The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Rick Nelson
Wah. Co. Eagle 

Artist relocates to Cathlamet


September 13, 2012

What would her father say now?

A child of a US serviceman, Carol Peacock spent her childhood in Germany where, in a region saturated with museums, ancient architecture and artists at work on street corners, she developed an interest in art.

Her father didn't encourage that interest, telling her that art was only a hobby and to take up something that would make money.

"I kept playing at it," she recalled in an interview Tuesday. "I was precocious and got sent to my room a lot, and I would draw. I liked it."

Peacock returned to the US as a teenager and finished her schooling. She started college in Dallas, Tex., got married, moved to the Philippines for five years, and had children. The family returned to the US, and she landed in the San Francisco Bay area where she finished college. She went into social work and found herself working with autistic children. She found that work rewarding but demanding.

"I burned out," she said. A family friend got her a job as a systems programer for the financial firm Dean Whitter back in Texas. After five years, the corporation decided to move the data center to Chicago.

"I didn't want to go, so I quit them," Peacock said. She had been doing painting and designing and creating clothing, which she sold. "I did that a while and went back to San Francisco."

She started concentrating on painting and began to develop a reputation, but she had to continue working to afford to live in the city.

An artist friend relocated to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a town of 2,500 people that was starting to develop an artist colony. She had family in Little Rock, and when he invited her to visit, she went.

She loved the town. Her friend showed her his apartment. It had several big rooms and "all the things I didn't have in the city." She guessed the rent was around $1,700 a month; "$325," he replied.

"I thought about it and realized I could just do art and not work," she said.

She moved to Eureka Springs, and she wasn't the only one. The town was in an area of mineral springs that had been developed into a tourist area in the early 1900's, and the art community was connecting with that tourist trade.

"When I came, there were just four galleries," she said. "When I left, there were 35 galleries and 600 artists in a population of 2,500 in the town.

"It grew as an art community over time and is now one of the top 25 area destinations in the country."

Peacock ended up moving to Washington to be close to her family. One son lives in Skamokawa, another in Seattle. She came through Cathlamet and felt some of the feeling she had experienced in Arkansas.

"I got here, and I had a feeling that something is happening here," she said. "It feels good. I like the river. I like the people. I like it that I can have a commercial studio and gallery right on Main Street; it's a perfect fit."

Paintings cover the walls of Peacock's studio. An easel and work area are set up by the front window.

Many of the paintings are large with bright colors. Others are muted. In a corner is a box of prints, and on a table is a display of handmade jewelry by Puget Island resident Alex Arness.

"I'm not afraid of color," Peacock says of her paintings. "A lot of people are.

"I painted the really light ones because a lot of people are afraid of bright color. They sold! But I really like bright color."

The sights and colors of the lower Columbia region will change her paintings, she said. She's starting to use new colors, and she's adding new subjects, especially birds.

"When I first got here, I went down to the marina one rainy day and sat down at a picnic table," she said. "I was feeling lonely. Then a seagull came and perched on the table quite near me. We looked at each other in the eye a while, and then I saw the bird had only one foot. I realized my problems were pretty small."

Peacock said she doesn't plan what she's going to paint when she approaches a canvas. She has interests that manifest themselves in the paintings.

"Ever since I was young, I've liked peace and love, and you can see that in the paintings," she said. "I'm not a Buddhist, but I like Buddhist philosophy. They believe that you should develop your inner peace. If everyone develops inner peace, the world will be at peace.

"One of the concepts is also unity," she said. "A lot of the pictures are about unity. You'll see symbols of different religions; we're all in this together."

She doesn't try to make the paintings realistic. "You let it come from your heart; you loosen up and become more abstract," she said.

Since opening the studio this summer, she has encountered local and visiting artists. There are "some incredible" artists here, she said, and some of the visitors are talking about coming here.

It's quite possible that the community could see the production of art, sculptures and murals that would be on display throughout the town.

As for herself, Peacock would like to start teaching art and to feature artists in her gallery, as she's doing with Arness's jewelry.

She's still interested in working with autistic children and has connected with a Portland area group that is bringing art to autistic children.

And she'll try to produce paintings to sell. She has a list of collectors she notifies with the completion of each painting, and one of her sons is developing a website. She has photos of all her paintings and produces prints and cards so they can be affordable to everybody.

So, what would Carol Peacock's father say now if he saw her gallery of paintings? He probably would look around and say, "Wow! Good work! Keep at it."


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