MAKER SERIES // JOELLE SOMERO
As we continue with our Maker Series, I’m highlighting one of my favourite artists, Joelle Somero! I’ve been following Joelle’s work for some time now, and we recently worked together on a commissioned piece for Sara Sugarman’s (founder of Lulu & Georgia) living room. It’s a whopping 65 x 75, and makes an incredible statement in the room. We have yet to shoot this space but stay tuned!
What I love the most about Joelle’s work is the tonal colour palette she uses with the added touches of black. This brings depth to the painting, and the layers of oil paint have a three dimensional feel to them. I’ve yet to own a piece for myself, but I see one coming to our GMD Studio in the future!
I’m pretty obsessed with everything you do; what would you call the type of art that you are currently producing?
Thank you so much! I reference them as abstract duck cloth collage oil paintings.
Where do you get the inspiration from for your pieces?
It’s hard to pin down where inspiration comes from, but I think there’s opportunity to find it in daily life. I find it in my husband’s work as a stonemason and in my children’s creative endeavours. There’s inspiration in nature and intimate moments. It all permeates into my art, whether I intend it to or not. I also love witnessing the work of other creatives, whatever the profession. Comedians, cooks, musicians, as well as artists and designers…it’s inspiring when anyone throws themselves into their art, whatever it might be. That being said, I try not to spend a lot of time actively seeking inspiration for paintings directly and prefer to focus on action and getting to work. Being dedicated to action is important for progress because I find that creativity generates more creativity. Observing, contemplating and seeking inspiration is a start, but it only generates enough creativity for that first action.
How did you get started in art and did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t think I consciously thought I wanted to be an artist, but I think people are born with certain passions and I was born with a desire to create. I didn’t think making art would ever become a full-time career. I studied Business Administration and Visual Arts in college and knew I wanted to do something in a creative field, but didn’t think art-making was a viable option financially. After we started a family, I focused on being a mom for many years and helped my husband begin and run his masonry company. I obtained licensing to become a residential builder and began taking projects with a focus on interior design. A career in art was born after I started an Instagram account. I had opened the account mostly to stay up-to-date with the work of artists and designers I admire. When paintings I posted sparked interest from a favorite interior designer (Carol Estes), I felt heard and validated. Her support and encouragement nudged me to put more art out there and to reconsider what I really wanted to explore. My art business took off from there.
We just did our first (of what I hope is many) commissioned pieces together. Do you like doing commissions or do you find them limiting because you’re doing them for a specific person?
I love commissions. I love zeroing in, working in a limited way. I find that it spurs creativity and intention. I’ve been an observer first my whole life and now I get to take those observations for the client and their home and translate them into a painting. I have found that it’s important that the person I’m creating the painting for is a good fit for me and I, a good fit for them.
What does the initial process look like for starting a custom piece for a client?
The commission process is, first, determining the dimensions for the piece. I also ask the client for reference to one or two previously created works to help me hone in on the direction for the piece. A photo of where it will be displayed is helpful as well and I encourage any other notes about the install location as well as likes or dislikes of the client.
What would be one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
I think to be patient and know that each step is a rung on the ladder. Looking back, I know that everything I found myself doing was essentially an education and prepared me for what I’m doing today.
Please can you give us one business tool you can’t live without?
Probably the laptop, as it houses Quickbooks, my website and photos.
What is one of your favourite techniques that you currently use and are you experimenting with new ones?
I love collage and I have a lot of ideas that I want to try, all with a foundation in collage. Right now I’m working through a commission list and am holding off on experimenting too heavily. I have a goal of getting better at leaving holes in the schedule so that when I have a new idea I can get right into it and experiment.
How do you find calm amidst all the chaos in the world right now?
For me finding calm means making a conscious effort to turn off external pressures. It’s a skill that takes practice, designating work-time and non-work-time. My husband and I have a weekly date night and I have found that to be so important. An instant way to find calm is to take the kids on a walk in nature, either on a nearby trail or along Lake Superior. We love living where we do! Focusing on the kids and their ability to live in the moment helps to reset.
What’s next for you?
We’ll see! If 2020 has taught me anything it’s to not plan too far ahead and to take work in manageable chunks. I have some commissions lined up that I’m really excited about. There are collaborations I’ve dreamed about, now happening in the coming year. So I’m going to keep imagining the possibilities and staying creative through action.
Photos provided by Joelle Somero