Artist to Col­lect: Cather­ine Car­bon­nel

Arabella - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - writ­ten by Brett An­ning­son

Where the Light Comes In

writ­ten by Brett An­ning­son

A Car­bon­nel paint­ing is im­me­di­ately rec­og­niz­able for its mys­te­ri­ous, me­dieval aura; bright colours merg­ing with dark­ness to sug­gest an un­fin­ished qual­ity that be­lies care­ful at­ten­tion to de­tail. The search for such a style was, for Cather­ine, some­thing of a quest. "For years, ev­ery time I looked at my work I asked my­self: Can some­one tell at first glance that this paint­ing is a Car­bon­nel? And for years the an­swer was: No. The tech­nique was there, the sub­ject mat­ter was treated cor­rectly and yet I felt it did not look like any­thing out of the or­di­nary. I tried and re­jected so many things, un­til one day at an art fair in Aylmer some­thing strange hap­pened." It was one of those mo­ments when ev­ery­thing changes, but you don’t re­al­ize it at the time. Cather­ine put up a canopy, in­stalled her easel and was ready to start paint­ing on a blank can­vas. For some rea­son, she de­cided to paint the white can­vas with black gesso. "I had tried paint­ing on a black can­vas be­fore," she ad­mits, "but I did not like the out­come. It took many lay­ers to cover the black, and some colours, es­pe­cially yel­lows, looked green­ish be­cause of the black un­der­coat. But that morn­ing I de­cided to try again. Only, in­stead of us­ing my brushes, I painted with a spat­ula." Cather­ine had tried and re­jected this tech­nique in the past – be­liev­ing it would get muddy if she over­worked the can­vas. Still, quickly sketch­ing a sheep barn re­mem­bered from the south of France, she be­gan to paint. Not know­ing ex­actly what else she would add, she con­tin­ued daub­ing paint here and there, fol­low­ing no guide­lines. "From the cor­ner of my eye, I sensed an­other artist com­ing from time to time to check the progress of my work," she re­mem­bers. "He was an older gen­tle­man in his 70s. At one point, he came and whis­pered in my ear: "Put down your spat­ula, your paint­ing is done and it is beau­ti­ful." I replied with a smile, "But it’s not fin­ished. Look, I have not cov­ered all the black spots on the can­vas."

Again he said: "Your paint­ing is beau­ti­ful and it stands on its own the way it is, put down your spat­ula." The third time he came around, Cather­ine was get­ting an­noyed and chose to take a coffee break to avoid be­ing rude. "When I came back, I saw a lot of peo­ple in front of my easel, vis­i­tors as well as other artists, and I could not see my paint­ing. It was just like in the movies, I made my way to­wards my booth, break­ing through the small crowd, and sud­denly I had a rev­e­la­tion when I dis­cov­ered that my paint­ing was ex­actly what I was look­ing for all th­ese years. I had dis­cov­ered a style! When I re­turned home, I sent an e-mail to my an­gel/artist thank­ing him for hav­ing stopped my hand that day. He replied that know­ing when to stop work­ing on a paint­ing was the most dif­fi­cult thing to do. He added that over­work­ing a can­vas sim­ply made the work look "ha­rassed." It was a joke be­tween us each time I saw him in art fairs and ex­hi­bi­tions: Be care­ful not to ha­rass your paint­ing to­day!"

The Jour­ney Re­mem­bered

Cather­ine was born in Paris, France and moved with her par­ents to Mon­tréal when she was eight years old. Camp­ing and fish­ing were favourite pas­times, and ev­ery fair weather week­end Cather­ine’s mother packed up the car and off they would go. Cather­ine cred­its this for her love of na­ture – pick her up and drop her in a for­est and she is right at home. It was her father, an avid pho­tog­ra­pher, who first in­spired her to look ar­tis­ti­cally at the world. "For my ninth birth­day I got a Ko­dak In­sta­matic with flash cubes," Cather­ine re­calls. "The joy I

felt! With­out know­ing it at the time, this was the best train­ing I could get to prac­tice an artis­tic eye. Since my par­ents had to pay to get my film de­vel­oped, I could not sim­ply take pic­tures by the dozens. Like my father, I had to think and re­think about my sub­ject, ob­serv­ing light and shadow, choos­ing what I wanted to ex­press be­fore push­ing the trig­ger, hop­ing I was tak­ing the best pho­to­graph I could… and some­times I did!" On her 12th birth­day, De­cem­ber 25th, she re­ceived a water­colour kit, and spent the rest of her Christ­mas va­ca­tion paint­ing. Rather than draw­ing an im­age first, she picked up the brush and be­gan to cre­ate. The feel­ings took her away. She was hooked. Of­ten, life com­pli­cates am­bi­tion. For Cather­ine that meant be­com­ing a stay-at-home wife and mother. Dur­ing her leisure time, she used knit­ting and cro­chet­ing as an artis­tic out­let. When the time came to re-en­ter the work­force, she de­cided on a ca­reer as a realtor. "One week­end, I was on duty in the real es­tate booth in a shop­ping cen­ter," she re­calls, "and there was an arts and crafts show in the mall. I im­me­di­ately felt a con­nec­tion with th­ese peo­ple and in­quired how to be part of an ex­hi­bi­tion, as I had dis­cov­ered in a mag­a­zine how to cro­chet sugar-stiff­ened bowls and had quite a col­lec­tion. I quit my job and started show­ing my cro­chet work ev­ery week­end." Car­ry­ing all those bowls was cum­ber­some, so Cather­ine turned her tal­ents to mak­ing jew­elry. It sold so well that peo­ple in­quired where they could buy it when the show was over. So Cather­ine opened a bou­tique, La Per­lière, where for twelve years she de­signed and cre­ated unique pieces of jew­elry, and also re­vived her love af­fair

with paint­ing – trans­form­ing the back room of the bou­tique into a stu­dio. "The first paint­ing I was fairly proud of and placed on the wall, sim­ply want­ing to look at it from a dis­tance. A lady came in, saw the paint­ing and asked "How much?" My mind went blank… how much? For the paint­ing? I said the first num­ber that popped in my brain, $28. I thought it was ex­pen­sive for the or­ange I was por­tray­ing, but I made my first sale! The same thing hap­pened with an­other cus­tomer the week af­ter. Since the paint­ing was big­ger, I asked $50 and it sold. I then de­cided to do a bit of re­search to find out an ac­cu­rate price for my paint­ings. Not an easy task for a begin­ner, as you some­times com­pare your work to renowned artists, and of course your work does not have the same value. Art fairs are a good way to see where you fit in." In 1994, Cather­ine closed her bou­tique and re­paired jew­elry from home. She was still paint­ing but, be­ing di­vorced, she felt she needed to fo­cus more on bread and but­ter money, which the jew­elry re­pairs pro­vided. The big­gest and most dev­as­tat­ing change came in 1999, when she lost her son to can­cer. "A few days af­ter he passed," says Cather­ine, "I found a let­ter to his grand­par­ents, which he did not have time to send. In this let­ter, writ­ten in the hos­pi­tal, he told my par­ents that he wished I would do what I had been say­ing I would do for years, sell the house and take a sab­bat­i­cal year to pur­sue my paint­ing ca­reer. A lit­tle sen­tence then fol­lowed: Isn’t it sad that be­cause of lazi­ness or cow­ardice, we do not pur­sue our dreams? "Well, I put the let­ter down, picked up the Yel­low Pages to find a real es­tate agent, and

placed my house on the mar­ket. Two months later it sold, and I have been paint­ing ever since. Be­ing self-taught by choice, I nev­er­the­less felt a great de­sire to ex­plore and bet­ter my art. So each month, I bought ev­ery lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional art mag­a­zine I could find, then stacked them by the hun­dreds in my apart­ment!"

From Ex­per­i­ment­ing to Ful­fill­ment

In her stu­dio, Cather­ine ex­per­i­mented with var­i­ous me­dia and sub­ject mat­ter. She liked soft pas­tels for the smooth­ness, the vivid colours and im­me­di­acy of ap­pli­ca­tion. This was her pre­ferred medium for the next 14 years, un­til she started do­ing big­ger pieces and found the paint­ings be­came too heavy be­cause of the frame and the nec­es­sary pro­tec­tive glass. She then turned to acrylics, now her ex­clu­sive medium of choice. "The fact that acrylics dry so quickly was my main at­trac­tion to the medium," she ex­plains. "I ex­per­i­mented with most brands un­til I found one that per­fectly suited my needs both for tex­ture and colours." Van Gogh tops the list of artists Cather­ine ad­mires. "I must have over 50 books in my li­brary. I like that he did not try to please any­one, just kept putting his vi­sion on can­vas with the most hon­est and ded­i­cated mind. The im­pres­sion­ists ap­peal to me with their brightly coloured work and, again, the will to pur­sue a style that did not please ev­ery­one. I like strong minded artists like Emily Carr, her work is unique and her spirit was even more so. I try to ap­ply her motto when I paint: Get to the point and keep it sim­ple. This meets with my own sense of ex­press­ing my­self suc­cinctly, es­pe­cially in my still lives which I like to

call Silent Lives. Sim­plic­ity with a Zen ap­proach." Cather­ine has also re­duced her pal­ette, feel­ing lib­er­ated with a lim­ited num­ber of colours, usu­ally eight. She works with only one – very small – paint­ing knife, re­gard­less of the can­vas size. She uses this tool to spread, scratch or paste the sur­face, us­ing all sides and an­gles to pro­duce the de­sired ef­fect. In­spi­ra­tion comes in many shapes, sounds and colours. "My sub­ject mat­ters vary from Silent Lives, to peo­ple, to land­scapes. Each theme brings its chal­lenges and that keeps me on the edge to bring th­ese sub­ject mat­ters to life with in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tion and orig­i­nal ways of pre­sent­ing them." View more of Cather­ine Car­bon­nel’s work at www. car­bon­ or con­tact her at cather­inecar­bon­ or 514.992.3529. Cather­ine Car­bon­nel is rep­re­sented by: Min­erva Bou­tique lo­cated in the Hil­ton Lac Leamy Ho­tel Hull, QC 819.777.6668

left, Mu­nif­i­cence, acrylic on panel, 40" x 30" above, Lunessence, acrylic on can­vas, 36" x 12"

pre­vi­ous spread, Re­laxe!, acrylic on can­vas, 30" x 36" above, Cortège de couleurs, acrylic on can­vas, 30" x 36"

Douce douce, acrylic on can­vas, 26" x 30"

pre­vi­ous spread, Re­quiem, acrylic on can­vas, 24" x 30" left, Rouge et Or, acrylic on panel, 24" x 18" above, L'heure du Thé, acrylic on panel, 16" x 16"

above, Ra­di­ance, acrylic on panel, 16" x 16" right, La source, acrylic on panel, 20" x 16"

pre­vi­ous spread, Jusqu'à la mer, acrylic on panel, 18" x 24" left, Orangeus Arbutus, acrylic on can­vas, 36" x 24" above, L'eau vive, acrylic on panel, 16" x 16"

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