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 www.theworkingartist.com project, was all about.
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 Felice. As 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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