I chatted with Edmonton-based artist Karen Blanchet a couple weeks ago. Our chat went fairly quick, but the conversation was rich in substance.
I learned a lot about her, including the fact that she learned French… in Australia. Plus, she has such a unique style that her husband coined a new term for it: Neo-mosaic.
I hope you enjoy my chat with Karen as much as I did.
[Featured Artwork: “Fear No Evil/crains aucun mal“ by Karen Blanchet.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I am a mother of four children and a grandmother of four.
B. I am a professional artist of over 30 years. I started in 1990 at a school, teaching.
C. I lived in Australia for 13 years. That also is where I learned French.
03. What is the main medium you work with?
Mixed medium. Mostly acrylic but acrylic is very accommodating to metals and felt, and I also use watercolour pencil and metallic pen.
04. What inspires your art?
The natural world, mostly. I’m very concerned about the environment. I’m concerned about what we’re doing to it and very upset with the Canadian government.
05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
In the morning. I have regular studio hours from 8 to 12. I don’t always get there. When I’m desperate I will do something in the afternoon or evening. Deadlines do that to me.
06. Is your art your career or a hobby? Something else?
It’s often accused of being a hobby but, yes, it’s a full-time job. What that means varies quite a bit because I do have other responsibilities and I’m not in a position to hire. The marketing takes a lot of time.
07. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Edmonton, AB)
I do appreciate the beautiful river that flows through the city and the gardens and parks that are all along it. My husband’s a walker and we’ve taken advantage of walking along the edge of the river. It’s really lovely.
08. What kind of training do you have?
I have pretty solid training. Like most of the things in my life, I fell into it. *laughs*
We were in Australia at the time and I was not doing well at school. My mother suggested that I do something that I really wanted to do. So I went to Julian Ashton Art School (in Sydney). I learned to draw before I could paint. I learned to paint in black and white before I could do colour. And, I was just into exploring abstraction and breaking the rules now that I knew them when my dad said, “Nope, you’re going to university to become a lawyer.” So that’s what I did. I went to university to become a lawyer and I ended up with a four-year degree in French. It’s a weird path, but there’s nothing ever wasted. God has his way.
09. Where did your passion for art start?
When I was first able to hold a pencil. Mom always supplied the stuff we needed to create with. My brother and I did a lot of different creative things. I was hooked on drawing. I loved drawing and I thought I could draw until I went to the school. It’s been an adventure.
10. What is your favorite drink?
Gin and tonic.
11. What household chore do you actually enjoy?
Most of the time, I love cooking. It gets a bit much when it’s every day. I love especially when we’re entertaining so I can do experiments. I always experiment on my guests. *laughs*
12. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?
Actually, people are intrigued by the method that I use that has been developed over the years. My husband named it neo-mosaic. It’s kind of God’s plan in a way. You start with chaos and then you develop something out of it. So, that’s what I do: Random marks on molding paste and then I throw paint at it. Between the paint dribblings and the random texture, I put colour.
13. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?
Scuba diving. I love the water. Being in Australia for all those years, we lived by the water and I would love to take a trip to Hawaii and do some scuba diving. I haven’t been to Hawaii in a long time, it’s not my husband’s passion.
14. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?
My propensity to drop everything for somebody else.
15. What is your go-to band or singer?
I think Joni Mitchell.
16. What app do you use most often?
I’m not well versed in technology, but Maps. I need directions for driving.
17. What is one common misconception about being an artist?
That it’s easy.
18. What do you hope people get out of your art?
An awakening. People look at it and ask me why I leave it so disjointed. I mean, it does look disjointed when you look up close to it. But it’s like Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” We’re in a very cracked world and we need to stop doing that.