THE WORKING ARTIST – the artist as maverick

This is an experience like no other.

My agent contacted me to attend a function at the prestigious “Bentley Gallery” in downtown Phoenix on a last-minute call, just at the end of the day.

He said, “I would love for you to attend tonight’s opening. You will meet my dear friend Ms.Crista Cloutier and  she can tell you about her new project. A project dear to her, which was years in the making. A project that deals with a subject that not many artists or people in the world are able to take on or perhaps even know about.”

That the statement left me with a big question mark on my head, but as curious as I am  (when it comes to the world of fashion, art and architecture), I decided very quickly that I had to attend and hear what Ms. Crista Cloutier and all the buzz on the project, was all about.

First Encounter
My first encounter with Ms. Crista Cloutier at Bentley Projects

As I arrived, looking over the crowd for a ‘distinctive’ person, and in a matter of seconds, I found a very contemporary dressed woman. At first glance, she had an affinity for the well established British SOHO style: a love to minimal seams, black color, soft materials and architecturally cut garments.

I struck up conversation by simply introducing myself and our common connection of my agent Mr. Tony FeliceAs our conversation turned to the particular subject of the soiree, I learned about her many years in the world of arts, the fact that she was a teacher at some point,  as well as her quick visit to Phoenix to launch her new endeavor in America. (I also dug deeper into her her life in France, where she is enamored of a French man.)

Meeting at Bentley Projects in Phoenix, Arizona
Ms. Crista Cloutier poses for my lens for a brief moment for a Facebook post.

Days later, we met for at a local restaurant, Hillstone (perhaps my favorite place in town for any meetings – business or not) to talk a little about each other and get to know about each other. I learned more about her career, her project and we discussed the idea of working together on her new image.  (It is a subject that always requires sit down meetings or long afternoons, since I believe it always requires an emotional connection)

A change of one’s looks is a project for which I am called on a frequent basis.

Creating a new look is a very personal process. In order to explore venues, images, new attitudes, new beginnings – it is a very dedicated process – and  my formula is very simple. I tend to conduct the process as such; in a very, very personal way so that my client is able to drop their guard, let me see who they are and who they want to be. A simple map starts with this first interview (one-on-one, like a date), and I need to find out if the client is willing and able to let me in. If there is chemistry, if we “click”, if that desire of “yes, I need” or “yes, I want” a new image and a new look actually comes forward – THEN I am all ears.

When that happens, then comes the inspiration. Places which appeal to them, names of designers that are appealing to them, we try to find an era or type of  garments that they like. We discuss which fabrics are best, which colors are the ones that makes them vibrate or what makes them feel in control and different. We dive into which hairstyles and make-up techniques are best, as well as the best type of photography to use use for the new photographs. Most of all, and the key question closes with “what is in your closet”, “what do you own”, and “why?”.

The reason for this final series of questions is because not everything we own, items we have purchased, been given or think are our favorites –  are indeed helping us or meet that vision of who they want to be.

This kind of project is in the end like any other project, full of a mixed and disorganized number of variables. I gather them, mix, strategize and organize the components in my head as they come to me, as I do with my many architectural or interior projects. In the end, they all have a very similar substance in aesthetic variables and technical challenges. But the greatest difference is that there is an emotional level to overcome.

In a nutshell, a consultation like this gives me a very preliminary idea of what could be the end result.  result of these discussions and meetings are a series of photos and personality captures, that should communicate that inner glow and the new sense of persona desired.

Lunch Meeting at My Favorite Place - Hillstone
A simple lunch opened a conversation that ended on a photoshoot days later.

Our lunch opened a new chapter on getting to know each other. The project Ms. Cloutier was working on called “The Working Artist”  captured my attention in many ways, and strongly. The work talks about how to start your professional chapter as an artist –  all on your own.

As a graduated architect myself, I know the whole process of trying to find a job at a studio, or how to search for financial support and monetary funds to start your own studio, without giving all your ideas away. It is common to be controlled by someone and sometimes end up compromising your aesthetics and your design language to please your patron. I realized that her web site had a lot in common with the humble beginnings of anyone affiliated with the world of applied and visual arts. The beginning of the art business is one that is not easy and one that is more likely based on networks and the ability to introduce the art to the market.

This very simple, yet intricate project is one that called my attention and as we finished the photoshoot, the whole project was able to reach a milestone. Today the project is still running and there is still of a need to keep raising funds to spread the word.

Here is a preview of what the whole project is all about. And you can click on the image to visit the website.

The working artist logo

Now, back to the image change. As we decided to work on her new image, I needed to find a location that matched the vision of minimal, monochromatic and simplicity of fashion that is often a ‘uniform’ for people submerged within the deep depths of the world of well-curated fine arts.

We both agreed on the location for the shoot at Mr. and Mrs. Matt and Maria Salenger’s residence. This residence and studio project has a very high margin on modern and contemporary architecture and design. These two talented architects are the brains behind coLAB studio LLC.

The dwelling is a very impressive solution for urban development. The project shows the best use of a lot and open areas for a residence in the middle of a city environment with medium density. The structure, the materials and overall dialect of the design was the perfect setting for a cinematic background to create a new portrait of Ms. Cloutier.

coLAB - the Salenger's residence
The Salenger’s residence – the set needed for a very contemporary image. Marked as “Modern Contemporary Residence, Natural Landscape Design and Contemporary Interior Design Ideas Area of Interest” – this Contemporary Residence Interior Design With Large Courtyard was designed by coLAB studio.

I am lucky enough of knowing the Salenger’s personally and more so, I work with Matt as part of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) Acquisitions committee, so he generously gave the green light to produce this photoshoot at their residence.

So preparations started. I aligned one of my best make-up artists and hair stylists, Ms. Gissela Molina to be my right hand during the photoshoot. Ms. Cloutier brough her best friend Ms. Dawn D. Baxter as support and to witness the whole process.

Preparations for the photoshoot
Make-up and hair stylist – Ms. Gissela Molina starts the process. A preliminary meeting with her and Ms. Cloutier defined the idea and the looks.

I created a  with a very sophisticated wardrobe for the occasion, a series of looks that will define a new and modern contemporary woman. Here was  the result:

Close-Up Crista
A simple white coat with a necklace of acrylic to create volume is the perfect complement for this headshot.
Landscape Beauty
For an Artist or Art-interested person, minimal and primary colors are always a trademark.
Monochromy in Black and White
What better way to ground a model on architectural environment, other than to use the basic colors in architecture.
Panorama and White Coat
Subject and Space – this is perhaps my favorite picture of this particular shoot. Here I was able to explore all elements of composition and still keep the subject within frame.
Entry Door with White Coat
I needed to ease the moment and use the best modeling abilities of Ms. Cloutier – here is one of the those moments that was wonderfully replicated throughout the session.
Outdoor with White Coat
The oversized volume of the white jacket allowed me to place the subject against structurally linear spaces, giving importance to the two of them.
All Black
Shift from White to Black. As this shoot went on, I realized that the use of white and black were my pallets, so I decided to change the volume of hair and use expressive garment cuts and structures. I placed the subject in many poses that enhanced the extensive geometries in the environment.
Black and Bohemian
When monochrome and minimal are in place, it seems that glamor lives in the scene. This is when the subject takes on a new attitude and makes it somehow read differently.
Redefining elegance
A simple move and attitude changes the mood.
Evening Elegance
Note to self: hair volumes are key and change not only the look, but the attitude.
Evening Elegance in Black
Another change in the volume of the hair took on a more sophisticated look. The subject created her own expression and sense of elegance.
This was the THANK YOU picture that Ms. Cloutier selected to send to her donors and supporters on her campaign This moment was rare but does happen – here is the prove that you have to let go, let it be…and let me direct.
la Dame de l'elegance
A portrait with a pose from times gone by, still today is one of the best seated poses to create glamour and pizzaz.
Black & White Reflections
The reflections of the material were the best set for a simple close-up.
Sensual Elegance
The cap shoulder detail needed to be shown as it was a an open flower and two petals. This expressive moment captures the garment detail and a sensual perspective of the subject.
Black and White
Patterns and volume on garments have to be done with an intent. Here the stripe and buttons add a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the grand effect.
Black and White Attitude
A simple change on attitude and the frame changes. The single point perspective registers the subject better and the look is simply cinematic.
Simple Black and White
By choosing a monochrome and creating two levels of volumes, this ensemble is a trademark for the artist and artistic style and aesthetics.
There is something about artist and minimal which are made for each other.
Evening Affair
Lace and Evening are a great combination.
To round-up the look, once again: Black!
Evening Affair
Black + Lace + Mini = Sexy!
To keep the transparency and effect of the see-through, shoes were revalued for strap heels which keeps the ensemble at a place and at a time.
Evening Elegance
With all evening choices, a simple geometric element brings back the controlling elements of an artist – the ethereal lace leaves the period or ‘era’ flavor behind.

Post metamorphosis, Ms. Cloutier is back in Europe continuing her efforts for her campaign, The Working Artist, and promoting a way for artists to be independent in their career, create their own process of showing their art to the world, and of course, be financially safe.

By the time this  blog post us up, she will be preparing  to speak to artists and photographers in Raleigh, NC on Tuesday the 14th of May at Jerry’s Artarama at 7pm in:  To be a Working Artist: Creating a Career in the Arts.

  • Crista Cloutier explores the journey of the artist, how one finds voice, develops it, and uses it to create a professional career as a working artist. Cloutier uses her own extensive background in the international art business to illustrate her message of the importance of practice, authenticity, and the coupling of tenacity with audacity. She also speaks of the countless artists she has collaborated with, both blue-chip and just-emerging, and the lessons they have taught her about devotion to craft and work.
  • Crista Cloutier is the founder of The Working Artist, a master class that gives artists and photographers the tools they need to take their career to the next level. Taught throughout the world, Cloutier recently completed a successful crowd-funding campaign to make The Working Artist available online. For more information visit

DISCLAIMER:  All ideas, photography, styling and media on this blog photography, written or video are exclusive for the use of Oscar De las salas under Any use, copy, crop/paste action, or any similarity of this material is strictly prohibited unless authorized by or by Author. All Copyright laws for internet or media use are applicable. If you want, need or require any of this material for any reason please contact my agent – Always in style – Oscar.

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