WHO AM I
WHO- My name is Jennifer Cloutier. I am a observer, explorer and creator. I am visual artist and creative entrepreneur. Certified Yoga instructor. Wellness & creative educator. Advocate for the Arts.
WHERE- Where were you born, where else have you lived, and where do you live now? I was born in Windsor, Ontario Canada. I moved out west for awhile, living in Calgary for 11 years, until i moved back east to reside now in the cultural city of Montreal.
WHAT- What are some of the things that you are most passionate about? There are three main passions that have followed me through my life. Art, travel, and wellness. One feeds off the other and is shared by the act of observing.
WHAT- What are your mediums you used to express yourself? My first tool that i picked up to create was the pencil and paintbrush. Taking a watercolour course when I was young to learn about the basics of color, light, composition, and perspective. It was enough to keep me engaged and become a tool to describe the world that was around me. As I made my way into university I switched to acrylics for financial reasons and just stuck with them. Through time, I realize i had chosen one of the hardest mediums to use, as they dried quickly and were less forgiving. However I think this taught me to be in the present in what I was doing, reacting quickly in capturing the moment and more mindful with every mark I made. Taking those lessons learnt it paved the road for the next tool that fell into my hands...a camera.
When I graduated from University, I took a opportunity to explore. Choosing Australia as my first solo trip. It was here, that photography became a easier tool to document and tell the story that I was living. The immediacy of how you could capture daily life through a lens enticed me. My prior training in building compositions and seeking interesting perspectives came in handy and became transferable in photography. Now when I was on the road, I had a camera of one shoulder and a sketchbook tucked in under the other. Which medium I used, depended on the moment.
WHO- are your influences and inspirations for your work? As most artists, i have a variety that shaped who I am. As a painter, I was inspired by 1920's art nouveau movement. Klimt, Mucha, Egon Shiele. I have a love for illustration and graphic qualities, inspired by Japanese woodblock to Toulouse Lautrec. I also love the perspectives and compositions of Edgar Degas. Other painters, are Georgia O'keefe, Modigliani, Hopper. Living painters such as Michael Carson. Poets and writers such as Rumi, Baudelaire, Steinbeck, Cohen, and Murakami. Filmmakers Wim Wenders. Photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, Elliot Erwitt, Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado and Vivian Maier. Also inspired by any person who creatively put themselves out there. My meme Clara Cloutier who also was amazing artist.
What is your subject matter or theme at the moment? My subject matter for the most part is daily life. Like Nina Simone had once stated, that I think it's are duty as artists to reflect the times we are in. Times are a changing quickly these days and I feel its necessary to document what I see, or feel. One of the countries that I have been smitten and inspired by, has been Cuba. It has everything a artists seeks. Lines, textures, color and movement. The culture is vibrant and authentic. The people are warm and welcoming.
WHAT is your process? It always begins with observing. No matter if I'm doing a painting, photograph or writing. It all begins with the act of awareness in what I am doing, in that moment. Either it be on the streets, or in the studio, it starts with taking time to actually look, listen, and take in all that's there. Once you have done that, you can start to explore your idea and observations further. Choosing which tool to make your expression with. Generally I go to the streets now with both a camera and sketchbook in hand. I let the moment tell me which one to use. Sometimes I used both.
With photography, i like to really take time to look, and then look again. Like a flaneur, I am the silent observer, who enjoys to be part of the crowd but also hidden from it. I like the energy of the streets. Sometimes with the perfect inspiration, i can easily lose track of time, falling in a mediative state. You have probably heard of the "the flow" when you are completely in tune with what your doing and have found the zone. It's a beautiful energy that is addicting. I think it's why i love shooting street and documentary style photography. There is always something new. Even if you return back to the same spot, the light can be different, or the season.
My approach with painting is a more structure one. Generally using photos as references and pre sketches to get the general layout. My themes again stem from my documentation of life, either it be people, spaces or places. Painting allows me a to inject a more personal emotion into a moment. Through markings, brushstrokes, texture, slowly moving from a flat image to a 2D.
Why create? I think its necessary. I have to create. There isn't really a choice. There is always a million ideas running through my head on a givien day. If I did not try to see some of these through, I think I would be incomplete and frustrated. Its just choosing on how to express my thoughts or observations. I also believe that we all have a story to tell and that words is not the only way. I find it therapeutic to go from an idea and see it through to the final product. It's like purging emotions. We are all creatives beings, it just finding the right tool that works for you. I'm lucky that I have found a few.
What is your struggle as a artist and how do you move pass this? Focusing on one project and not having a enough time to finish all the project that are in my head. I got into yoga for the reason to calm my energy and redirect it in a positive. i feel it really helps when I can be still at times. I have a lot of physical and mental energy, and sometime I overload myself that it gets to a point where nothing is getting done. So finding the balance between finding focus and creating.
What projects are you working on these days? A any given moment I usually working on 5 projects at a time. Call it c.a.d creative attention disorder. One inspires the other. So the first one that involves this very interview is called The process. A documentation of artist as they go from an idea to the finish product. The second project is my own personal documentation of Cuba through photography and video. Thirdly, as a advocate for the arts and a way to be stay connected with my community I started a space called Project Vivant. Located at my loft in Montreal. It a space and place where people can connect, exhibit and hold workshops that are geared towards creative and wellness endeavours. Lastly, I've created workshops dedicated to the art of observing. Adventures with the focus on the senses, called the Flaneur walk & talk & workshops. At the present moment being held in Montreal and Cuba. In hopes to travel to other countries by 2018.
What inspired this documentation called THE PROCESS? I became curious on finding out why or the purpose I create. How I went from an idea, and what were the highs and lows to that. I tested it out mainly in Cuba, by sitting on the streets with a camera in hand or sketchbook. The sketching was the harder test. Sitting and testing my skills as a artist, and observing the emotions that arose. Through this I started to meet the locals and of course were drawn to other artists. Inspired from the beginning, I was curious in finding out their stories and about how their process as well. So it started with a conversation, that led to a interview, that became a documentation.
Talk about being a advocate for the arts? I love finding incredible talent and trying to help them be seen. When I moved into a loft in Montreal 5 years ago, I now had a place and the opportunity to promote my local art community. Creating group shows that consistent of dance, music and art.
I truly believe that every person is creative. Its just finding the right tool the express it. I know and understand the struggle to express yourself and put it out into the world. The pressures, the confidence it takes...the emotions of being recognized or not.
What is some advise you would give to another artist or creative entrepreneur?
- It doesn't hurt to try something at least once. Take risks.
- If your passionate about something, then just do it. If your a photographer, SHOOT daily, if you like painting, PAINT. You don't need an excuse or recognition to be a creative or to express.
- Don't be afraid to ask. The worst thing someone can say back is NO but imagine the doors open when they say yes.
- Don't wait for the perfect time to create, or travel, or do the things you would like to do. Don't let money effect your decision to make art.
- Make your mark and tell your story. Put it out there. You never know what could become of it.
Your other passion is traveling? Tell us about the first trip, an unforgettable one, and your wishes for travel. My first trip was a one year working holiday visa in Australia. It was incredible year that was a game changer for me. Immediately fell in love with the act of exploring and was hooked from learning and experiencing some new everyday. One of the most unforgettable experiences was a trip around the world for one year.. Starting in Japan, then heading to South East Asia, Nepal, Prague and Europe. My next wishes for travel would to go back to Nepal, travel south to Argentina, Peru and Brazil and maybe follow my Irish roots to Ireland. Oh yes, I would love to go to Morocco. I could image its an adventure of the senses. As you can see, I like to move, and would not turn down a chance to see or do something new.
How do you stay inspired? I try to step outside my comforts as much as possible. Reserving time to walk, and explore. This keeps my eyes fresh and my senses heightened. I can't say I have ever had a lack of inspiration, on the contrary , I have too much and don't really know how to fit it all in or express it quickly enough. There is way too many things that are going on in front of me on a daily basis that inspire me. Also doing yoga helps. Finding that time to move the body and focus on the breathe, it all helps!!