{original post at KendallWood, posted by Christine Wood on Wednesday, December 07, 2011}

A conversation with Carollyne Yardley


We are big fans of Carollyne Yardley and her art at KENDALLWOOD. We were part of last month’s Never Dine Alone opening night spectacle.
Our very own Michael Vasilev provided social media support.

This week, we had the opportunity to sit down with Carollyne and ask her about what makes her tickher fascination with squirrels and how her business background helps her with her art.

Q: Who are you?

My mom and dad would ask me, “Who do you think you are?” following some perceived infraction of the house rules.

My response would be to silently recite my full name, address and phone number as if I had been captured by the enemy. I’m not sure why I felt so hostile at seven years old.

Describing who I am makes me think of a psychic reading my brother had years ago. The reader told him I was really funny and mean.

I spent my early years pretending to be a soldier fighting crime in my Wonder Woman costume, and I used to love Erik Estrada.

I still have a Wonder Woman costume that fits.

As a successful entrepreneur, my existence is geared to the realization of important acquaintances and friendships.

As an artist, I feel that I can create anything with my hands.

I love smart, eccentric, quick-witted, and creative people.

I have a highly identifiable laugh, which is why I spent a lot of time in the hall for detention.

Q: Why do you do what you do?

I gravitate towards environments where my natural traits can be best expressed.

I also endeavor to learn about myself and what makes me happy, and then I retain the information.

Professionally speaking, I’ve never done anything other than invent, create and build stuff.

Q: Talk to us about your evolution as a visual artist moving from Big-Eyed Ladies to Secret Squirrels and now, your latest project Never Dine Alone?

The evolution started a couple of years ago with a major career change from co-owner and creative director of a web development company to visual artist.

Choosing what to paint was easy. I know what I like in terms of visual appeal.

I started teaching myself to paint by “re-mastering” the Masters . The first one was by Raphael called The Woman with the VeilMy husband suggested I paint a squirrel on her lap.

The term Secret Squirrels is a phrase used to describe matters that are hidden from knowledge or concealed. I felt this best described my transition from business owner to visual artist.

For me, the squirrel “mask” has become a symbol describing misfits, hiding behind animated personas, odd and beautifully unusual.

I’m still unveiling who I want to be as an artist.

Never Dine Alone was inspired by my conversation with Ron Forbes, the owner of Applewood Antiques. Ron commented that many art collectors purchase portraits and sculpture of people at his antique store, and line their dining room walls with these forgotten and discarded personalities. With a cast of characters displayed, collectors feel that they never dine alone.

This theme was perfect to amplify my love of glamour and costuming, where I could throw an art show with other great artists and designers, and have the characters in my paintings coming to life.

I want to continue this and perhaps get more involved in costume design in future.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

Simply, life.

It’s a long list:

  • dreams
  • pop culture (music, videos, you name it)
  • history
  • fairy tales (and all the symbolism)
  • psychology
  • fashion (all the glamour from the golden age of cinema)
  • and just sitting in my yard talking to squirrels, birds, deer and raccoons.Sometimes an old owl will come by for a visit.

I love wildlife and am deranged enough to believe the animals can mind read with me and communicate in English. (Ha!)

Q: How do you get the word out about who you are and what you do? Share with us what it takes to build your BRAND?

I am building my brand everyday, with every blog post  paintingtweet andFacebook post.

I said to my husband a few months ago, “I have to mange my brand.”

His response was:

I didn’t know crazy was a brand.

I like to imagine that people smile, chuckle, or maybe even laugh out loud when they see my work.

I also like to think that people feel my characters have a real heart and soul.

If you are feeling a bit sad, you can talk to the painting and it will give you advice to lighten up!

On a serious note, if the painting actually starts talking back at you, stop mixing the booze with yer’ meds!

Q: You spend a great deal of time using social media: Facebook and Twitter. And, your blog has a loyal following – you’re very active in the social sphere – how come?

Ah, cause I never leave the house anymore?  Kidding”¦

I get so much out of all the other artists in the online social sphere, I can’t imagine sitting there in silence.

I want to contribute to the whole educational experience, and if other people learn from me, or by inspired in any way, then I’ve reciprocated.

Q: You approach your art both as a creative endeavour but also as a business. Can you share your thoughts on the business of art?

I am new to the business of art, but not to business itself.

In my previous career, I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses and learned how any business can create awareness and streamline a point of sale.

So far, the art business is just like any another business.

If you are tenacious and surround yourself with positive people who have a lust for life, you’re halfway there!

Q: You recently put together an unusual event: Never Dine Alone – to rave reviews. Talk to us a little bit about the concept and what it took to pull off an art opening with over 300 people in attendance?

As mentioned, the inspiration for Never Dine Alone came Ron of Applewood Antiques. We’re social creatures, us humans. And we’re willing to invest time and money in finding the right portrait so when we eat in our dining room, we’re never alone.

I immediately began thinking about what a perfect, well perfect to me, dining room would look like. A conversation with David Hunwick from the Sculpture Studio (participating artist + event location) soon followed.

I selected the feature artists based on who could do surrealism or character portraits, or other artists whose work I’ve collected.

And, I’d soon assembled a collective of artists (and artistic souls) that were willing to be part of an Alice in Wonderland meets the Tudors dinner party.

Leading up to the show, I used my experience in graphic design, web development and social media to market the event.

But, it was really the combination of all the feature artists, and support team that created a perfect guest list of the most artistic and coolest crowd I’ve seen for an opening night in Victoria.

We had one lady remark she thought she was transported to Greenwich Village New York – it was so very, haute couture dahlings!

I won’t bore you with the behind the scene details that saw us:

  • borrowing silver trays
  • buying crystal bowls from second hand stores
  • collecting candelabras, lamps
  • scheduling moving vans loaded with Victorian furniture  and Persian carpets
  • draping the 2400sqft of studio in black draping
  • cleaning the one main public toilet
  • picking up dozen upon dozens of cupcakes
  • driving blind with a carload of helium balloons
  • and, organizing the artists and sponsors.

Oh, and hanging over 50 pieces of artwork – with gentle hands.

In the final stretch, it was pure hard core labour, with 30+ hours over two and a half days to put the venue together.

We had three creative directors working at it, so again, it was a huge team effort.

Q: One of your squirrel paintings has a QR code tells us a little about Geisha Girl and your decision to merge your painting with digital media.  Is there more to come?

I spent so many years in web development, creative design and marketing other people’s businesses, I wanted to use a QR code as my signature.

I think it’s out of my system now, and I’m onto other things.

Q: What are the top three digital trends that will impact/influence how you approach your art?

I’m interested in 3D Illustration, and also what is being created for use on mobile devices and applications for digital readers.

I think anything created by the movie and music industry / special effects probably gets most of my attention too.

Since I’m currently into character development, creatures from outer space continue to influence how I approach my art – is that a digital trend?

I hope they don’t come back again for a few years though, the last visit was a bit dodgy (Ha!)

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

My Steam Punk Squirrel is being used by Querido, a Dutch publishing house for the cover of a novel by Flemish author Bart Koubaa. It should be out in March 2012.

I have a solo show at the Sooke Harbour House Art Gallery May 2012, and a couple of paintings to appear at the upcoming Steam Punk Conference April 2012 at the Empress Hotel.

I had a dream about the creature for my next series that I’m working on now.

I am excited to show you when it’s complete. So, please stay tuned.