Carol Peek’s journey

July 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Carol Peek | Subtle Shifts

THE CALENDAR STAYS FULL as Carol Peek soaks up courses in art history, wraps up the remodeling of a new home and studio, and occasionally sneaks off to her cabin in Wyoming. She finally feels settled, but the memories never fade completely. Back in 1999, she was giving birth to her second child as her husband lay dying in the same hospital in Santa Rosa, California.

Peek recites a timeline of events, pausing to process each chapter. She met Bill Griffin at an art show, and it was love at first sight. Recognizing each other as soul mates, they talked about art, and he bought two of her paintings that first day. Once Peek said “I do” to the fun-loving attorney, the couple searched for a place where they could enjoy horses and Carol could concentrate on her art. A 30-acre ranch in Santa Rosa fit the bill.

“I thought I’d marry a cowboy, not an attorney,” Peek laughs of her preconceived notions. “Instead of working on the ranch, we bought the ranch.” As daughter Anna came along, Peek savored her enviable life. She had it all — a great husband and daughter, a healthy place to raise kids, and an inspiring setting for her art. “I had my dream studio, and the neighbors had a dairy, so I had 90 subjects right next door,” Peek says, alluding to her frequent bovine portraits.

Shortly after the 1997 ranch purchase, however, Bill brought home the devastating diagnosis of lymphoma. Doctors gave him a dismal prognosis and, by 1999, he was declining drastically. As his time grew short, physicians induced labor for Carol so Bill could meet his new son, Will. He lived a few more weeks.

For Peek, grieving became incremental, as she raised two children and pondered her future. “I didn’t want that tragedy to define my life,” Peek says. “I committed to two things: raising my children and staying an active artist.”

In 2010, after living in Utah for six years, Peek returned to California, where she finds inspiration everywhere she looks, even during a 10-minute drive as she takes her son to school. “I can see between one and 20 paintings along the way,” she says. “They’re unexpected miracles.” Peek spends much of her time in the studio, but she also goes out on location to paint and to be inspired — “to fine tune my color work and to remember the light and shadow,” she says.

Along with painting and teaching, Peek also is continuing her studies, as she works toward a Master’s in Fine Art from the Academy of Art. Her daughter is now 21, and her son is 18, which means that Peek soon will become a member of the empty-nester club, something she views with mixed emotions.

“Maybe I’ll travel for a year and paint,” she says. “I feel like the whole world will open back up for me, but raising my two children has been the most wonderful thing I have ever done, or ever will do. The last 21 years have been doing that’s best for my kids; I want to see how the next five years unfold.”

— Excerpted from articles published in Art of the West magazine in 2006 and 2017.

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