Thursday, June 7, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Catherine Harley

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Catherine's painting, "Purple Flower Abstraction" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Catherine's DPW Gallery:

I'm a french artist, married to the best Scottish guy, and we have 3 grown up kids. We live in France, but we spend lots of time in the UK where most of our family and friends are. I get my inspiration from these two different cultures, don't ask me to make a choice, it's impossible!

I studied art (restoration and conservation), then I became a copist in museums, and I started teaching 1997.

It took me lots of time to forget all the strict rules of classic painting, and I'm still working on gaining more freedom in my painting today. Painting is more than a passion, it' s a part of myself. It's vital. I discovered the daily painting recently, and I loved all the concept. Joining a big art community and sharing!

Catherine's Art Workshops in France

Tell us a bit how you first started painting.

I come from a family of musicians, so of course I learned music. Everyday going to school, I was passing by an art studio with art classes and the  students’ paintings were hanging in the window. I was admiring their paintings. One day, I found the strength to tell my parents that I wanted to stop music. They said, "you can not live without a passion! Find one," and I instantly shared my dream of joining an art class.

I remember the excitement of the discovery of infinite possibilities with art, and also falling in love with oil painting.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Oh yes! Lots of them! As we all know, life is full of surprises, good or bad, and you have to compose with it. I was less productive when my children where young, because they became my priority.

They are now older, becoming young adults, which allows me to concentrate more on my work. I find that these stops were really beneficial to my work. I was not painting, but I was thinking and preparing in my mind what would be my next work.

I now see these stop moments in a very positive way. Recently, I had to stop because of health issues and heavy treatments. When I held the brushes in my hand again, my motivation and ideas were really clear. So if the stops allow you to go straight where you want to when it’s time, you are not wasting your time, maybe even gaining some! Who knows?

Purple Flower Abstraction
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Catherine's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I have been playing a bit with most mediums (egg tempera, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, pastel…) It's fun to go from one technique to the other, as it allows me to never be bored. Some of them were really challenging, and I learned a lot from it, like trying to work with soft pastels in superpositions without blurring or using egg tempera and work in layers. I also love to play with all the mediums in acrylics, the textures and effects are incredible. Painting is like a big playground with lots of toys, you want to try them all!

It is the same for the subjects, anything is potentially exciting. A portrait is a landscape in some ways, and a landscape is abstract in some other ways. Any genres will be interesting to paint, it just depends on how you look at it.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Oil painting is for sure my mother tongue, but I also love charcoal for its abilities to create textures and values by "adding" and "removing" almost like paint. Gouache is a favorite, I love the velvety  finish and matte aspect. You can dilute it, play with water or apply rich thick paint like I would do with oil. I usually use gouache for quick studies that will be painted next with oil or acrylics on a bigger format.

I don’t use much watercolor, I find that this medium needs a lot of practice, and I don’t have enough sensations compared to oil. But of course, this is really personal.

Floral Effacement
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring? 

I would like to explore some new techniques like collages and mixed medias. I have tried mosaics recently, and I loved it! I tried to adapt it to my work, and the result was interesting enough to make me want to pursue in that direction. The problem is that there are so many things to do! And if I don’t make choices, I will start to scatter.

Who or what inspires you most? 

Lots of great artists, like Sorolla, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassan, Freud, but also many contemporary artists like Alex Kanevsky, François Bard, Laurent Dauptain, Niels Smits Van Burgst, Jeremy Mann, and many more. All these artists are amazing teachers and constantly inspire me. Being a figurative painter, my inspiration comes from the emotions connected to what I see. Mainly nature and people, because there is movement, and always something to catch your attention.

The fragility of things and life inspires me.

Three Sisters
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you? 

Choosing to do what I like first always, which makes me go through really stressful periods when I have to deal with all the things that have to be done all at once! And it seems that I am not learning from it. Painting and family comes first, and I have to admit I am a procrastination queen when it is anything to do with administration, papers and numbers. Anyone feeling the same way?

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art? 

I am trying to make it part of my weekly schedule. Two days for painting, two days teaching, one day for all the rest (groceries, cleaning…) and weekend with my loved ones. It is of course not always as organized as I wished, but it kind of works for me. I try to keep two days painting to myself, with nothing interfering in the middle. The hardest part is to protect these two days completely in my agenda; no appointments, no meeting friends during the day, etc… We all know how precious time is!

Contrasted Floral Abstraction
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings? 

During the creative process, I search for subjects, ideas and composition. I use my own photographs, but also the ones that you can find on the internet. They are an endless sources of inspiration. I can select some elements, and make my own composition. I spend lots of time on my computer, looking at photos, composing, reframing, searching, building. All this time is part of the construction of the painting.

I take a lot of pictures, and save thousands of them that will be used maybe one day on a painting. I am building my own bank of pictures, that I can use, or mix with pictures I find on the internet. I find this "research part" as exciting as the "painting part". With the years of practice, I have learned that it’s important to think about what you want to show, and not just do one more painting.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging? 

I usually do a series of paintings, but sometimes when I feel it’s just a production, and that I am not having fun anymore, I change technique or format.

After painting a big format that will take time and energy, I might paint some really small ones as it is a completely different approach. Changing technique works really well for me too, I draw when I don’t feel like painting, and usually the urge of color comes back quickly!

When none of this works, I will call an artist friend who will find the words to put me back on track by giving a constructive critique on my work. Actually, I do that really often! It’s so helpful when you are stuck, and it’s really interesting to hear someone’s (you trust) point of view. Sometimes I disagree, and it helps me assume my choices, and sometimes the solutions they are offering are excellent, and it helps me evolve in a more open minded way.

Fuchsia Floral Abstraction
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist? 

Painting has been a way of living for so many years, and I am so grateful to have been able to do this. I have been learning so many things through that, especially humility! I feel that the more I learn, the less I know.

At this moment, I am learning to simplify and deconstruct. Trying to go out of my comfort zone without going in a foreign zone. All these new problems make the research even more exciting. Taking more time to think about what do I want to paint, and why, and what is the story I want to tell. Like any other artist, we are telling stories.

What makes you happiest about your art?

Lots of things! Reaching (sometimes) what I had in mind on my painting. Exploring with colors and textures is such an exciting thing to do whatever the result is!

Meeting people through my art is magical, and always interesting to understand their vision.

Sharing my knowledge with students is a real source of joy and satisfaction.

Traveling to exhibit my work or do workshops is always exciting.

Thanks, Catherine!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

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