The path to art
By Susan Prior
‘Inspiration will strike – it’s just got to find you working.’
What turns a scientist into an artist? In Carolyn Jarvis’s case it was an unscheduled fork in the road that led her unexpectedly down the path to art.
As a society we tend to pigeonhole people into one camp or the other. Scientists don’t normally have a reputation for being creative, although I think they should; consider the exemplar – Leonardo da Vinci.
Carolyn is, or rather was, a senior-level maths teacher. She was into science and that was what she was going to do – probably for the rest of her working life. But then, she tells me, her youngest son was diagnosed with autism, and she had to reassess her life, leaving her job to care for him. Casting around for an interest that would fit around her family and her son, in particular, and that would give her a break from her role as carer, Carolyn walked into Lilly-Lee Art Gallery purely on a whim.
‘I went in and said “I know nothing and I have no talent”, to which Donna (gallery owner) said “Good”. That was it. I just went from there.
‘As soon as I got a palette knife in my hand there was no stopping me. I just loved it. I like colour and movement. It always amuses me when I see people put a tiny dab of colour on their palette to use; I squeeze out these huge globs.’
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life. Pablo Picasso
I came across Carolyn’s work at the Lilly-Lee Gallery in Sherwood a little while back when Donna held the Australiana Exhibition of students’ work. I admired Carolyn’s exuberant technique and bold use of colour, so asked her if she would be willing to paint something for the cover of this magazine. And, bless her, even though I could give her no guarantee that I would be able to use it, she agreed to take a punt on me.
Carolyn tells me about life with an autistic 11-year-old, who is gaining in strength as he grows up and hates sudden changes to his world; the noise around him may be too much, or maybe there are too many people. He likes his life to be predictable. And if it isn’t he, in turn, can react unpredictably. She stresses that life with him is never dull and she wouldn’t swap it for the world. She says she just needs to remain adaptable and flexible – just in case – and to keep her sense of humour! Like the time he decided to empty a huge container of Gesso into the pool. (Gesso is used to prime canvases before painting with acrylics.) When he realised it was turning the pool white, he decided to add some ultramarine coloured paint to turn it blue again!
What an adorable boy! You’ve got to love him for trying to make amends!
Carolyn remains philosophical. ‘It is what it is. You just get on with it, however you get on with it. It is a huge impact. But, you know, he’s gorgeous. He’s a handful, but he’s gorgeous. I get a break when I paint. I can go inside myself and it [becomes] all about the painting. Everything disappears. It has been a life changer, and a life saver.’
I loved talking to Carolyn. She is such a positive, beautiful woman and I admire her immensely. You can find her work at the Lilly-Lee Gallery in Sherwood. She also takes commissions.