modern art

Conversation with Artist Dominique Caron

I had the pleasure of recently speaking with the French artist Dominique Caron. Her paintings evoke the gestural force of abstract expressionism, yet her work is incredibly refined. She makes abstract painting look easy. Controlling such chaos is very difficult. Her paintings seem to sing like a Kandinsky work does.

Dominique always painted but her art career started in San Francisco. She was born in France, then spent her 20s living in Africa. Returning to France after being abroad seemed unthinkable, and so she moved to the Bay Area. In California, she started making tribal masks like the ones she had seen in Africa. They were soon being sold in galleries. I was interested in speaking with her not so much about her work, but about her path to becoming a successful artist. I wanted to know what advice she might have for young artists wanting to pursue art as a full time career. Here are some highlights from our conversation and you can seen her work here

Think of yourself as a businesswoman. You are running a business. 

Network network network.

Reinvest 10-15% of your profit back into your business.

Emails are ok, but printed cards are better. People will delete emails but keep cards. 

Work big and do not make prints.

Never mark your work down, ie put "sale" next to a price. It cheapens your artwork.

It is better to price your work a little low than have it be overpriced.

The return on showing at cafes and non-gallery venues is very low.

Buy canvases in packs of twenty. Make a lot of work. Two out of ten paintings will sell so make fifty.

If you have an idea or something that you are passionate about, express it. You can work in different themes.

Work on several paintings at once.

Make a budget. 

There is a lot of competition, but a lot of people are not really good. 

If you have to get a job in the beginning, get a job in the arts.

FOG Design + Art Fair

I did not have high expectations for this past weekend's art fair in San Francisco. There are too many art fairs, and I therefore expected the quality of work presented would be mediocre at best. I was quite pleasantly surprised at what I saw. The emphasis of the work shown was on process, such as Hiroshi Sugimoto's photos made from electricity, Etsuko's Ichikawa's "pyrograph" paintings made by melting glass over paper, and Dustin Yellin's collages of intricately cut images layered in glass which recall a modernized Heironymus Bosch. One of show's highlights was a video by the artist Jim Campbell, who coded LED lights to mimic video of traffic and the result was shown behind a block of frosted glass. It had the same mesmerizing aesthetic beauty of a James Turrell but animated. The fair, however, was not technology heavy and there was a solid balance between photography, painting, and design. There were some unfamiliar works by heavyweight artists Wayne Thiebaud and Julie Mehretu (the latter who was just awarded the U.S. Department of State's Medal of Arts). Here are some of the highlights:

How did you do that? Mixed Media works explained

This post explains the method I use for creating the mixed media works.

I take a lot of pictures. I take photos with my phone when I am walking or driving, and I see something that I know intuitively will work well as a painting.

When I start a painting, I go through all of my photos and choose one. I edit and crop the picture on my computer so it will fit on the canvas the way I want it to. I do this process for all of my works, not only for the mixed media works. I like tweaking photos to maximize the effect that I want the painting to have. Here is an example of a painting I did where I spent a lot time finding the "perfect" edit. I wanted the figure to be slightly off center so the folds in her robe would be emphasized. I like having figures slightly cropped so their bodies are pushing off the edge of the canvas, thus not revealing all of the figure. I think this creates a little bit of tension and therefore makes for better composition.

Once I have the perfect photo, I do a line drawing of it on an 11x14" sheet of acetate, which is the same thing as a clear transparency. I use the Sakura Pigma Micron pens in sizes 1 and 3.

When viewed as a photograph on the web, most people ask me if the work is a watercolor. These paintings are difficult to photograph because of the glass like reflection the acetate creates. Here you can see three different photos of the same painting photographed under different light as to minimize the reflection.

It is a long process because of the many steps involved. It usually takes around 3 hours for me to do the drawing, sometimes longer, and then about 10-20 additional hours for the painting; this in addition to taking the photo and spending anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours editing the photo. Sometimes I obsess over a tiny area and spend a lot of time trying to get the color and movement of the paint perfect on both the acetate and the paper. My goal is for the work to look effortless, but this is created by intense scrutiny and constantly reworking the paint. I recently did a painting of Chicago only to find that the painting on paper did not look right. It looked okay, but the "feeling" that I wanted the painting to have was not there. I could not figure out how to make it look better, so I redid the entire painting on paper.