I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the talented Zimbabwean Artist Carol Klassen. Now living in the UK Carol continues to paint beautiful pieces reminiscent of growing up in Africa. Strongly influenced and encouraged by her Mother, Carol began drawing the flowers in her mother’s prize winning garden.
It is no surprise that Carol is gifted. She hails from a family that includes several teachers . Her late Brother Rozario Antao was the head of the French Department at the famed St George’s School in Harare. He is fondly remembered by Carol as the Brother that indulged her tom-boyish whims for fishing and car mechanics.
She was lucky to have been nurtured by both parents. Her Mother was a stay-at-home mum who filled the home with feelings of comfort and safety and her Father played a role in developing her love for animals, a love that is depicted in her artwork.
Carol very kindly answered our questions and her answers help paint a story of a life well spent creating beautiful works of art that will shine for posterity!
What are your childhood memories growing up in Zimbabwe?
“I grew up in Harare Zimbabwe, we lived on a large plot with huge trees, our own chickens and vegetables “The Good Life” so to speak. It was never lonely, there were always siblings and cousins around for company. I was lucky I could experience the sense of space,freedom and safety.”
What high school did you attend?
“I went to Morgan High School, one of the most densely populated schools for coloured and asian children from that era. Although not afforded the same opportunities as private or white schools, the good thing about it is that we grew up with a feeling of community”.
Were your talents recognised by your teacher?
“My art teacher Ms Buckland, strict but very talented, saw some promise in me, she encouraged me to take on extra art projects. Her encouragement paid off. I remember being over the moon when I received the Art Prize in my O’ Level year. Not just a book as per usual but a box of Winsor Newton watercolours and a special sable hair brush which I treasured.”
“After school I went on to secretarial college and art took a back seat for a very long time. I got married, had a family and worked at establishing my career in the Shipping Industry. It was only after I left work to help in my husband’s business did I find time to dabble in art again.”
Who inspired you artistically?
“I was always interested in the old masters and impressionists. Both realism and impressionism are more to my taste.”
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is mostly mood driven, unless I am working on a commission. Growing up in Zimbabwe my main passion is painting wildlife. If I am working on a big cat painting I find myself getting lost in every stroke of its fur as I listen to music. At times a quick idea for a painting from imagination might come to me, this is when I make decisions as I go along. In my mind I might picture something in different colours, but when I start the process I may end up with something in monochrome. These types of paintings are a bit like an unknown adventure.
First gallery showing
Quite a few years ago Charles Gibbons, a friend and talented artist was kind enough to let me exhibit a few paintings at one of his exhibitions, before that I never felt they were good enough to show. My best paintings were framed by the late Gordon D’arcy, who owned his own small gallery, not only was Gordon the very best at making custom frames he was also a great influence, I was overjoyed when he sold my first big painting.
Message to aspiring young artists
To all aspiring artists believe in yourself and keep at it. You never stop learning. Whether you sell something or not, the act of creating something is food for the soul.
How do you feel the internet has impacted the art industry
It gives artists an extra selling platform. My last few sales have come from the use of the internet although I admit I am not on top of things as I hope to be
Best Life lesson learned
If you can always look forward, don’t dwell on regrets
If you could change anything about the art industry what would it be
Personally I find the art industry a very closed community and hard to break into, I wish it was a more open society, there is so much talent out there and not enough recognition and opportunities.
What difference has Covid made to your life
Being clinically vulnerable to covid has made my life quite difficult, being confined can take its toll mentally, however I am grateful I was able to turn to my art as a release from the humdrum. I was quite shocked to see I managed to complete 7 pieces during this time