Ep 101 Featured Image Podcast

The Alchemy of Art Making – Carl Heyward – Ep 101

September 27, 2023


Contrasts are interesting by virtue of what they are. They make art intriguing and exciting both to the artist and those who enjoy their work. Carl Heyward is a contemporary artist whose work is a powerful example of how the juxtaposition of ideas, colors, and even mediums can create a moving and powerful experience. His work centers around ideas of fragmentation, disparity, and collaboration, and the surprising part is that his art flows out of his process. He says that “In my case, the whole enterprise is questioned upon each studio session as an existential tightrope walk above an abyss.” It’s this process, an instinct you might call it, that enables him to produce harmonious but contrasting themes that are highly expressive. 

At the time of this recording Carl was quite mindful of the stage of life he’s in. He sees himself being in his last phase of life and is therefore asking “What do I want to leave?” As we explore his approach to art, his creation of the Global Art Project, and his reflections on his current work, you’ll see how Carl himself is a focal point of contrasts, community, and collaboration.

Listen if you are interested in…

  • Getting to know Carl Heyward and his work [1:45]
  • Mindsets that guide Carl’s instruction and workshops [18:12]
  • The influence and collaboration Carl enjoys with his wife, Akiko [25:35]
  • Background and history on the Global Art Project [32:18]
  • Current projects Carl is working on and the what has captured his attention lately [44:51]

Shared aspects of human existence saturate Carl’s approach to his work and teaching

In a cultural milieu where the differences between people seem to be given far too much air time, Carl’s perspective on life and art is refreshing. He says, “Give me a lot of differences and I’ll find a commonality… give me anything and I can find a relationship between them. I can juxtapose or connect how objects relate to each other.” This is not only true of Carl when it comes to his art, but also when it comes to relationships between people.

In his role as a teacher, Carl recognizes that because of the differences between people, there are different ways to guide his students into clarity. What he says to prompt their thinking in a particular direction may be intended one way but interpreted entirely differently. He’s learned to be OK with that, to actually allow that different interpretation to guide the process for that student. Their individuality and perspective often surprise him and lead to good outcomes. For this reason, no workshop is ever the same. This variety, which comes from the unique perspective of each individual, enables Carl to be more excited with what he’s doing. 

Repetition, trust, and integrity as a teacher and artist

As Carl works with students, he finds himself saying the same important things over and over. While the following are not quite “matras,” they are foundational aspects of art making that he thinks serve as important guides to his instruction.

The first of these has to do with repetition. Carl recognizes from his own experience that repetition of anything has the potential to become restrictive, creating artificial boundaries or “prison bars” around the creator and their work. But there is a kind of repetition that is helpful, repetition that forms into a healthy habit that advances an artist’s work and skill. Carl believes that as an instructor, the need to clearly distinguish between those two things falls on his shoulders. He must help his students understand the difference and adopt the habits that will serve their craft rather than enslave it.

A second oft-repeated phrase Carl finds himself saying is, “Trust yourself.” All artists, but particularly those who are just starting out are often overly critical of their work. Carl says that these new students aren’t yet able to understand that the development of truly good art and the frameworks and skills that produce it is a process that grows over time. He tries to kindly but clearly point out the self-deprecating commentary made by students and explain why it isn’t helpful.

And when it comes to both repetition and trust, it’s important to Carl that he not only teaches these things to his students, but that he is practicing them himself as he continues to create. He doesn’t want to be one who preaches things that he doesn’t practice himself.  

This history and purpose of the Global Art Project

The Global Art Project grew out of another project that Carl initiated years ago. That initial project was called the “Knee Jerk Fragmentation Project.” That project involved 500 artists and 3000 pieces of art were produced. It was a one for one 5 x 7 postcard exchange between artists. Each artist would receive a piece from another artist, then add to it with their own creative work.

This led to the Global Art Project using a curated frag collection provided by members of the project. Behind this iteration project is the conscious awareness that artists often have leftover fragments of their work, things they don’t want to use or that they consider a failure. Carl realized that these “frags” could be a valuable art piece for someone else, spurring their interest or stirring up their creativity. The GAP is running on its own now, including 80 members and spanning 17 countries. It’s been a wonderful journey that addresses the high and low of what art can be. It intentionally provides collaborative aspects to artmaking and includes what Carl refers to as “the gallery museum elements, the intellectual elements, the fun elements, and the surprise elements of what art can be.” Listen to hear more about the GAP and how you can get involved.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Carl Heyward

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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