Carson Jackson: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

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Create art that resonates with your own desires rather than focusing on what you think others may want or buy.

During the early stages of my artistic journey, I often found myself navigating through a maze of contradictions and challenges. However, one of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned is to honor my authentic voice and create art that emerges from my heart rather than catering to perceived expectations or commercial viability. It was during those moments when I allowed inspiration to guide me to uncharted territories that my unique artistic style and techniques were born.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Carson Jackson, Artist-in-Residence at Beavis Frank Gallery.

Carson Jackson, a contemporary abstract artist, creates visually captivating landscapes that embody diverse experiences and moments. His latest collection, “Dance of the Untamed,” seamlessly blends contrasting elements of our untamed and tamed selves, presenting them in a compelling visual narrative. With a background in Interventional Radiology and a passion for global exploration, Carson channels pain into transformative inspiration. As the Artist-in-Residence at Beavis Frank Gallery, his renowned work resonates from the coastal regions of Maine and New Hampshire to the captivating Outer Banks, significantly impacting the art world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Hampton, Virginia, surrounded by the rich history of the area and the battle-scarred landscapes of Yorktown. Raised in a close-knit household with my mother and younger brother, we faced and shared life’s trials together. Adversity struck at 14 when a severe medical issue threatened my leg due to doctors’ malpractice. But my mother’s fierce spirit saved the day as she fired the negligent doctors, securing a new one who performed the necessary surgeries, ultimately saving my leg.

During a terrifying car wreck at 16, my mother was violently ejected from the vehicle, leading to a frantic search and intense fear. Lost on a freezing road without cell phones, we stumbled upon help, and my mother fought for her life during a month-long hospital stay. Despite these challenges, the vibrant rhythm of our Latin household persisted, with salsa dancing becoming a cherished part of our kitchen. I’ve translated the fluid movements to my canvas, infusing my art with swirling textures and vibrant shapes, each piece a dance floor of dreams celebrated with every sunrise.

As the son of a Cuban refugee, my lineage tells a tale of resilience and fortitude. My grandfather, a renowned anesthesiologist in Cuba, overcame immense challenges as a refugee, learning English and clearing the medical boards in the US. My family’s history includes stories of survival under the harsh Castro regime, with my Abuelo being captured but eventually released, followed by their orchestrated escape to the US. Their unwavering determination has guided me through life’s ups and downs, influencing my career in Interventional Radiology and my artistic journey. Abuelos’s words, “Become a master of your craft,” resonate in my heart and reverberate on my canvas with each brushstroke.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

From the early stages of my career, the irresistible allure of artistic expression beckoned me. During an immersive journey through Central America, I underwent a profound transformation, immersing myself in the local culture and expanding my artistic horizons. Collaborating with gifted artists from around the world and participating in art classes at a Spanish-speaking university, I evolved as a creative individual.

To my surprise, my artistic ventures led me to unexpected opportunities in the field of advertisement. I found myself in front of the camera, modeling for various campaigns and working alongside talented Latin producers. I experienced diverse moments, from strutting down the runway for a charity event at the Museum of Art San Salvador to being featured in commercials and billboards.

In El Salvador, I sat fireside by the rough sea, living a simple life while capturing the beauty and ruggedness of the waves and the unforgiving surroundings through my paintings. I sold and gifted artworks in remote villages, even at the top of a mountain, after a long journey to Semuc Champey, Guatemala, as a token of gratitude to the welcoming local community. Traveling through the vast and humbling Fjords of Norway, poetry translated onto my sketchpad and canvas, further enriching my artistic influences.

These explorations profoundly impacted my artistry, as the untamed nature of these places broke something open within me, deepening my well of inspiration even as I experienced loss.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The captivating narrative that unfolds throughout my career forms a seamless tapestry, interwoven with the threads of my dual vocations: my previous journey in Interventional Radiology and my ongoing pursuit of artistry. Stepping into the operating room each day, I found myself amidst the echoes of life’s delicate nature and indomitable strength. It was an arena where every second held immeasurable value as we strived to preserve the essence of life itself. Amid the relentless rhythm of the COVID pandemic, I immersed myself in a world of brain bleeds, aneurysms, strokes, internal bleeding, punctured lungs, and other life-threatening conditions. I witnessed patients robbed of their motor functions and speech, only to see them, within hours, regain their abilities as a dedicated team worked with unwavering commitment, their lives rekindled before our eyes.

This rollercoaster of emotions became an undeniable part of my reality and, unexpectedly, a wellspring of artistic inspiration. Viewing the human brain through our X-ray machines and witnessing the intricate procedures that saved lives, my artistry flourished in awe-inspiring ways I had never anticipated. Yet, it wasn’t just the triumphs that found their way onto my canvases; death, an inevitable aspect of my profession, left a profound impact, demanding an outlet for its anguish. My art became a sanctuary where suffering could take shape and find solace. The current art installation I’m working on, titled “PATHOLOGY,” provides a window into this world of profound human experiences.

However, the translation from despair to creation was not always straightforward or effortless. It often felt like navigating the murky waters of a swamp, with the weight of grief and loss threatening to pull me under. Yet, just when it seemed overwhelmingly daunting, I would emerge on the other side, stepping into a serene lake of inspiration, an oasis of calm amidst the chaos. Eventually, the politics that accompanied my profession pushed me to embrace my career as an artist wholeheartedly and bid farewell to the hospital.

One profound connection occurred on the eve of Valentine’s Day when an elderly woman I was treating shared the story of her late husband, the love of her life, who had a tradition of gifting her white roses every Valentine’s Day. Her yearning was palpable, and her loneliness resonated deeply within me. On the day of her surgery, I brought her white roses, a simple gesture to remind her that she was not alone and that her recovery mattered to all of us.

This journey has been as much about mastering the intricacies of medical science as it has been about the catharsis and creation found in art. It embodies resilience, vulnerability, and the profound connections we forge as humans. With its intricate ballet of joy and despair, life continues to fuel my canvases, shaping a career path intimately intertwined with the human experience.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My artistic journey and subsequent achievements have always been fueled by a deep longing to bring forth positivity and make a meaningful contribution to society’s tapestry. Thus, the opportunity to lead the reopening of the Beavis Frank Gallery as the Artist in Residence was more than a project to me; it was a privilege, a responsibility, and a chance to cultivate a space that echoed the profound ethos of my mission: “Art for All.”

This gallery, rooted in a rich history that intertwines with our local culture, stands as a beacon in our community. Yet, amidst the traditional artwork prevalent in the area, a void existed — an unmet yearning for contemporary modern abstract art. Determined to bridge this gap, I embarked on a journey to create an outlet for the voices and expressions of contemporary artists longing to be heard and seen. Inspired by the formidable legacy of artists like the late founder, Tim Beavis, our aim is to merge tradition with innovation, utilizing historical and artistic practices as stepping stones toward an inclusive future.

At the core of this reimagined gallery lies the promise of inclusivity, a sanctuary that transcends political divisions and exclusivity, breathing life into an environment where art becomes a shared language. Nestled beside the estuary, the gallery emanates a unique life force, a constant reminder of art’s fluid, evolving, and vibrant nature.

As the Artist in Residence, I am not solely a creator but also a representative and advocate for the artistic aspirations of our local community. I firmly believe that art possesses tremendous therapeutic potential, catalyzing personal growth and communal connection. My endeavor is to foster an environment where art is not only observed but experienced, where its influence ripples through our lives, nurturing conversations, igniting creativity, and fostering a sense of belonging.

Looking ahead, my vision for the Beavis Frank Gallery encompasses diversity, unity, and expansion — where every brushstroke’s echo resonates through the community. It is a space where art is not an exclusive privilege but an inclusive right, celebrating the diverse ways we perceive, interpret, and express our shared human experience. I firmly believe that this mission encapsulates the essence of bringing goodness into the world through success — by harnessing the power of art to inspire, connect, and heal.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

1 . Create art that resonates with your own desires rather than focusing on what you think others may want or buy.

During the early stages of my artistic journey, I often found myself navigating through a maze of contradictions and challenges. However, one of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned is to honor my authentic voice and create art that emerges from my heart rather than catering to perceived expectations or commercial viability. It was during those moments when I allowed inspiration to guide me to uncharted territories that my unique artistic style and techniques were born.

The art we bring into existence is a reflection of our souls, and the honesty and unfiltered emotion within it resonates with audiences. When we sculpt or paint from our genuine feelings, experiences, and perceptions, our art transcends mere decoration; it becomes a shared human experience narrative. It is the heartbeat in silence, the whisper in the chaos that people seek in art. And to offer this, we must first be true to ourselves, fearlessly pursuing our creative vision. After all, art is an aesthetic pursuit and a courageous act of baring our souls. By creating what truly speaks to us, we not only make art but also share a piece of ourselves with the world.

2 . Embrace collaboration and exploration, setting aside your ego to expand your artistic horizons. Seek insights from fellow artists or even ask children for their perspectives on your art, exploring their ideas with an open mind.

Engaging in creative exchanges with fellow artists has become a lifelong commitment, allowing me to understand their unique perspectives, techniques, and passions. The beauty of art lies in its universality and ability to transcend boundaries and styles. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with an artist whose approach starkly contrasted my abstract style. Her realistic creations showcased a distinct flair that was entirely her own. Together, we embarked on a journey to blend our two styles for an exhibition titled “Figures in the Landscape.”

A new wellspring of inspiration was ignited within this crucible of creative convergence. It challenged us to reevaluate our individual styles and deepened our understanding of our own art. I came to realize that by stepping back, relinquishing control, and observing the mastery of others, I illuminated a path toward my own unique artistic voice.

Beyond the canvas, I have also discovered profound wisdom in the company of sculptors, woodworkers, composers, and musicians. Each chisel stroke, each resonating note is a lesson to be learned, a story to be told. So, step outside your comfort zone, allow your art to engage with the world, and you will find that the entire universe becomes your canvas. Every interaction, every shared moment, adds a new color to your palette, a new rhythm to your dance with creation.

3 . Embrace vulnerability and pain as powerful catalysts for artistic expression.

Putting your art out into the world can be intimidating, but authentic and evocative works often stem from exposing something raw and real. Vulnerability is not a weakness in art; it is a strength that resonates deeply. This understanding is profoundly reflected in my latest collection, “Dance of the Untamed,” as it embraces the vulnerable aspects — the wild and untamed dance within each of us. In my humble opinion, unpolished and even tarnished art resonates more poetically and viscerally than the flawless and tamed.

4 . Read “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.”

I wish someone had told me that creativity is not a well that runs dry but a muscle that grows stronger with use. I spent countless hours worrying about “wasting” ideas or facing creative blocks. Working in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic sometimes made me feel the well of inspiration had run dry and might never replenish. I wondered if my wild side, the spark of creativity, would ever reemerge after such a long drought. This fear and doubt often prevented me from even picking up my paintbrush. However, I now understand that the more I create, the more well fills up. It’s a continuous cycle of inspiration and creation. Moreover, creating art doesn’t always mean painting. Even picking up a blade of grass or a leaf and running it through paint can spark something new and exciting within me. Art can be found in the present moment.

5 . Seek input from individuals outside the art world.

As artists, we can sometimes find ourselves confined within a dialogue that revolves solely around our own industry. Yet, the beauty of creativity lies in its universal resonance. Therefore, actively seeking insights from individuals outside the art world is important. Even those who don’t consider themselves traditional artists can offer unexpected inspiration. Engage in conversations with individuals from diverse disciplines, subtly drawing out their perspectives. Allow a child to interpret a partially completed sketch or invite someone far removed from the arts to share their impressions of a piece or idea in progress. Discuss philosophy with a philosopher. The more discreetly you navigate these interactions, the more refined your art form becomes. After all, inspiration knows no labels — it emerges from the most unlikely places and individuals, offering us new perspectives to expand our artistic landscape.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve always held the belief that art is more than just something visually pleasing — it is a vessel that carries the heartbeat and voice of a community, a symbol of collective memory and shared experiences. However, it saddens me to witness our artistic heritage being overshadowed and disregarded in the pursuit of greed and progress. Iconic murals, which narrate our shared history, are being erased, replaced by cold structures of concrete and steel. This encroachment on our artistic legacy has ignited a fire within me, giving birth to the ‘Stolen Art Project.’

This project is a silent rebellion, a non-violent protest against the displacement of art from the core of our community. It resembles a form of geocaching, where I pour my heart and soul into a creation, just as I would for any of my formal collections, and place it in public spaces to be ‘stolen,’ only to be resurrected elsewhere, in places where art is yearned for or where its necessity remains unrecognized.

Each painting becomes a nomad, traversing physical boundaries, sociocultural landscapes, and economic strata. It weaves together an intricate tapestry of interconnected narratives, with each person who discovers the artwork adding their own thread to the story. This shared journey becomes a platform for human connection and dialogue, breathing life into my philosophy of ‘Art for All.’

But the journey of the artwork does not end with the ‘thief.’ Every piece is accompanied by a note on the back or a geocache tag, creating a trail for the next art lover to follow. The artwork becomes a hidden treasure, waiting to be uncovered in plain sight, inviting the next seeker to unravel its journey. Each ‘stolen’ piece becomes a guiding light, drawing people from all walks of life into an interconnected web of shared experiences narrated through art. My hope is that other artists will join this movement, creating artwork not to be bought but to be rebelliously placed in sterile public spaces where creativity and healing are needed, initiating new journeys for their creations.

Money is no barrier in this movement. This is art stripped of economic constraints, art in its purest form — a gift to the people, a gift to the world. Through the Stolen Art Project, art transforms into more than just a visual delight; it becomes a symbol of unity and resistance, a testament to the enduring spirit of community and the transformative power of creativity. This project serves as my statement, my plea for a world that recognizes and cherishes the value of art, not confined to exclusive galleries but flourishing in our shared public spaces. It encapsulates my dream of a world where art is accessible to all, wild and boundless.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

I would eagerly embrace the opportunity to share a private breakfast or lunch with the exceptional cellist and visionary Yo-Yo Ma. His life’s work, his philosophy, and his unwavering dedication to using art as a bridge for cultural understanding deeply resonate with my beliefs regarding art’s transformative power.

Yo-Yo Ma’s firm conviction that art possesses a universal language strikes a profound chord. His statement, “Culture — the way we express ourselves and understand each other — can bind us together as one world,” beautifully aligns with my own philosophy of ‘Art for All.’ Through my artistic endeavors, I aspire to foster a universal dialogue that transcends barriers such as language, socioeconomic background, and geographical borders, much like Ma’s groundbreaking Silk Road Project.

Engaging in a conversation with Yo-Yo Ma would offer an invaluable opportunity to gain insights into how art can consistently serve as a unifying force. During our shared meal, I envision exploring collaborative approaches to strengthen further and disseminate the ethos of ‘Art for All.’ Through mutual understanding, we could envision new ways to leverage art as a catalyst for connection and an instrument for unity.

Having closely followed Ma’s remarkable journey, his virtuosity as a musician, and his unwavering commitment to a cause that resonates so deeply with me, it would be an immense honor to discuss art, culture, and the ties that bind us over a meal. I believe the exchange of ideas between us would be enlightening and inspiring, leaving an indelible mark on our creative journeys. If Yo-Yo Ma happens to come across these words, I extend an invitation: “The table is set, and the conversation eagerly awaits. I sincerely hope you will join me.”

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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Carson Jackson: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.