Ivey Hayes: An Inspirational, Colorful Artist

By Heather Gordy |

Ivey Hayes is a great inspiration among the art community of the Cape Fear region. Passing at the age of sixty-four in September of 2012, Ivey’s spirit continues to live on through his paintings. Ivey’s art in many ways is a representation of himself. His joy and love for life radiated to those around him, and you feel this same affect from his paintings. Ivey saw the world in a vibrant light which he expressed through bright and bold colors in his work. By the first grade, he started showing interest in art.

“I had a love for the pencil and to draw things, so it was something that was in me that I had to do. I didn’t have a choice. I loved it. I walked it. I talked it. I dreamed it. Everything was like art. It was like life for me. I didn’t even have to push myself. It was in me, it took hold of me, and all I had to do was just do.”

Although Ivey showed great artistic ability even when he was young, it wasn’t until he enrolled at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) that he received more formal art instruction and artistic influence that encouraged him to further develop as an artist. Ivey received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970, and continued to further study at UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro ultimately receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1975.


Ivey never tried to force a career in art. After his studies, he worked as a police officer in Elon, NC and then later began working for the Federal Paper Board Company in Riegelwood, NC. Once he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, painting was suggested by his doctors as a form of therapy. They encouraged Ivey to draw and paint more regularly. Due to the extensive condition of Ivey’s arthritis, he retired from the Federal Paper Board Company in 1987 and a new opportunity to excel in his career as an artist was now available.

Ivey was able to create a family business of producing and selling his art. His brother, Phillip Hayes, learned the business of printing. In an interview with Phillip he said, “Printing is more than printing. You need to have an eye for color. Just as this was a gift God gave me, Ivey’s gift was painting.” Ivey very much saw his skill and talent as a true gift, and he never failed to thank God. His health condition resulted in crutches and later a wheelchair, but Ivey never stopped painting. In a 2007 interview by Sherman Hayes and Carroll Jones, Ivey described his condition saying, “There is more to my hands than what you see. To explain what’s here, the spirit of God lives in my hands…even though you see my hands and would say ‘Wow, man, this guy got big time problems,’ but even today I still play the keyboard, and I still paint…it’s a challenge, yes, but with the Lord’s help I’m fine, I’m okay.”

Ivey was an inspiration for his art, and for his strength. His artwork has been exhibited throughout North Carolina, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. He was recognized for his use of rich color and exaggerated figures influenced by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton and Robbie Tillotson. He worked primarily with watercolor and acrylic using his surroundings and where he grew up in Pender County as central subject matter. His paintings portray the hard work behind agriculture, the gentle flow of aquatic life, the sweeping movement of dancers, the warmth from the coast, and the deep emotion within people. One of the greatest aspects of Ivey’s work is that he captures a true cultural element in each of his paintings.

"Maybe Someday"
“Maybe Someday”

One of Ivey’s early artistic changes came after he left UNC-Chapel Hill to attend graduate school at UNC Greensboro. The advancement in his studies reflected in his move to watercolors. He hadn’t yet attempted that medium, as he lacked a deep understanding of its potential. Robbie Tillotson was a fellow graduate student at the time, whose influence can be heavily seen in Ivey’s color use. Following his tenure at UNC Greensboro, Ivey’s watercolor works would become his most sought after in the years to come. “Maybe Tomorrow” is one of his more serious works, and very characteristic of the watercolors that came out of that period.

Phillip Hayes continues to print and sell Ivey’s work. Most of Ivey’s collections and paintings are presented on their website at www.iveyhayesartwork.com. His coastal scenes, florals and popular jazz art can be found at Blue Moon Gallery, Gems 4 U, and River to Sea Gallery in Wilmington,  as well as Topsail Art Gallery in Surf City, and the Pender County Library in Burgaw.  Ivey remains a familiar local figure, sharing his love for life through the color and movement of his paintings.

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