Rudy, a black standard schnauzer, sleeps underneath an easel in Betty Carroll’s home art studio. When Carroll paints, Rudy will sit in a chair beside her, watching squirrels through the window.
“My house is my art gallery,” Carroll said, pointing out paintings throughout her home.
Carroll lingers on one. The large oil painting of a towheaded little boy, her grandson, is her favorite.
“That’s my grandchild, so it’s special,” she explained. “It won an award, so somebody else must’ve thought it was special, too.”
Carroll paints still lifes, landscapes, portraits and vacation memories in her Auburn home. Her works have been featured in "Lake Martin Living" and the "Southern Living" Idea House in Senioa, Ga., and in galleries in Auburn and Montgomery.
“Everything I do is oil,” Carroll said. “I just find it the best medium for me. … Oil kind of lets you make changes as you go. I love the forgiveness.”
The Memphis native graduated from Auburn University with a degree in art, but said she never used it. When she was in her 30s, Carroll went back to Auburn to study interior design and started her own interior design business. Seven years ago, after her three sons had grown up and started careers of their own, Carroll decided to refocus on painting.
“To do art, you really need large blocks of time,” she said. “It’s just been all consuming. I guess I never really had a hobby that was just mine.”
Carroll tries to paint three to four times per week. When she isn’t painting, Carroll finds inspiration in vacations, photographs and daily activities. She takes pictures with her iPhone, prints them and files them in a “to paint” folder.
“To paint, you just need the outline and the colors, and you enhance it. Deciding what you’re going to paint is half the battle,” she said. “It’s taught me to see the world differently. It enhances the way you see.”
Carroll also does commissioned paintings, including portraits of pets. The key, she said, is getting a good photograph from the customer.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I want to paint for other people. … I feel like it’s a journey, an art journey that I’m on.”
But the hardest part of that journey, Carroll said, is talking about it.
“You have to get used to talking about (the art) and revealing yourself in that conversation,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. … It’s kind of a whole new way of life for me. … I really do feel like it’s incorporated into every facet of my life.”
To see Carroll’s work, visit www.bettycarroll.blogspot.com.