An Insider Look at the Art: 5 Q’s with Charlotte Artist Jean Cauthen

Photo by Ciel Charlotte

Jean Cauthen is a Charlotte painter who grew up all over the world: Naples, Italy, New Orleans and the Carolinas. She has an MFA in painting and drawing and her art career has led her to Moscow, Russia as a set designer. Jean also regularly returns to Italy.

Describe your training.
I did the traditional route of an MFA in Painting and Drawing, but mostly, I think of plein-air (French: “open air” landscape painting on location) as a way to learn and remind myself of the fundamentals. An artist friend, Kathy Buist, introduced me to the art form and I have alternately loved and fought with it.

Tell us about your commissioned work.
I am working on an unusual commission now. (insert sheepish emoji) And even though it is a project I am excited about, I am in full procrastination mode as we speak.
Being open-minded to commissions though does tend to force a stretch in a new direction. So when something comes my way, I seriously consider it.

How did you successfully turn your passion for art into a career?
I had supported my art habit and education with a line of low-paying, but rewarding jobs. Me in a job interview: “of course, I can do that thing you just said. I have lots of experience at that thing you just said.” That interview technique led me to stints as a magazine editor, courtroom artist, bartender, gallery curator, newspaper illustrator, lifeguard, theater creative director, set designer in Moscow, Russia, TV broadcast designer, and teacher. It’s been a long road to learn to prioritize, but now it is second nature. My driving force is simply to paint. And paint better.

Who are some of your personal favorite artists?
These days I look at Fairfield Porter, Gustave Klimt, Paul Klee, Nicolas de Staël, Lois Dodd.

Tell us about a project you are working on currently.
I most enjoy large canvases.  I have a 4’ x 6’ painting in the works now.  Because the theme is based on our childhood fort-building endeavors, I like the idea of a painting’s size, enveloping the viewer. I was thrilled then, to be part of the ASC ARTPOP! 2016 Billboard project.  One of my paintings could be viewed as a billboard in the Charlotte area.

Where can people find out more about your work?
I hope folks will visit my website or Ciel Gallery in Charlotte’s SouthEnd.

To see Jean’s large scale paintings, you can visit the Hickory Museum of Art, Telfair Museum in Savannah, Carolina’s Got Art exhibition at Elder Gallery, The Passions of Italy, NYC, and the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum.