Untitled Document

Vinita Artist Completes
10th Portrait of OU Health Sciences Center

By April Wilkerson 
Writer, OU College of Medicine

the painting

Artist Carol Castor stands with Dean Emeritus M. Dewayne Andrews, M.D., and the portrait she painted. The oil painting hangs in the atrium of the Andrews Academic Office Tower on campus.

Art has always been her first language, a means to express, explore and connect with the inner beauty and dignity she believes is present in each person.

Throughout her career, Carol Castor has only become more proficient and dedicated to that language. As an artist who specializes in portraits in oil, she delights in each piece as both an opportunity and challenge to fully capture her subject. Castor, a resident of Vinita, recently finished her 10th commissioned portrait for the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. Her subject was M. Dewayne Andrews, M.D., who retired last year as executive dean of the OU College of Medicine.

As with all her portraits, Castor begins by learning the essence of her subject.

“The most important thing for me is to gain a sense of who that person is, the character of that person. Everything visual emanates from that,” Castor said. “The spirit of that person through their gesture, the characteristic look in their eyes, the tilt of the head, the presence of a smile – all these things come together.”

Castor no longer draws her subjects from life because of the burden of asking someone to sit still for long periods of time. But she gathers information during two sittings, during which she interviews the person, takes photographs and makes beginning sketches. During a second pass at her sketches, she clinches the aspects of the person she wants to emphasize, which will ultimately affect the color, lights and darks and technique of the painting.

Although she uses photographs to guide her work, her finished product is never a photographic representation.

the andrews

Becky and Dewayne Andrews are pictured with the portrait commissioned of him, painted by Oklahoma artist Carol Castor.

“A photograph is a 60th of a second view of someone, and one photograph never truly captures a person,” she said. “My portraits are an amalgamation, a living impression of that person.”

Castor finishes her portraits using an old master’s technique of painting in stages and layers. She will perform pencil and charcoal studies, followed by color studies, and at that point she’ll usually show the progression of the piece to her subject to get feedback. She then paints the under-layers of the portrait, including one in verdaccio, a gray-green under-painting that shows through the flesh. She finishes the portrait with a series of over-paintings.

For her portrait of Andrews, she painted him in his white physician’s coat holding a book. Although he served in administrative roles for much of his career, he felt the white coat more appropriately captured his essence as a physician devoted to healing. After visiting with him, Castor agreed.

“At first I pictured him in the ceremonial robes he wears at commencement, but after I got to know him, we decided his white coat would be best,” she said. “I wanted a sense of gravitas to it, to show his dignity but also his approachability. His head is slightly tilted, and he has a bit of a smile and twinkle in his eyes.”

The painting of Andrews was also Castor’s first full-length portrait. She painted him holding a book in his hand and partially turned, as is someone had stopped him in the hallway to visit. Andrews viewed a preliminary pencil drawing of his portrait, but he wanted to wait and be surprised with the final version. It now hangs in the atrium of the M. Dewayne Andrews Academic Office Tower, a nine-story building on campus that houses administrative offices for several departments in the OU College of Medicine.

Castor is a native Oklahoman who has lived in Vinita since 1969. She grew up in Ponca City, which, much like Vinita, has a rich cultural history. Castor recently joined Vinita in celebrating the anniversary of the Vinnie Ream Cultural Center, which she helped to launch 20 years ago. Since that time, the center has showcased everything from art exhibits and classes to high teas to the Tulsa Ballet. Its namesake, Vennie Ream, was a renowned 19th-century artist who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Ream was a friend of town founder Elias Cornelius Boudinot; the town was renamed Vinita to honor Ream after its founding in 1871.

Like Ream and Boudinot in their time, Castor is one of many local residents who champion the arts in Vinita today.

“The arts give meaning to living,” Castor said. “All of the arts have their parallels – the artistic longing is that we each have something we’re trying to figure out. Mine is the love of the individual as expressed in their visage. In a community, the arts bring people of all ages together in a common celebration. They are the soul of a community.”