Here in our first interview I am so pleased to introduce Renee Gandy, curator of both FauveStudio and FauveBohemian on Etsy. Many of you are familiar with Renee by her participation on the Mixed Media Thread over at the Etsy forums. For those who don’t frequent the thread (and even for those who do) here is a little closer look at one of our talented members.
Thank you so much, Renee, for taking time here with us! Now, without further ado:
Let’s begin with some basics: Where do you call home? Are you married? Do you have any children?
Yes, I’ve been married to Jim Gandy for 39 years now. Jim’s job required frequent relocation, so we spent many years moving from coast to coast, but in the late 80s we settled just outside Holly Springs, Mississippi. Our home sits on a small lake. We have 3 children: Leafy, 37; Jesse, 23, and Savannah, 14. We also have three grandchildren ages 18, 16 and 5. And there’s also Little Man, our Dachshund.
When did your artistic life begin? Was this an innate ability, or did you happen upon the creative calling later in life?
I was encouraged from an early age to explore art and creative paths. My mother gave me watercolors at age 4, and set up cardboard and paper along the backyard fence then said, "Have fun". I did. By age 9 or 10 she had me oil painting and taking drawing lessons. I enjoyed it, but I can't say I had a passion for it. That came later in life. By age 15 or 16 I was creating collage works combined with painting. M artistic explorations have waxed and waned over the years as I became passionate and obsessed with some new technique or venture ranging from textile work, sculpting, to mixed media and oil painting. I tend to jump from one thing to another.
Have you had formal art training?
I've had no formal art training aside from art history classes in college. I've always had a passion for history and art history in particular. All of my early studies in drawing or painting were brought to me by my mother. She was a painter along the lines of the French Modernist.
When did you become interested in mixed media techniques? What about it appealed to you, and how is Renee, the mixed media and collage artist different from the painter of oils and watercolor?
I've worked in mixed media and collage since the late 60's. My interest in mixed media and collage has come and gone, but I have begun to create more in this area in the last few years. As the economy worsened and my gallery work diminished, I had more time to explore and create. Oil painting is a very disciplined medium, although I am very expressive with color and brushwork. But oils do require adherence to certain techniques and rules. In mixed media and collage there's more leeway and if it doesn't work... well, it was a learning process and fun along the way. I'm not a water colorist by any means. I only dabble and play with watercolors. It will be years before I master this medium. That's part of the attraction: the learning process.
Do you have specific pieces in oil and mixed media or collage that you feel showcase and embrace your ideals as a person and as an artist? How do the pieces differ, or do they? Is there a recurrent theme underlying all of your work regardless of the medium?
In oils I would say the opening painting on my website home page titled "Tropique" personifies my fauvist/expressionist work:
Another oil painting:
"Valensole Fauve Lavender Landscape"
And a good example of my mixed media work:
As you can see, they are as different as can be; very different styles and subject matters. I love color, form, and brushwork in my painting. In my mixed media I find an outlet of expression for things of a darker nature, often exploring themes of loss, nostalgia, ancestors, dreams, and even abuse. These all seem to need expression, even if part of me wants to quiet their voices. I've often "tried" to create work with a positive, affirmative theme as others do, but I can't. It just doesn't flow naturally.
You’ve mentioned the disparity between the need to create what the market wants versus creating what the artist wants; something every artist faces. How does this affect your artistic endeavors?
Admittedly it does stifle my creative expression when one has to create "for market", but then Céézanne painted store front windows to feed his family. He wasn't above this type of work to meet his family’s needs. Neither am I. I always found issue with Gauguin because he abandoned his family in order to pursue his artistic freedom. I love his work, but it's tempered by a disrespect for the man himself. Céézanne I can identify with.
What does a typical "art day" look like from the outside? Where do you create? What, if any, music would we hear in the background.
I have a studio just across my back yard. There are three little rooms: one for painting, another for stretching and priming canvases, and the last one is for shipping and packaging. A typical day? No, all my days are atypical unless I'm working on a commission, then I must be more structured. I often paint all night. This is my most creative time. Mornings are usually devoted to packing and shipping , paperwork, and working on the computer. The music I most often paint to would be Joni Mitchell and lately her "Night Ride Home" album. It speaks a lot about lost youth, regrets, mistakes made. It’s rather haunting. Joni has been my muse since the 60s. We share a birthday and have grown old together. I love her line, "I'm a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints." I’ve spent a lot of years painting with Joni.
Do you have an "outside job"? What advice would you share with other artists also caught in our difficult economic situation?
I am a retired registered nurse and I primarily worked in the psychiatric area for most of my career. In these economically challenging times I would advise artists to have a range of art works in different sizes and prices. When I was primarily doing gallery work this was strongly discouraged, but all things change. Now that I am promoting myself I find it is more economically feasible to have a variety of styles, sizes and prices. Not everyone can afford an expensive oil painting. The market is there, but the sales aren't as steady as they once were. Now one must diversify to survive.
What are your long term goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
That’s a difficult question. My long term goal is to finally be able to express artistically that unknown thing that rests on the edge of consciousness; that nuance of things unseen, felt, half-remembered. I haven't captured it yet but seem to just skirt around the edges. Where do I see myself in 5 or 10 years? Still creating art, I hope. I've had a lot of issues with my eyesight over this past year due to diabetes, so I 'm hoping I will still be able to create art.
Tell us something we don’t know about Renee. Do you sing in the shower or avoid cracks in pavement or hate brussel sprouts?
I have a superstition that I simply can't shake that was passed along to me by my paternal grandmother: I won't tell a dream before breakfast or allow my family to either as it may come true. Ridiculous, I know, but ingrained and I can't seem to overcome it.
Thank you so much for your time, Renee. I’ve really enjoyed this more personal glimpse of someone I’ve come to respect as both an artist and a friend, and I'm sure our readers have, too.
To view more of Renee’s work, please visit her Etsy shops: FauveStudio for her original paintings and custom work, and FauveBohemian for collage and mixed media pieces. You can also find Renee at her website.
And thank you to all who stopped by and took the time for this little visit. I’d love to hear your feedback and even suggestions for upcoming profiles. Remember, this will be an ongoing monthly event. Our next Artist Profile is scheduled for Monday, December 7th. Please stop by and visit again.