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Gavin's Underground

November Gallery Stroll: Candace Jean

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2011-11-21 -
This past Friday, the weather was looking a little unsure of itself and couldn't decide whether it was rain or snow until about midnight. Which, on the one hand, scared off the occasional Strollers, but on the other kept all the dedicated ones in play for an awesome evening. Most every gallery and "official" spot was in full swing, along with a lot of the side projects in various locations. Anyone who made their way out into the cold got a treat on nearly every block of downtown.
As the rain started trickling overhead, we made our way over to Cathedral Tattoo on 400 South to see a couple of people getting inked up, while the back hallway served as gallery space for Candace Jean and her drawings. Today, we're chatting with Jean about her work and what she's got on display at the shop, along with pictures of everything on display, which you can check out here.

Candace Jean

Gavin: Hey, Candace. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Candace: Hey, Gavin. Candace here, born to Salt Lake and raised in Riverton, the once-small town of mom-and-pops and open fields. I am eight years a mom, current Millcreek habitant, marketing maven by day, purveyor of curious compositions by night. I also blush at the drop of a hat and am as bad as a kid at bringing home bits of findings in my pockets.

Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some of your early inspirations?

Candace: The interest has been there since day one, I think, and the inspiration has always been nature. I once used the clay-rich soil from the backyard of my childhood home to sculpt animals and let them dry in the sun. I made miniature houses outside with moss and sticks and pressed all sorts of flowers and leaves between the pages of my dad’s encyclopedia sets. I grew up immersed in that stuff and it’s always on the forefront of my mind when it comes to a new drawing. Childhood fairy tales and bedtime stories continue to play a part, but there is SO much out there in the natural world, how can it not be inspiring?
Gavin: When did you first start learning how to draw character designs and what were some of the first pictures you created professionally?

Candace: Growing up, I drew things more realistically. Near the time I found I was expecting my son, my life shifted in different ways and art had to take the back burner. It had been at least five years since I’d even started a painting, but one day in December of 2007 I finished my first “girl,” Charlie. She was completed under an entirely new approach and I loved her. She stuck. I had challenged myself to come up with a way for me to paint that could be recognized; something you could look at and think: Candace did that. I felt like she was it, and I started making more girls like her. The realistic sense of some elements is still present, however, and will always be a part of my style.

Gavin: You've stated that you're a self-taught artist. What made you decide to go in that direction and not seek out formal training or college?

Candace: I’d actually really love to take some formal art training. I miss college, in fact. But I do think people have to develop personal style on their own; I’m not sure a degree in art can provide you that. Technique may be learned from an instructor, but even that is through the instructor’s style, and art is made by personal expression.
Gavin: What specifically drew you toward penciling and the more simplistic design work you create?

Candace: I had an image of a finished piece in my mind, and before I got all the way there, I was left with a little face inside a rose with very pale color, and I stopped. That was it; she was done. I made more drawings the same way with fine lines, simplistic detail and very minimal color purposefully after that because I enjoyed the first so much. Artists go through phases, and these pale images I’ve been making lately are one of mine. I like to think they resemble antique bookplates.

Gavin: What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from initial sketch to final drawing?

Candace: First, I find myself with thoughts of a new piece. It goes down as an idea in my ever-present notebook with a thumbnail sketch and description. The ideas may evolve a little, a lot, or none at all before a complete piece comes of it, and some ideas never manifest because I’ve changed my mind altogether. An idea either lingers long enough until I make it happen or I flip through my notebook to find one I’d like to become engrossed in, and then I cross it off once it’s done. I start by researching the subject if I feel I need to, and I sketch on layout paper to form the bones of the piece. I rework this preliminary drawing as much as I feel is necessary before I’m satisfied with it and then the complete rendering is transferred to final paper or art board for painting.
Gavin: Given how your medium allows you to go back and make changes, how much do you play with your designs before they're complete?

Candace: Well, there is no “command z” in traditional media. The way I blend layers doesn’t seem to easily allow for masking or mulligans, either. I think once I’ve got something down then that’s that. The going back to make changes to work usually happens in the preliminary drawing stage before I’m ready to apply linework and color.

Gavin: What was it like for you breaking onto the local art scene and displaying your works around the city?

Candace: Thinking back, it felt long and slow, but it did go very smoothly. I just started to actively do things with my work once I started painting again, from consignment opportunities to accepting show invites, always hanging on to that determination to “get it out there.” I look at my art now and think, “Wow. I started here, but now I’ve got my style. I’ve got a basic feel to my branding. I’ve been in some big local shows and have mailed out product not just locally but all over the world. People like me. I think I did it!” It feels exceptionally great, and each new invitation or local feature, like this, puts me in the most elated spirits.
Gavin: Recently, you've been mass-producing selected works as printworks, creating things like cards and print packs. What influenced you to start doing those, and how has it been going for you as a business?

Candace: Five years ago, when I set up my first online shop, it was to bring in a little extra money. I was a single mom working as hard as I could, and I made all sorts of miscellaneous things on the side during my son’s nap time and posted them for sale. It was exhilarating to see orders come in and then to pack them up and ship them out. Now I apply my work to different forms like cards to allow myself various creative outlets besides just painting. Things to do to keep creative motivation fresh. Each and every item I offer in my shop was crafted by me. Each print is handled by me; signed and packaged with labels I designed and cut down myself. While some prints are “open edition,” they will retire at some point; never to be printed again. Even if it isn’t numbered, each piece receives close attention before I hand-write its mailing label and send it out to a new home. It’s been going incredibly well, considering I do this on the side!

Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Candace: This new body of work encompasses a few different techniques and showcases a handful of species donning “royal” names. Half of the show is a kickback to the way I was painting before I introduced stylized characters, and the other half calls upon “the Candace girls.” I hope that with my fast-fact placard cards, too, the show could be a refreshing change for some; maybe stir up some curiosities and “I did not know that."
Gavin: What are your thoughts on being displayed at Cathedral Tattoo?

Candace: I couldn’t be more excited. I’m thrilled that Cathedral is opening their shop to gallery strollers and providing exhibit space for local artists. I was honored they asked me to do a show and feel we’re a great match for each other.

Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Candace: It seems that the lowbrow, contemporary, genre-bending “scene” that I long to be a part of is more prominent outside of Salt Lake, unfortunately. While Salt Lake has a great appreciation for the arts and welcomes all sorts, I feel that our scene could be a little stronger. It definitely is growing, though. We’ve got quite a few galleries, the Arts Festival gets bigger each year and little craft fairs are beginning to cut teeth.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?

Candace: People really should try buying an original sometime. Find an artist you enjoy, follow their work, and invest in a piece that speaks to you. Knowing you’re the owner of something that unique, crafted with a person’s creative energy and thought? It’s something else. Even if you aren’t in a place to buy an original, support galleries and their artists by going to opening night. It’s free, it’s interesting, and means a lot to curator and creator to have faces present.

Gavin: What's your opinion on Gallery Stroll today and the work being displayed each month?

Candace: I love that Salt Lake has Gallery Stroll. The exhibited work varies enough from space to space and month to month that there is something in it for everyone. It’s nice that, for at least one night a month, spaces stay open later and put a large emphasis on the new show’s opening.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of this year and going into next?

Candace: I hope to release my Christmas card sets before it gets much later into the season. I also plan to re-open my print shop for the holidays and launch my new Website that I’ve been building. I’ve got a “finders keepers” thing coming up that will allow a devoted hunter a tiny doll or multiple dolls, depending on who gets to it first. More on that later in my online journal. I’ve always got new ideas brewing and new work is sure to shortly follow the turn of the year.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Candace: Course! I’d like to plug my own Website that is undergoing a makeover, and my journal that links from it. I’d like to give a shout to Cathedral Tattoo for being a gracious host and for opening their amazing shop to Gallery Stroll in order to provide local artists more exposure. I’d like to tip my hat to Blonde Grizzly for asking me along as a part of their shows and for providing me my first solo exhibit. I’d also like to encourage more people to keep up with Gallery Stroll. Get out there and wander!


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