my sister's death, and the themes seemed to change - several Ophelia pictures ... Hmm, water did begin to feature a bit too in other pieces.  At the same time, I started drawing angels a lot too, so maybe I'm not so morose.


Gordon:

You've tackled such subjects as Ophelia and the Lady of Shalott, which were also popular with the Pre-Raphaelites. Would you say you would have been happier in an earlier time? How do you think these subjects and your work in general relates to the contemporary world, and what is your opinion on the art scene in general?


Carole:
I think I would have been happier painting and drawing in the 19th century ... but then again, not many female artists were able to make a name for themselves.  There is something quite old fashioned about my style; but that's not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned - it's good to value what's gone before and to be shaped by the past.  I do feel I'm working out of time and against the grain as my way of working no longer seems to be valued in today's market and is not desired.  It won't stop me doing what I love though. Artists like Waterhouse and Burne-Jones are so inspirational to me and it's heartening that they still hold great appeal today; maybe things will change for the better and some of the old values will be embraced again and accepted.


Gordon:

Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or your philosophy?


dragon cookingCarole:
Hmm, maybe I should mention how it can be an exacting, masochistic act, striving to try and better myself; while every now and then, I'll have an urge to self-sabotage any notion of being a serious artist by producing something humorous.