“Allow yourself to be vulnerable.”
An artist profile of Glen Gauthier
What do you do and how can I find it?
I create collage artwork using paper ephemera from old books, magazines, and documentation from my late aunt’s insurance office in south Louisiana. I work out of my studio, an old quonset hut in the Cedars neighborhood near downtown Dallas. Examples of my work can be found on my website, the Saatchi Art profile page, my Instagram, and on Pinterest.
How did you get started?
I have a degree in Fine Arts and have been in the advertising and design business for almost thirty years, working as a Creative Director. A few years ago, I decided to finally take fine art seriously. Our kids were mostly grown and I had space in our garage in Austin to create a studio. I’ve always been drawn to collage. Having created a few digital pieces for advertising clients, I decided to finally get going with physical collages. Around the same time, my sister let me know that a cousin of mine back in south Louisiana was cleaning out our late aunt’s old insurance office. As a kid, I was fascinated by all of her old paperwork, from ledgers to old receipts and other bits and pieces of paper. So I made a trip to pick up boxes of the materials they were throwing out, which now finds its way into my work.
What is the coolest story you have about doing what you do?
Earlier this year, after uploading a few of my pieces to the Saatchi Art site, a reputable online artwork marketplace, I received an invitation to show my work at The Other Art Fair in New York, which is part of a rotating show held in a number of cities throughout the world. On a lark, I submitted a few pieces for consideration and got accepted into the show. Immediately, panic set in. I began to question everything from the entry fee to travel and shipping fees, hotel, meals, and so on. Fortunately, my wife told me I was being ridiculous and basically forced me to just pull the trigger.
And I’m so glad she did. It was an amazing learning experience that allowed me to meet some incredible artists from around the world. At the event, a curator saw my work and invited me to participate in a group collage show in a New York gallery scheduled for November. So, I’m headed back to New York next month and possibly again for a solo show next year. I don’t know that I’ve sufficiently wrapped my head around that one yet.
Who is your biggest inspiration for your art?
Lance Letscher, a collage artist in Austin. After I started creating collages in my garage, I stumbled across a book of his work in a Barnes & Noble. It blew me away. He was doing exactly what I wanted to do with my art. We differ a bit in style. His pieces tend to be more chaotic and free-flowing whereas my direction is more formal or figurative. But I use his work often as an inspiration and jumping off point for my own collages. I recently attended the screening of a documentary about Lance and was struck by the similarities in our personalities. I was too nervous to introduce myself to him (what am I, a teenager?), but I will one day. He’s since moved on from paper collage to metal, but it’s just as fascinating and beautiful.
If you could tell someone advice for doing what you do, what would you say?
Rely on your voice and life experiences. You can start out by emulating those you admire to gain proficiency in your medium, but don’t be afraid to inject your own ideas and experiences into your work. That’s what will make it your own and, ultimately, unique.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. This is relatively new for me. My father passed away two years ago and some of my artwork has become a means for processing my feelings about him. My wife can attest to the fact that I don’t always do a great job in this area, but I’m a work in progress and I believe that my work has helped in this regard.
Being vulnerable through art allows me to communicate in a visual rather than verbal way. When I create artwork that communicates something new, it tests my understanding of God, timelessness, and infinity while using materials previously locked away in old books or magazines. I’ve heard that mathematicians have discovered more than eleven dimensions in the universe. That’s at least seven more than the four we interact with daily. I believe art is the only way we can bring those other dimensions to life. I’m giving old, hidden things new life while my life is being transformed in the process. It’s definitely something that I fail at more often than I succeed, but no matter how scary vulnerability may be, it unlocks a lot of doors.
Focus on your direction, but be flexible enough to allow surprises to happen. I have often found surprises to be a key development in process or direction. Recently, I decided to go to my studio with the sole intention of creating multiple small pieces in one night—something I don’t normally do. Typically, my process involves a lot more time and effort to create one piece. When I’m between ideas, I cut out images I find interesting, not knowing exactly how I will use them. On this particular night, I laid out stacks of these images on multiple tables so that I could look at them and begin making connections between the seemingly unrelated pieces. I started experimenting with the combinations on six small artboards that I created beforehand, a process that went very quickly. By the end of the night, I had created six pieces of art that would never have happened if I had slaved over them in an attempt to force them into submission.
One piece in particular, The Most Versatile, became deeply meaningful to me because it’s a perfect reflection of my wife. She’s an artist in the kitchen, consistently improvising and creating meals that wow both me and our guests. Without realizing it at the time, that piece was a way for me to communicate at a deeper and more subconscious level than I’m able to verbally.
Keep a journal/sketchbook/dictating app to record your thoughts and ideas before you forget them. I have a ton of future ideas in my Evernote app ready to be exploited whenever I need them.
Finally, work at your art consistently. Not everything you create will be amazing. In fact, a fair amount of it will probably suck for a while. Don’t let that stop you. It’s something we all have to work through and that habit of working at it consistently is invaluable. You’re strengthening new muscles. Give them time to develop. As they do, when an idea hits you’ll be ready to bring it to life without having to worry about technique or skill. This is the blue collar aspect of art that I’m learning to love.
Cover image by Glen Gauthier.