There's nothing more beautiful than seeing women discovery their truth. In life, we don't always understand the path that the universe lays before us. Closed doors aren't the end of the journey. They are the universe's way of leading us towards a new enterprise; something we wouldn't have imagined without the hurdle.
This was especially true for Canadian painter Carling Jackson. At the beginning of her career, she was dedicated to athletics with a soccer scholarship to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She loved art, but she never would have seen her life immersed in the craft. She was never going to be a painter. She was going to play professional soccer for the rest of her life. It was a career-ending injury on the field that ultimately led to her exploring the arts and finding her true passion.
(Carling painting at Art Battle, source)
“At the time, losing my soccer career due to injury felt like the end. I thought I'd never find anything I love like soccer. People kept telling me "The Universe/God" has a plan." I never believed it. I'm so happy I was wrong. I would never have been an artist had I not gotten injured. I would have played pro soccer and never looked back."
It’s one thing to enjoy art, but it’s another thing to turn painting into a career. While she was rehabbing from injury, she had more time on her hands than usual. Carling, always one to draw things that inspired her, wanted to challenge herself in other ways and started painting. It started as a means to process her feelings as she grappled with the changes in her life's plan. It quickly turned it into much more.
“Some intrinsic element awakens when you have inspiration. As an artist, I create to release emotion onto canvas. I've discovered my inspirations are love, pain, passion, suffering, and of course sports. I want to use it all to make a difference in the world."
(Reflective moments, source)
"Suffering inspires me because I can share with the world issues that go unattended to; often ignored or marginalized peoples, human rights, environmental rights, etc. With art you only need to see - it transcends all language barriers. I paint the change I wish to see in the world.”
Once she embraced her calling as an artist, Carling never looked back. In five years, she has developed a reputation as a sought-after portrait painter. As fate would have it, she's known commercially for her commissioned work to athletes around the world including professional basketball, football and of course soccer players.
(Footballer Patrick Vanaanholt and sons, source)
Her work continues to evolve as she also uses art to fight injustice. She has worked with the Stó:lō First Nations community in Canada to raise awareness about residential schools. Also, during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Carling worked with Street Child World Cup painting a slain street child. Her painting of Street Children from 5 countries was recognized and awarded by the United Nations.
(Street Child, source)
“I'm never satisfied. I am always envisioning more, more pathways to create, more collaborations with NGO's, athletes and organizations. Part of what I love about being an entrepreneur in a multidisciplinary field is the number of opportunities you can create for yourself!”
Even after she successfully reinvented herself from athlete to artist there are always challenges. She has a rare health condition that would sideline most people. When asked how she combats her health challenge she smiled and said, “I fight it.”
“I used to use it as an excuse - but I learned to fight through. My condition is so rare I have yet to meet another human like me. There isn't even a name for it yet - the closest thing is idiopathic anaphylaxis. I can develop an allergy to almost anything. I have had over 50 anaphylactic attacks, and carry 3 EpiPens and an entire medical kit in my purse. I don't let it stop me because it is my reality. If anything, it keeps me fighting - I stay hungry for life."
Every successful journey needs the support of positive voices. However, often the loudest voice, for better or worse, can come from within. It’s important to keep that voice in your head as positive as possible.
"I'd be lying if I said my condition wasn't debilitating sometimes. There are nights where I'm in the hospital all night with my throat closed from an unknown allergen. It's something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. But I will never let it stop me. It is a part of who I am. I have more to do in this world. I have more people to help, more art to create.
One habit that helps is positive self-talk. I have key phrases or words that keep me motivated, focused and disciplined. Change your thinking and you can change your life. My phrases are: ‘Keep going.’ and ’You must continue.’ I have a third voice whose like a drill sergeant who yells at me to work and stop procrastinating (probably derived from my athlete days)."
Carling Jackson’s journey is nuanced, deep and inspiring. It's a reminder that the "perfect" plan you make may seem ideal for the person that you are, but not expansive enough for the person you will become. Hopefully, you take the time to explore the appetites and joys in your life. You never know what you'll find.
As for Carling, you can usually find her painting at home in Vancouver, Canada. Although, if you're ever in Paris and see a woman with big curly hair, wet paint somewhere on her hands or shoes, exploring the Louvre museum in complete rapture for hours you've found Carling living her truth.
(Carling in the Louvre, source)
To discover more about Carling’s work and her ongoing journey, you can follow her on Instagram at @carlingjacksonart.
*Images provided by Carling Jackson
*Written & edited by Cat Janiga and Mike Reid