Arts Visual Arts

Cover Artist: Carol Clay

Open Spaces. Carol Clay, artist

By Gina Malone

Although Carol Clay, in her youth, always felt drawn to artistic people—“the poets of the world, the ones in drama class, the ones who effortlessly created beautiful paintings in art class”—she pursued a different path in college, graduating with a degree in social and behavioral science. “Luckily, for me, my creative bug wasn’t going to be denied,” she says. “After graduating college, every job I held had something to do with special events, marketing or advertising.” With that pattern noted, she decided to open her own marketing and graphic design business—a business she grew for 20 years. “During that time,” she says, “I honed my writing skills, developed my business and surrounded myself with creative talent that taught me about design, color theory, fonts, paper selection and more.”

When Morning Comes. Carol Clay, artist

She and her husband left Florida for Western North Carolina in 2005, eventually settling in Brevard. “Sometime around 2018, I decided if I was ever going to pursue any kind of creative endeavor for myself, it was now or never,” Clay says. “I took a class at Blue Ridge Community College, then over a couple of years I worked with local artists Billy Smith and Ann DerGara, who helped me really develop a taste for being an artist. From there I branched out on my own, learning as I went along with workshops and lots of videos, and plenty of failed paintings.”

When she approached Number 7 Arts about becoming a member, she was painting mostly farm animals, specifically cows and roosters. “I didn’t grow up with either so I’ve never been sure where that influence came from, but I went with it,” she says. “Over the four years that I was in Number 7, my style changed dramatically. I still painted roosters, but I retired the cows in favor of landscapes inspired by the amazing beauty here and in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.”

Yellow Pear No. 1. Carol Clay, artist

In January, her work was accepted into the Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio, in Brevard. “Her growth as an artist has been exponential,” says owner Lucy Clark. “Her use of composition and the fluidity of her landscapes always bring a sense of peace to the viewer.”

Clay sometimes approaches her creative process in an intuitive way, beginning to paint with a vague idea of where she wants to go. She finds that she works better, however, if she has a plan in mind—one that includes sketches and questioning herself about what she wants to portray. “My art isn’t about finding some sort of deeper meaning to life or illustrating some sort of emotion,” she says. “It’s more about connecting with people. How does the painting make them feel?”

She learned about one connection when she received an email from a woman who had purchased one of her paintings while visiting Brevard. The bird in the painting resembled a raven. “She explained how she was inexplicably drawn to go into Number 7 Arts, and directly to this painting,” Clay says. “She went on to tell me how she had lost her son to a Fentanyl overdose a few years prior. He was interested in various mythologies and had raven tattoos up and down his arms. She said whenever she sees a raven she feels more connected to her lost son, and she knew it was that connection that drew her to this specific painting.”

On the Red Dirt Road. Carol Clay, artist

While painting, Clay says that she can become completely absorbed in the process such that she loses all track of time. “Sometimes I have music on, but sometimes I revel in the quiet as the paint and I have our conversations,” she says. “One thing I have learned over the years is when to walk away. There are some days when it simply isn’t working, for whatever reason. I’ve learned that it’s best to put the brushes down and walk away for a while. It will all be there when I come back and try again.”

Find Carol Clay’s work at the Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio, 51 West Main Street, Brevard. Learn more at and on Facebook (Carol Clay Art) or by emailing her at

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