Review Me: Carla Rene: Originally Funny
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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Carla Rene: Originally Funny

Hi Carla, and thank you for participating in this interview. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?

At the age of 10, I was discovered as a child prodigy in both music and fine art. One day I sat down with an art kit my folks got me for Christmas, and decided I would paint a picture of an Arabian horse. When I finished, it looked EXACTLY like the photo. That was the beginning of my journey to photorealism and everything artistic. After majoring in commercial music at the prestigious Belmont University in Nashville, Lupus forced me to give up my trumpet, so I began designing jewelry; web-pages; floral arranging; writing novels and short-stories, and all while working in network television and performing professional stand-up comedy.
After being homeless for 2-1/2 years, living in my car with my cats, I was accepted back to University to pursue dual doctorates in astrophysics and applied mathematics where I began painting again to fill my summer months and hopefully get more income.

Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?

You mean other than ALL. THE. TIME? Naw. :D Art is one of those professions where it's notorious for not making you money, so you'd be insane not to question that. Even now I still sometimes doubt my talent, especially with social media. We get so used to folks interacting with our posts that when those little likes and such are missing, you begin to wonder if your talent is slipping. It's all very subjective and fickle.
A cab accident just 3 days after moving here for University really messed up my neck (I now have 3 pinched nerves affecting my dominant hand), so I've had to take a break from schooling, which gave me the perfect opportunity to resume my art career.

What is your daily routine when working in your studio?

Right now it's pretty loose. Because I have Lupus, I wake in the mornings with lots of pain and stiffness, so I don't really get going until afternoon, at which time I'll sit in my studio with my headphones and go to it. On good days I can knock out about 5 or 6 hours, but the beauty of that is that I don't have to stop working on weekends if I don't want to.

Take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?

I am a very effusive person. God gave us emotions to enjoy our life, so if I see an image or get an idea that really excites me in my gut, then I know I'm onto something. If it's an image taken by another photographer, I first secure their permission so there's no copyright infringement. I think it's the rudest thing when artists constantly paint a celebrity's photo without their permission! From doing network TV here in the states, I have a lot of celebrity friends you would know. They're artists, too, and deserve the same respect we demand for ourselves.
Once that's settled, then I begin with the outline. If it's portraiture--person or chimpanzee--I usually start with the eyes. They're the most important part since they hold the person's emotion and very soul. Sometimes I won't even begin the painting for a month, just so I can study the eyes closely, then work outward from there. I work in small patches at one time, overlapping my brushstrokes to blend. If I have trouble, I'll turn both painting and reference photo upside-down. It stops the brain from filling in detail automatically and forces me to actually see colours and geometry.


Is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?

I am first and foremost a photorealism painter. Long before this was a genre, I described my artist self as an arm with a camera on the end of it. I strive for that photograph look, so a lot of my pieces reflect this.
However, in 2019 for my first Coloured Pencil Society of America gallery competition, I decided to try something radical. I have a chintzy watercolour filter on my phone, and when I loaded my self-portrait into it, suddenly my realistic face was flooded with gorgeous watercolour effects that I could never do with watercolours. I know, I tried to learn and it was a raccoon party. So now a lot of my portraits, especially animals, will have this watercolour effect done entirely in standard coloured pencils. No other artist is doing this technique, and people are really responding to the emotion of it! BTW, that painting was chosen, and hung in the Brea, California gallery in the summer of 2020 and was sold!

Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?

I don't think I could even if I knew how! I think I'm one of those artists that wants YOU to gain your own interpretation. Yes, I can list materials, title, and medium, but art IS emotion and no one can tell you how to feel about it: NO ONE. And actually, I prefer it that way. I can put my emotion into it and know how it made ME feel, but you are a different person with different experiences than myself, so naturally, you're going to bring your own flavour and spices to it, and that's how it should be I think.

How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?

I think most of the time with me it's colour. I am addicted to colour. Colour and texture that I know I have the skill to portray make me excited and WANT to paint an image. For my piece "Jengo", it was his eyes. I cropped the image to show just the eyes, but he was smiling like a human in that photo and his eyes carried the smile even though you couldn't see his lips. That inspired me! For my piece "Queen Negra", it was the serene expression on her face as she gently ate her favourite lilacs. For one I'm currently in progress in doing, it's a stack of seaglass on a beach. The glass is my favourite colour of aqua, but she put a hawaiian flower in bright red next to it, and the combination was breathtaking. For my piece "Miss Shiny Cat", I have a crystal figurine collection on a clear acrylic table, so when I saw the afternoon sun shining on them and reflecting the prisms on my wall, that inspired me to paint it.

How do you select your artworks subjects? Where (do) they come from?

I have no set way of choosing, except for what I've already previously said. I would like to do a series of these seaglass zen rocks, and today I received permission from the photographer--she was honoured that I asked. She has varying colours and shapes in her photographs that I've chosen, some in full sunset and others more subtle. I just loved the idea of painting these for posterity and hope to turn it into a series.
I enter a lot of competitions, so if I see even one of my subjects or even one of my cats that I think I can turn into something truly unique, then I will take the perfect reference photo and then paint it. But generally, I try to stay away from the completely overdone subject.

Is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?

Of course I'd love to be remembered for every single painting I've ever done, but know that probably won't happen. At least not until I'm dead. HA. But yes, I would love for folks to be amazed and remember my photorealism, but especially my new faux watercolour effect. I think it's just so unique right now that this is what people are beginning to notice and connect with on an emotional level, and that's my goal as an arteest: to move you and make you feel something you didn't feel before.

Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

Wow, what a question! I have the following opportunities coming up:
I was just published in the Ann Kullberg Coloured Pencil Treatures volume VIII with #HRHNutmeg on the cover. You can order that through Ann's web-site.
I currently have a piece done in this watercolour style called "Mint Tulep" and it is in the 311 Gallery in Raleigh, NC for the month of May.
I have 2 pieces in the Tiny Member Show for Art 'Round Tennessee, and that opening reception for the month of June's showing will be on June 3rd if you're in the states and would like to join us.
In July I will be teaching my very first art classes at the Storyteller House here in Cookeville, TN. They will be introduction to coloured pencils classes, along with a workshop on how to create photorealism.
I was offered my own gallery show to be held at the Harper's Rare Books store and gallery in downtown Cookeville, so am working on that right now. Hoping the show will be later this year.
Last week I was just notified that my chimpanzee, "Cy" was chosen for the Gallerium Art Prize International Smart Online Group Exhibition and will be published in their global catalogue.

What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?

I only have 2 real influences. The first is Laurel Burch. The instant I saw her "Friends in Laureland" painting on a bookmark in Borders, I. was. hooked. Her colours were vibrant and screamed at me, and it was unlike anything else I'd ever experienced before. Sadly, she passed away, but I still subscribe to her web-site and get little things with her iconic cat images anytime I can.
My second is a local artist to Murfreesboro, TN, by the name of Norris Hall. He used to design license plates for the city of Nashville and from that time forward again, I was hooked. His style is definitely like Laurel's--very surrealistic and colourful. But his is almost bordering on illustration which is a style very unlike me and my photorealistic brain. I once painted an old, tired cow clock I picked up for a song from a discontinued store and decided to paint it in Norris's style. When I saw him on Facebook, I sent him a message with the clock and he loved it, and even follows me now on my own art page. That was inspirational and helped me to keep going, because he was so kind and complimentary.

If you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?

Laurel. I am high-functioning autism--I have Asperger's, so I sometimes just sit and stare at these artists that can simply dream up brand new images and colours, and I would ask her who possessed her beautiful brain to teach her how to do what she did. Once I study one of her cats it seems very intuitive, like I should've thought of that. But I can't. I've tried and again, big dumpster fire. So, I enjoy abstraction when I see it, but am happy to do my photorealism with a little watercolour thrown in.

This is it. Thank you very much Carla for this interview. I appreciate that you shared a part of your artistic story with our readers. Hope to see you more in the future.

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