Artist Profile: Carol Peebles

Thom Bennett

From as rough an element as charcoal, Carol Peebles creates portraits full of warmth, light, tenderness and the subtlety of human personality.

She’s skilled in many different media and takes on a wide range of subjects and styles, but it’s with charcoal or conté, an easel and a live model in the sun-dappled front room of her Uptown home that she explores the main focus of her work.
 “I like charcoal because of its unpredictability,” she says. “It’s very temperamental, very emotional.”

And though it isn’t precise or exact, neither are the personalities of her subjects. In the nuance, in the choice of focus and in the interpretation, the person comes through the portrait.

“A portrait is not a picture of a face; it’s a picture of a person,” she says. “That’s what makes portraiture so challenging. You’re trying to capture the person, the spirit you get from them, but then you also have to capture their likeness, too.” Her tenacity in balancing those goals on the way to the successful end result seems to come naturally. After all, it was her affection for people that brought her to this medium.

A New Orleans native, Peebles studied art from an early age and credits her supportive parents for encouraging her interest. She was soon sitting her friends down for portraits. She went on to study at Tulane University, the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts before earning her master’s of fine arts from Pennsylvania State University. Since returning home, she has concentrated on figure drawing and painting and portrait commissions.

When painting with oil, Peebles’ work takes a contemporary, contemplative turn, often evoking the lonely narration of Edward Hopper. Mixed media and landscapes join her diverse portfolio. But it’s clear her passion lies with the intimate perspective of portraiture and the interpretation of the qualities that make each subject unique.

Peebles has taught extensively, both at the universities she attended and through private instruction. She is currently an instructor at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts.

“I think teaching has made me a better artist because when you come across something your students don’t understand, you have to consider it in a different light to explain it better, and that gives you a fuller understanding yourself,” she says. 

Peebles’ work is part of a show at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art through December. To see examples online, go to www.carolpeebles.com.

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