Artist discovers island inspiration

For Carolyn Kirkham, there is no
better subject than the beauty of the Cayman Islands.  

The established artist, who is
known by her pseudonym CE Whitney, finds endless inspiration in the sights and
colours of the islands. Cayman is her muse.  

“I have always been attracted to
colour,” explains Carolyn, who owns Sandon Feat Gallery on Seven Mile Beach.
“In the city, you’re surrounded by lots of grays and shadows, but there are so
many colours in Cayman. I think Cayman inspires a lot of people to start painting
and photography because it’s so beautiful.” 

Carolyn had already dabbled in the
world of art when she arrived in Cayman from Canada in 1974. As a young girl,
her passion was painting, which she nurtured in the many art galleries of
Toronto. Carolyn would spend hours every weekend roaming the galleries’ halls,
educating herself on the many nuances of Canada’s art scene. But it was not
until she enrolled in art school in London that her passion began to thrive.  

“I began taking a real interest in
painting in the mid ’70s. I started with watercolours, painting the sea and the
sand [in Cayman],” Carolyn says. 

“Then I went to art school from
1996 to 1998, at City Lit Fine Art in London. It was a two-year course. We put
shows together and learnt how to express ourselves through different mediums.
We had this big studio with a skylight and it was a great space to work in.” 

Throughout the course, Carolyn
honed her techniques and expanded her artistic horizons. It gave her fresh
inspiration for her work, which she began to explore with relish when she
arrived back in Cayman.  

“I was always very technical [in
her art], but [the teachers] took my paintbrushes away,” Carolyn says. “I had
to use hair brushes and toothbrushes for my work. It helped me to back up from
the canvas. I started following my passion of painting and it gave me a lot of

“After finishing school, I came
back to Cayman. I wanted to paint Cayman’s seas, and I started with figures,
like the fishermen at the wharf.” 

Carolyn’s work has gone from
strength to strength; she is now one of Cayman’s most renowned artists. Her
paintings, which use the medium of oil on canvas, are defined by their vivid
colours, sense of realism and visual movement. As a resident of North Side, and
an avid enthusiast of the sea, Carolyn is never short on inspiration in Cayman. 

“I would describe my work as
contemporary, in that I incorporate the traditional through the use of light
and shadow, tone variations and attention to detail,” she says. “But at the
same time, I use abstraction in my use of colour, choice of composition and
method of application. 

“I like the seascapes of North
Side. The beaches are very secluded and quiet, and lots of debris washes up on
the shore. It is a great place for the imagination.” 

The Toronto native says one of the
things she loves about Cayman is the lack of pretension and commercial
influences, which she believes provides local artists with more independence in
their work. Having her own gallery, Sandon Feat, which opened in April 2010 and
features only Carolyn’s art, also enables her to showcase her pieces on a much
more intimate basis.  

“I grew up in Canada, and I had
always promised myself that I would one day move to a place in the sun,”
Carolyn says, of her choice to follow her parents to Cayman. “I didn’t think I
would stay, but I ended up enjoying it here. I appreciated being away from the
commercialism of North America.  

“I didn’t want to have my thinking
affected by consumerism. It is easier for my art living here because I am free to
paint what I want to paint.” 

So, does Carolyn have any advice
for budding artists in Cayman? 

“For aspiring painters, I strongly suggest learning how to
draw,” she says. “Whenever possible, take lessons with artists that you

like the seascapes of North Side. The beaches are very secluded and quiet, and
lots of debris washes up on the shore. It is a great place for the imagination

artist discovers island