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Creative Careers Interviews : 2009 : Carol Parks Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Artist & 'Art Freak' Zine Publisher Carol Parks

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Carol ParksCarol Parks recorded her first song at the age of six. Her parents were musicians, and she was exposed early on to all that the industry had to offer. She always dreamed of making physical art; music was, in a way, the "family business" — a way to pay the bills, rather than following her true passion.

In the middle of her life, Carol returned to art school, attending both the prestigious Art Center in Pasadena, and Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles. Carol also studied with a number of notable teachers in the Alternative Art field, and at the age of 56, earned her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts. Now, she is truly living her dream, and has created a rich, vital second career as an artist, teacher, publisher, and workshop promoter. Her studio and classroom in North Hollywood is a hotbed for new work, up-to-the minute info on the arts scene, and artistic instruction that is unlike anything you've ever seen before. The Queen of Creativity took a little time from her busy schedule to dish the dirt about her dreams with me recently, and following are the highlights from our phone interview in January of 2009. Welcome to Creativity Portal, Carol!

Q: Art Freak seems like a very unusual and unique zine. Did you publish this zine alone, or as part of a collaboration? What led you to the creation of this exciting publication, and what is your vision for Art Freak over the next ten years?

A: I am older than most of my friends, which is not untypical for my family — we live long. I find that I've seen some things that are just making a resurgence now, that were very popular when I was young. The beat writers used to put out chap books, and blacklisted writers of the time wrote under pseudonyms which allowed them to do what they needed to do and pay the bills. I've always been fond of galleys and handbills. Then I discovered that the zine had taken on a whole resurgence, with huge symposiums everywhere, Portland, San Francisco…people from all over are creating new zines, from a quarter page folded to elaborate silk-screens, some of the most brilliant art, writing, commentary — not just comics. I became impassioned with the whole new zine culture. I thought, Wow, this is perfect for me, because I'm off the beaten path.

I had wanted to write a book all my life, about anything — I love writing, but I thought, no one will ever publish this. Then, I was reintroduced to the zine and I thought, I can do this myself. Once I started to branch out and take these alternative art classes, I wanted to share the info, talk about these classes and talk about some of the non-conforming ideas and thinkers. You don't need to have letters after your name to say something important.

Many zines are a shared load, but the first, I did alone. For the second, I worked with only one helper. By the third I had plenty of tools so it was pretty easy with just one helper. My daughter had done a beautiful program for her wedding, and I was inspired by the paper, and Art Freak took a new direction as a folio style zine. I have plans for a design with a universal folio cover. Each issue will have a special insert, and I'll be able to put more things inside; paper samples…I have big plans. The next issue will be published some time in the next three to four months.

Spring by Carol Parks

Q: You spent fifty years in the music industry before beginning your career in the arts. What led to this change in your creative focus?

A: My parents were both veterans of the music industry, and I grew up in L.A. Hollywood was my playground. My dad was a big band leader and arranger, and worked with musicians like Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole. I first recorded at the age of six. At the time, I had a dream of creating visual art, but I couldn't figure out how to turn a painting into a sandwich. Singing was not the passion I had, but a way to pay the bills. My daughters are both musical, and they learned the music industry is a lot like the acting industry — it's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

When my marriage ended, I went back to my dream. I was so unhappy for so long and I didn't know why. My home was my art, and it was very undervalued. Until Martha Stewart came on the scene, homemaking was not given any legitimacy. Many housewives live at the poverty level. I was not going to live at the poverty level, and I was not going to be happy anymore in an industry that has no value.

I decided, if I'm going to live the rest of this life, I'm going to do what I want. My mother stepped up to the plate and said, we had no idea that you wanted to do this, but we want to support you. Mom put me through school, paid for my art supplies and travel expenses, and gave me carte blanche to pursue my dream. I developed really quickly; morning, noon, and night, I just ate, breathed, and slept painting, I just worked and worked and worked. I entered a juried show and won for my portraiture, but I wasn't happy with it until I started doing the more abstract and symbolic work.

Why does abstract work for me now, where it didn't before? Before, I couldn't draw, and it informed me all about the masters who abandoned realism because they can. The greatest draftsmen become the greatest abstract artists — Klee, Kandinsky…Klimt could draw with a pencil like it was a photograph. In the Sterling Museum there is a hand drawn opera scene — his skill level for draftsmanship would blow your mind. It looks like a photograph, it's super-real, and the perspective is perfect.

Picasso was a great draftsman, but what got him off was a squiggle here and there. I'm good at realistic painting. I paint now because it impassions me…I am saved by my art, it absolutely saved me from the loss of my community, my marriage. I am now a painter and artist, and…I haven't ever been happy like this; I'm just elated all the time. If you are doing what you love, you have the coping skills to take anything life can throw at you. If you're not, any little straw can break your back.

Continue to Interview page 2 »