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Carol Garvin


People always wonder how someone ends up on the road less traveled. For me it was wanting something more in life. I threw caution to the wind and decided to paint full time. Don't wait until you're ready, you'll never be ready.

Packing light, I took painting gear, books, an old bottle collection, a few clothes, camera, a couple hundred dollars and my dog Wooky. We moved to a tiny cottage in Coconut Grove and I slept on a cot. Family and friends were worried. I never felt so free. Don't let people tell you - you can't - you can.

Coconut Grove, a pioneer settlement with high ground and fresh water originally attracted Indians, pirates and adventurers. Today, the village beckons intellectuals, artists, revolutionaries, eccentrics, scammers and even a few Indians. I found it stimulating. Inspiration doesn't come from a beautiful view...it comes from within.

For me South Florida in the 1980's are remembered like this; Christo surrounding Biscayne Bay islands in pink mesh, a glitzy TV show called Miami Vice and the arrival of the Cocaine Cowboys. Machine gun fights happened, times were prosperous and street shows bustled with excitement. As a new artist I entered the Banyan Festival Poster Contest and won. The poster, a local scene, was displayed in every business in Coconut Grove. It sold out. The following year I won the contest again with another local scene. That poster sold out. People loved seeing places they knew. Suddenly I was creating art for environmental education, hurricane relief, art festivals, T-shirts, food labels, magazine, book and telephone book covers. One rainy December evening Wooky and I found an abandoned puppy. I called him Gator and we squeezed him into our already crowded home. Art is all around you. Everything material created by man started with an idea and probably a drawing.

Then came Hurricane Andrew. My 1933 cottage survived. But I realized I needed a larger, sturdier house. Within a year Gator and I moved into a 1924 Mediterranean Revival home in North Coconut Grove. It was stunningly beautiful and roomy. The only thing missing was Wooky. In dog years he was old. We had the lean years together and he was gone. It was a bittersweet time. I began hiding his face in my paintings. Things change, tides change, and as much as we love them, dogs change. It's the cycle of life.

One golden afternoon, an enterprising couple showed up on my porch wanting to distribute my art as cards. Would I create a line? They explained exactly what they wanted. I can't remember whether they were going to make me rich or famous. My fear was abandonment. Cautiously, I consulted an astrologist. I forged ahead. A few months later 28,000 cards were delivered to my house and I went to sleep smelling printers ink and awoke uneasy. I packed samples and sent them off to my "reps" and never heard a peep, . . not even a hiss. A few months later a man with an English accent named Colin Day called me from the Virgin Islands. His idea was to distribute my work in the Caribbean. He needed cards. Suddenly my art was everywhere. We worked together for many years, until he found the sailboat of his dreams and well. . . sailed away. Believe in yourself.

My sister-in-law Cindy who worked with me for a while, decided I should have a holiday show at my house. Gallery lighting was installed, garden groomed, cakes baked, rum punch concocted, pictures rehung, fireplace lit, ac cranked up. It was such a hit, its become an annual December event. We eat, drink, find art homes and swap stories. If you haven't attended, you've missed out. My lovely old home, solid as the bluff it sits on, faces towards the bay, its wide windows snaring balmy breezes. By day, peacocks roam the garden, owls hunt at night. At the age of 16, Gator and another foundling pooch, Moon made the trip to be with Wooky in Dog Heaven. But I'm not alone, my loyal canine companion Coyote, stays busy bossing me and Zippity-do-dah, the cat. Learning starts when you begin.

My heartfelt thanks to you, the remarkable people who've touched my life. You've worked with me, given encouragement, shared knowledge and collected my art. Words cannot convey what your loyalty means. You've made my ordinary life extraordinary. Make dreams happen.

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