Artist Interview with Gwen Cates

Artist Interview with Gwen Cates | Art-Res

Introducing the artist Gwen Cates, whose recent event is called “Cosmic Monologues”.

Check out her event! Visit her art gallery and view more info at her website:

Saturday November 9th, 4-7 pm
Talk with the artist @ 4pm
Wine will be served.

Salon @ the Granada
672 S. Lafayette Park
Suite 40
Los Angeles CA 90057

Your past work includes both painting landscapes as well as abstracts. What does it take to be as successful as you are at painting both of these?

Like many artists, such as Picasso, I have explored various genres. I am passionate about the land on which I dwell and walk upon. When I go out for my daily walks in nature, I am often inspired by the variety of colors and shapes that surround me. I tend to approach _en plein air_oil painting in a painterly, abstract way, which leads me to rediscover shapes that become the subjects of the paintings rather than the land itself. As I make these discoveries, I find that I am revealing secrets from within myself that I explore and share with the viewers of the painting. I often feel the need to add layers of paint, textures and various objects, so I began to work in acrylic paint which opens more possibilities for exploration of discoveries that allow me to astonish myself and my followers.

I believe success takes dedication and many hours in the art studio. Over the years I have offered solo exhibits in the USA, Britain and Italy. Part of success as an artist is making our work available for people to view and interact with. If the paintings inspire my audience, then I have done my job well because part of my task is to inspire and offer images to people who might then become more curious about their own inner worlds.

People in more rural settings seem to enjoy landscapes of the area in which they live, often saying they had never seen such bright colors in the mountains, sea or meadows before. Cosmopolitan areas tend to be drawn to my abstract and mytho-poetic paintings, and also to landscapes. My current exhibit is a mixture of landscape (or universe-scapes) with multidimensional abstract ideas about Black Holes, Exoplanets and stars that may invite the viewer into their own Cosmic Monologue!

Can you describe what inspires you about the exoplanets and how you relate to black holes?

A while back, I painted a small painting called, Launch to Planet X. Then I began to read about Exoplanets, which are planets in distant galaxies that are believed capable of supporting life similar to life on earth. I did some large abstract collage pieces that explore the concept that life may have been launched to earth from another planet or, conversely, that life may have originated on this planet and might be launched to an Exoplanet. Two of those paintings are in my exhibit. They led to my discovery and interest in Black Holes and the idea that they may indeed be engines of the universe. The concept of Black Holes was only a theory, but suddenly this year there were amazing photographs and videos of the Event Horizons of Black Holes that made them visible for the first time. I wanted to create my own abstract interpretation of the phenomena that I had been reading and hearing about. The act of painting helps me make discoveries that invite me to see the world in a new way. Once I begin putting brush to canvas, I find that I can say things with paint that I could not otherwise imagine.

Are your own personal dreams ever an inspiration for your artwork?

Often I am inspired by apparitions that appear unexpectedly as if in a waking dream. A few years ago, I was inspired by a vision of light in the shape of a vortex that appeared repeatedly on my living room wall in Virginia. It appeared to come from the skylight in the ceiling above, and I did a charcoal drawing of it. Once I did the drawing, the shape disappeared from the wall and I realized that I had received a gift. I interpreted it as an archetypal image, a cage built of streams of light, which later evolved to include winged beings. I included vortexes of light in my next collection of paintings, which was appropriately named The Vortex Series.

Your abstract paintings often contain collage elements. What is the thought process behind choosing those elements for each artwork piece?

Often while riding horseback or walking through trails in the woods, I pick up objects that intrigue me such as algae from oak trees, leaves or even insects. I put these items into folders in my collage box and pull them out to play with in my compositions. I soak algae and untangle it so that it will lay flat. I spread these objects out on a table in my studio and paint them with a clear acrylic medium to preserve them. It is as if I have another pallet to select from to go with the pigments.

If you could spend the day with any artist, living or not, who would it be and why? What would you plan during the day?

One artist I would love to spend a day painting beside and conversing with is Monet. While studying fine art at Hollins University, I had an exceptional teacher, Bill White, who encouraged me to do large en plein air paintings. He taught me to mix large piles of all of the colors that I saw before me, ten shades of green, four shades of yellow, seven shades of blue, for example, on my pallet. He said that Monet worked that way, and I’ve followed that advice ever since. I saw a great exhibition of Monet’s work in London that left a deep impression upon me. In some way I am painting with Monet every day!

I have also been influenced by the great colorists of the past, the Fauvists. They were European artists who had been rejected from the great solon exhibits because their paintings were considered too bright and bold to be taken seriously. They formed a group of artists that organized their own exhibitions referred to in France as the Salon de Refuses, that is the Salon of the refused painters. The show was derided in the press, and the artists were referred to as the Fauves, “the wild beasts”. They included such artists as Gauguin and Van Gogh. I like the group of Fauvists and sometimes imagine that I am amongst them.

I also enjoy the art of Wolf Kahn, a colorist who works in pastel. Fairfield Porter, an oil painter of lush New England scenes, delights me with his use of strongly contrasting color and rich shadow patterns. I love Wayne Tebault for his scrumptious use of thick juicy color. He painted cakes and pastries, proving that subject matter is not the point of painting. It is just the inspiration. It would be fun to have them all over to dinner; and also Milton Avery, an abstract painter who painted from nature, who has stunned me with the starkness and simplicity of his shapes and the boldness of his compositions. If Avery came to visit I could imagine that we would do a paint-off, where we would each do ten-minute abstract sketches and then compare them.

Perhaps of all the painters, I would most like to meet Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the first truly successful American woman artists. She is another artist who closely observed nature and simplified it to elegant and powerful statements. I would like to invite her for a walk by the river, and perhaps we would look at leaves and flowers along the way, then sketch a few together. I would like to have tea with her and talk about our personal lives, and even paint sky clad portraits of each other. Who knows, perhaps we will all meet one day?

Looking at art is a lifelong passion for any serious artist. Interesting paintings are always an inspiration and a joy. They motivate me to continue pursuing my own craft. The act of painting helps everything in the world that I look at seem more fascinating and more beautiful.

Thank you!