Ivey Hayes has been an artist as long as he can remember, but in 1986 he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors told him to continue his artwork as therapy to help him deal with the disease. Hayes did just that, painting nearly 4,000 pictures in his lifetime. He said his desire to paint helped him push himself as an artist. He may not have the hands you would expect on an artist, but they have helped create nearly 4,000 masterpieces.
“There were times in the past when my hands would hurt, but right now they look worse than they hurt because they don't really hurt,” said Hayes.
His hands were not always this way. In 1986 Ivey Hayes was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Many artists would have stepped away from their easel, but the thought never crossed his mind.
“I have a severe case of arthritis, okay, but believe me, that is not going to stop me from painting,” he said. “Believe it or not, that was the spring board that has elevated me to where I am at right now. The difficulties, I find to be a joy; to challenge.”
Painting allows Hayes to experience life as never before. Through painting, artist and subject become one.
“I've never been a ballerina, yet when I paint a ballerina, I feel like I'm one,” Hayes described. Hayes said what he paints is not nearly as important as how he paints. “Color to me always has its priority over subject, always. My first name should have been color, middle name should have been color, and my last name should have been color too.”
That color has helped Hayes become a regular part of Burgaw's annual Blueberry Festival. For the last six years, his work has been chosen to represent the event.
“To be accepted as the signature artist for an event like that, oh man, what a blessing. What an honor,” said Hayes.
He draws on his own experiences for inspiration. As a child growing up in Pender County, young Ivey spent his days picking blueberries.
“Now this is just information, I was one of the fastest pickers that were there, maybe the fastest,” he recalls. It is that competitive spirit he uses to improve his artwork. Hayes said, “You can't ever be satisfied, you have to always feel as if there's more in you than what you're seeing. How much longer do I think I'll keep painting? Until my time is up here on Earth.”