When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I always enjoyed drawing as a young child. I could spend hours drawing at any time, it came naturally to me and I loved it. For me having an art career was frowned upon. I was in my late teens when I wanted to be an artist but felt discouraged. I think everyone has heard the saying, “starving artist”.
Instead, I pursued a career as a graphic artist and attended a 2 year program at Loyalist College in 1985. It supported my need for creativity and love of design. The course included photography, copywriting, layout and design. After 20 years in the advertising industry, I moved into interior decorating. I did some residential and commercial painting over the years including, faux finishes in the 90’s, murals and furniture restoration. In 2017 I graduated from U of A, completing the Residential Interiors program.
Who are the artists that have had the greatest influence on you and why?
As a child I enjoyed the outdoors and animals. There was a huge surge of wildlife art in the 80’s and I admired works by Carl Brenders, Robert Bateman and Terry Isaac. Their attention to detail, compositions and lighting attracted me to their style. Also having taken four years of art with my high school teacher Gerry Putman, who was an amazing watercolourist, taught a variety of mediums and the history of art and artists including one of my favourite Canadian artists Alex Colville.
What is the inspiration behind your artwork? What is distinctive about your art that sets it apart from others?
The inspiration behind my artwork has always been Canada and the nature with which surrounds me. I have lived in many parts of Canada and never tire of the diverse landscape, changing seasons, stunning northern lights, sunsets and sunrises. I am so fortunate to live in such an amazing country.
Living in Canada with my two grown children and husband, inspired me to illustrate and write a book called “Canada – A Poet Landscape”. As diverse as Canada is, so is my work. Using live edge wood and stone in my work adds another dimension, creating texture, depth and a tactile component. I enjoy incorporating these natural elements, bringing nature into your home.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
If you have an overwhelming passion to create and design you need to find a way to add it into your life every day. Sometimes life and family happens and it is difficult to focus and do things in the moment. Don’t do what I did and wait till you’re 50 years old to do what you love. Find a creative way to involve your family, take them outdoors, and do some plein air painting with them. Be the art teacher to your children.
Describe the environment or your studio in which you create. Do you have any art making rituals?
My studio has taken over my entire house. Several years ago we sold our house and downsized before I started painting full time and now I use every room in the house and garage for art supplies, storage, computer work and printing. My dining table is gone and now I have a work table. My house is overtaken with art and supplies and I am just happy to be creating.
What destination around the world most inspires your work?
I would have to say Canada inspires the majority of my work. The west coast is a particular favourite. BC’s coastline of rugged treed landscapes with small islands peering through the foggy mist is very soothing for the soul.
Did you go to art school or are you self-taught? What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
I did not attend art school, other than my four years of art in high school, I am mostly self-taught. I enrolled in a watercolour course in my early 20’s which I enjoyed but was not what I wanted to do. I took up acrylic painting on my own and discovered that I really enjoyed the range of effects and detail I could create and how quickly the paint dried for me as I like to paint several glazes.
I was always afraid to try oils and, recently, I took an oil painting course with Daphne Cote and was impressed with the colour, blending and smoothness of the paint. I would have to say oil painting is my new medium of choice and recommend everyone should try it.
The greatest lesson I learned along the way is that art is subjective. Do what you love best, not everyone might like it. Don’t be afraid to change things up if you need to. I paint what inspires me and leave the rest to the universe.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
My superpower would be time manipulation. There is never enough time in my day to do all the things I would like. I would definitely slow time down to get more paintings done, spend time outdoors and speed it up during the day while I was at work.
Where can people find you online or in person (gallery, upcoming show, etc.)?
My website which always seems to be under construction at www.cmclaren.com.
My social media sites where people can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cmclarendesigns and https://www.facebook.com/canadianbooksforeveryone.
EtsyShop at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CMcLarenDesigns and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cmclarendesigns/.
My next show will be with Night of Artists, March 20 – 22, 2020 at the Enjoy Centre. I will have original work, prints and my book available.
The Royal Alberta Gift Shop, Allied Arts in Spruce Grove and the GT Gallery in Wabamun, carry some of my originals, prints and jewellery