|| 'There is always art' for those who create
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DAVENPORT -- When Anthony Carter's paintbrush strikes the canvas, a panoply of hues spill forth that reflect the colorful memories of his boyhood home in Davenport, where his mother and father, both painters, instilled in him a love for the fine arts.
"I was truly blessed in my home. Really, I learned a lot from my parents. They were my greatest teachers," said Mr. Carter, who now lives in Iowa City. "Some days my mom will shine through more, and some days my dad will shine through more."
In the two-story, Victorian-style home where he grew up, the 26-year-old artist recently pored over past artwork, his fingertips tracing over the brushstrokes of each painting. He pointed out different colors and points of interest.
"I like to experiment with different materials, and I kind of like to let the material do what it does naturally," he said, holding up a framed piece called "Strong Winds," which depicts fragile branches caught in a whip of wind. The piece, he said, had been made from gel, acrylic paint and ink, using an airbrush technique. "I like to combine these elements just like a chemistry experiment and then play with it and see what happens."
He noted a charcoal drawing of a hip-hop dancer that he drew in high school. Close by hung a colorful cityscape, a row of portraits painted by his older sister, Leana, a series of vibrant abstract paintings by his mother, Laura, and various landscape paintings by his father, Bruce.
"It's like a museum," Anthony Carter said of the home brimming with posters, watercolors, self-portraits, postcards and framed family photos. Mr. Carter said his home always was teeming with friends and neighborhood children. His mother ran an in-home day care and often immersed the children in art and culture.
"It was just like a huge family, and I think that was just the most wonderful environment to be in," he reflected. "We'd just create and imagine together."
Mr. Carter's love for painting the human body was inspired by his mother, now an art teacher at Harrison Elementary School. His passion for color was a product from his father, an art professor at Scott Community and Kaplan colleges and the host of Art Talks, a weekly radio show on WVIK 90.3 FM, Augustana College's public radio station.
"No matter where I went, there was always art," Anthony Carter said.
Still, during his later years in high school, he shied away from the notion of being an artist and considered higher-paying professions. Eventually, however, he said he realized, "'No, this is what I have to do. This is fate. I can't fight it.'"
In 2004, he was one of four high school students to win $3,000 per year from the Figge Art Museum's Brand Boeshaar Scholarship Program, which helps high school students pursue art in college. He enrolled at the University of Iowa to pursue an art education degree. He eventually dropped out, however, because he felt the program was too theoretical.
"As an artist, I don't learn by listening to people talk. I learn by doing and experimenting and trying and failing," he said. "There were too many textbooks and too much standardization spitting out knowledge. I wanted to play and get my hands dirty."
He began taking freelance jobs and experimenting with painting, ceramics, spray paint, sculpting and graffiti. He took a number of jobs to help make ends meet, including one at a Dick Blick art supply store in Iowa City, where he met his future wife, Meghan. He also began working a four-hour shift at a parking ramp. Within a short time, he transformed his parking ramp booth into a makeshift studio, where he could read and draw.
"I've done oil paintings in the booth," he said of his now three-year job. "If I have to work to support myself as an artist, I'll do that for the rest of my life as long as I can continue to grow as an artist."
In January he teamed up with friend and fellow artist Ryan Bentzinger to purchase a new studio space in downtown Iowa City where the two hope to begin creating and selling more art.
Mr. Carter and his wife attempt to live simply -- they don't own a computer, cable TV or smartphones. They spend nights in their Iowa City home listening to music, working on art projects and simply talking.
The couple's appreciation of the simple things has helped them as Mr. Carter battles autoimmune hepatitis, a disease he has had since high school, which is slowly destroying his liver.
"I guess it's like a ticking time bomb, and eventually it's going to go," said Mr. Carter, who is on a national liver transplant list.
Sitting cross-legged on the living room floor of his boyhood home, he said it can be easy to be scared, especially when death is no longer simply an abstraction.
"What I've realized personally is that this life is meant to prepare us for the next, and so I think it's beneficial in a lot of ways, and it helps me stay positive," he said. "It helps me not to worry about what I've got going on and makes me think about the bigger picture."
His faith nurtured an interest for him in iconography and, for a while, he became entranced with the "peacefulness and humbleness" of the art form.
"One of the reasons I make art -- maybe one of the reasons we all make art -- is so we can leave something behind to be remembered by for the next generation."
His father agreed, recalling the famous 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt, whose life was replete with despair.
"But he kept on painting. It brought him through the suffering and made him a greater artist," Bruce Carter said. "Suffering is part of the fabric of life, and this is Tony's suffering.
"It has made him a richer, stronger, wiser artist."
To view some of Anthony Carter's work, visit http://heareyeam.com.
Chasing the dream
Who: Anthony Carter, artist
Quote: "If I have to work to support myself as an artist, I'll do that for the rest of my life as long as I can continue to grow as an artist."