In Conversation with Quentin Caron
Posted by Aimee Coles on 14/11/2021 at 04:33
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Since interviewing Abstract Art Canada’s founding artists, David Brooks and Jim Ulrich, we’ve been talking to artist, Quentin Caron. We wanted to get his views on abstract art and to discover more about how his career as an Imagineer has shaped his work as an abstract artist.
Aimee: When and who or what inspired you to start painting?
Quentin: I still remember at age six telling my parents that I wanted to be a ‘drawer’ when I grew up. Their response was: “Oh, you mean an artist. Well, you can’t make a living at that! An architect draws and makes a living though.” My response to this was “okay then I will be an architect and do art.”
I continued with art and when it came time to go to university a family friend suggested that I at least do foundation year at the local art college as this would make me a better architect. I applied, was accepted, and never looked back. Ironically, I ended up working on the creation of built environments over the next years.
Aimee: Has your style always been abstract?
Quentin: Like many artists I have had phases; some more figurative than others. Early on, when I was handled by galleries in Canada, my work was a kind of associative abstraction combining figurative elements and personal iconography.
In addition to painting abstracts I also draw and paint figures and portraits as a means to keep up certain artistic skills. When designing for aquariums, landscapes, or attractions, I have had to illustrate ideas and methodologies, as needed, and when carving emulations of geology or buildings then those are realistic renditions of what is required.
Aimee: How would you describe your style of art?
Quentin: For years I described my work as visual poems and as more lyrical elements, (flowing lines and shapes, counterpoints of color, and so on), started to become dominant, I started to refer to them as visual songs.
They do not represent poems or songs specifically, rather they are constructed in a similar way and with a similar intent; to affect the viewer emotionally and as much as possible in a positive way without being saccharine.
Aimee: Has your style changed or developed over time?
Quentin: All artists change over time and so naturally I have changed and correspondingly, my work has also grown and evolved.
Aimee: For those of us new to the world of abstract art, could you give your own interpretation of what abstract painting is?
Quentin: Pure abstract art for me is non-figurative primarily so the emotional content of the work is not referential to objects, things, people, places, history, or to the life we lead. However, there are many iterations of less pure abstract art that does utilize references, either overtly or discreetly, and as long as it is honest and evocative, I am happy to enjoy it, or contribute to it.
Aimee: Which artists inspire you?
Quentin: There are so many great artists and I am inspired by the honesty that they bring to their vision. For example, one day I may reconnect with Giovanni Bellini, and the next with Giacometti, then Francis Bacon… Oh wait, there’s Cezanne too, but what about Rothko or Lichtenstein or Bourgeios or Clemente or Matisse, and of course Picasso or Leonardo? There are also artists who I know personally like my friends Evan Penny or Jackie Winsor who I knew when living in New York, and ones whose studios I visited like Keith Haring or Noguchi. So ultimately, the act of creating and appreciating art is what inspires me.
Aimee: What else inspires you?
Quentin: The living world is filled with inspiration. I grew up hiking in the Canadian Rockies and I love having all my senses engaged while enjoying a physical activity. The natural world is full of inspiration. Also, science, technology, history, film, literature… or just walking into a restaurant where odd pieces of conversation and gorgeous smells evoke memorable moments… These can feed the need to create.
For many years I sculpted and/or designed artificial geologies for a variety of attractions including zoos (Asia Trail 1 at the National Zoo in Washington DC was a wonderful project) and aquariums (Aquario di Lisboa is my favourite still). I also designed other things and places like residences, fire halls, campuses and malls, etc. I used my creative mind for many wonderful projects. For several years I sculpted out of plaster creating faux geology or faux building facades for Walt Disney Imagineering in Orlando and then for Universal Creative in Orlando and then Beijing. At both organizations I inspired, and was inspired by, the teams I worked alongside.
Aimee: Regarding your creative process, are you able to plan ahead or can inspiration strike without warning?
Quentin: Creating art takes a moment when you make the first mark. This leads to a ‘conversation’ within the work, which ultimately requires resolution, be that at length, or quickly.
Aimee: Are there certain set stages? For example, do you decide in advance the size of piece, whether it’s going to be portrait or landscape, on canvas or paper, what media you’re going to use?
Quentin: A studio should have a variety of options available. I have many sketchbooks, materials of all kinds, different sizes of canvases, panels, clay, and so on. Typically, when painting, I prepare a number of like-sized supports and then work through them. I’m often working on several different pieces at once, some of the same medium, some not. I will do quick sketches while working on pieces that have longer ‘conversations’ underway.
Aimee: Do you always paint in the same place (a favourite place that’s a set studio)?
Quentin: I have a studio (never large enough) where I do all my art.
Aimee: How long does a painting take or does it vary a lot?
Quentin: There is a lot of variation regarding the time it takes. Like many artists there are times when an older painting needs additional work and so I may return to work on it over months or even years. Some pieces go quickly and others gestate over time.
Aimee: How do you know when you’ve finished a piece? Do you go back over it to change it or correct it?
Quentin: No artist that I know ever is completely satisfied that a piece is what they want. However, there is a time when it is resolved and that helps the artist move on to the next one. Sometimes a work seems to need some addition or subtraction in order to improve it and so we all give in to that at times.
Aimee: So how do you know when you’re satisfied?
Quentin: For me, when there is an emotional weight and unusual balance within the art, then it has been accomplished.
Aimee: Is there always a ‘right way’ to an abstract painting?
Quentin: All artists must be true to themselves in order to have honest works and so there can be no ‘right way’ since that would impose boundaries and expectations that don’t align with the artist.
Aimee: What do you enjoy most about abstract painting?
Quentin: It is a wonderful challenge to create something that only relies on elements that are not experienced day to day and can affect the emotions, and imagination, of a viewer.
Aimee: Would you recommend it as a pastime and if so, why?
Quentin: Yes, absolutely! Everyone should give creativity a chance and to use abstraction as a means of enriching one’s own life seems like a positive to me.
Aimee: Do you think you have to be a particular type of person, have existing skills or innate qualities to be able to paint abstract?
Quentin: Anyone can do abstracts but for some overcoming the popular reinforcement to do and only appreciate figurative works can be difficult at first. Just learning to be free and open is one of the benefits of abstract art.
Aimee: What do you think makes an abstract painting good?
Quentin: Honesty and emotional depth created from unrecognizable forms are what make abstract painting special.
Aimee: Is that the same as valuable or collectible?
Quentin: Value in art is typically an intangible until those collecting it value the level of integrity and individuality that an artist expresses in the work, then having something special gains value.
You can view Quentin’s art for sale through his gallery here.
Well done, Q!
Well deserved! Quentin, you taught me so much about art, and I will never forget our impromptu trip to the Ringling Museum with Sally! I’m lucky you still speak to me after you introduced me to your prismatic studio, and I naively referenced the pour paint trend! You and Sally have been great influences in my life and I love ya for it!
I still value the painting you did of a hand with the index finger up saying that I was number one. It has a special place in my living room.