When you first meet Caroline Anderson you are struck by her unwavering gaze. Soon you realize that behind that slightly impenetrable demeanor beats a big heart. Most artists work first and foremost for their own pleasure and seeing others take pleasure in their work is more of a bye-product. Caroline has gone one step further: she uses her art to actively better the lives of others – in particular children who are severely disadvantaged and in need of help.
PARIS, SARK AND LONDON
Caroline was born in Edinburgh and says she can’t remember a time when she hasn’t painted. Immediately after leaving school she went to Paris to study painting and history of art. She seized the opportunity with both hands and discovered gouache which remained her chosen medium for many years. Back in Kent, she enrolled on a foundation course at Hastings College of Art and pursued a love story with Sark. Caroline’s fascination with this Channel island had grown over the course of many holidays with her parents and eventually, still only 20, she went to live there – making a living by driving a horse and carriage for one of the local hotels. And of course painting, with the sea, the sky, the local landscape and architecture proving wonderful motifs. The painting ‘Cat Rock’ is inspired by Caroline’s adventures of night-time sailing from Sark to the pub in Guernsey – the rock was the perfect landmark for navigating safely home.
“Paintings show the cyclical nature of birth-death-rebirth”
Then one of life’s detours happened. Caroline returned to London to study drawing, silversmithing and enamelling at Sir John Cass College. Realising that she could not make a living just by painting and with the firm intention to return to Sark to take over a jewellery business there, Caroline finished the four-year course obtaining a City and Guilds medal ‘with distinction’ and then started work as a jewellery designer in Hatton Garden. But she never returned to Sark as by then she had met her husband and family life followed.
ART AND PSYCHOLOGY
Even when the children were small, Caroline was not pressing the pause button. She continued to paint and also began to study for a BSc degree in psychology with the Open University. A little spark had ignited in Caroline when she was dealing with the affluent clientele in Hatton Garden – she now says she somehow felt it was a shallow way to earn money. Finally in possession of a Certificate in Education, Caroline was able to teach jewellery, silversmithing and enamelling which she did for the next fifteen years at several schools and adult education colleges. As Caroline’s interest in the relationship between art and psychology grew, she deepened her knowledge by getting more degrees under her belt and eventually qualified as a creative arts psychotherapist specialising in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So as Caroline Anderson MA. MA. BSc Hons. MBACP. UKRC. MBPS. AIST. PTUK. CertEd. for the last twenty-five years her time has been divided between working as a therapist and painting – but ‘divided’ is the wrong word as both of these worlds overlap in her case.
“What people draw is often more revealing than words”
Caroline says when she was teaching in schools she was intrigued why some children are unable to learn. She is now using Art and Sand therapy as a way into a child’s world if verbal communication proves difficult. If you ask a young person for their story, you will often traumatise them further. Yet what they draw is often more revealing than words: if their ‘tree’ is just a straight stem it suggests they are not grounded, if they produce a healthy looking tree then there is hope.
ABOVE AND BELOW
So what about Caroline the painter? For her, it’s all about colour. Her motifs are frequently reflections in the natural world and show the cyclical nature of birth-death-rebirth. Hence the recurring feature in her paintings: the same colours appear at the top and the bottom of the picture. Her medium is mainly acrylic and sometimes watercolour – or a combination of both. Or gouache mixed with watercolour. Caroline likes the adaptability of acrylic which offers an easy way to get a three-dimensional feeling to the painting. She uses a paddle for all her work. When Caroline is painting for herself, she likes to be loose in her style but occasionally she challenges herself to be tight and accurate, just to prove to herself that she can still do this. Speaking of challenges, the conversation turns to commissions. Caroline always finds them a challenge and adds that experience shows that it is prudent to ask for a deposit.
“Everyone can paint but few can draw in perspective”
Turner, Monet and Cezanne are the artists who have most influenced Caroline’s work. Continuing education is crucial in her view so she regularly books courses with Hash Akib for colour and with the Royal Academy for life drawing. Five years ago she became a member of the Weald of Kent Art Society and has enjoyed their workshops. She is also a member of Pure Arts Society and Hastings Arts Forum. Recently Caroline joined the South East Open Studio scheme.
Caroline’s spacious workspace at home houses many of her paintings – it feels like visiting a gallery. In fact, she is a great believer in exhibiting: the point of exhibitions, she says, is making contacts and self-promotion. She is now pushing herself more than in previous years. So, in the course of a year, there would be an exhibition at the Red Door Gallery in Rye, the Horsebridge Gallery in Whitstable, Kensington Town Hall, Hastings Art Forum, Benenden Art Show by Grierson Galleries, and the Weald of Kent Art Society Exhibition in Tenterden – to name the most important ones. On top of that there are local mini exhibitions in aid of a good cause – such as the one in Peasmarsh for RNLI and OliverCurd Charity – and exciting forays planned abroad: at Monaco Yacht Club and Artifact Gallery New York (both rescheduled due to COVID-19). That was certainly a highlight, Caroline recalls, when these New York art dealers got in touch with her through her website and invited her to exhibit in their gallery.
“Continuing education is crucial”
Caroline says painting centres her, gives her an inner peace. When she is creating something, she gives herself permission to be and feels grounded. Without art, she admits wryly, she would be very uptight. Interestingly, she does not consider herself an artist. To call yourself an artist, she argues, you need to be a professional artist selling work on a regular basis. So what would she call herself? “Someone who paints”, she says simply. Caroline feels that everyone can paint but few can draw in perspective. So her advice would be: why not chuck the pencils out of the window at the beginning and start with colour, start loose, enjoy yourself. The accuracy will come eventually, if it is to come at all.
A BIG WISH
For the last twenty-five years, Caroline has been working with foster, adopted children and children residing in children’s homes, trying to help with their complex needs. And now Afghan refugee children have been added to that client base. Her wish for the Painting Fairy therefore comes as no surprise: “Please can we have big canvases and lots of paint in every town so that these children can express how they feel.”
Caroline Anderson is based in Newenden, Kent.
Gunda Cannon was in conversation with her in October 2021.
Click on images to enlarge
At the End of the Day
At Benenden Art Show 2021