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How They See - Issue #38: Kaline Carter on his love for color


How They See

April 10 · Issue #38 · View online

How They See will allow you to meet artists from all over the globe and understand their perception of art.

Published irregularly.

Welcome back after the Easter holidays. Despite the Covid pandemic, today I am taking you for a trip to the USA. We are going to meet Kaline Carter and his hard-edge, geometric creations telling stories about cities and places. What I have enjoyed after even briefly looking at his art is that those stories are of varying intensity - from brief anecdotes to elaborate narratives.
I wasn’t then surprised by the discovery that Kaline himself has quite a lot of stories to tell and insights to share. Among them, I especially enjoyed the moment of the discussion about “dry spell”, a difficult period you have to endure to discover your creative self and find your way as an artist. And he is literally a second artist I have interviewed who has the LinkedIn account ;)
Kaline Carter is a geometric abstract painter based in Albuquerque, NM USA. Take a look at his paintings on Instagram or visit his website.

I saw on your Instagram quite an interesting choice of books. What are you currently reading?  
Right now, I am reading Nothing Is Lost, which is a collection of essays by Ingrid Sischy. I mostly read nonfiction and keep a constant pile of books to read. It does take me a while to read books since most of my free time is used for painting, but I also listen to a lot of audio books while painting. I collect vintage art magazines and at the end of a long painting day, sometimes I will just grab one of them and a glass of wine to decompress.
As far as I remember you are the second person I am interviewing who has a LinkedIn account. Are you still checking the activity there? 
Hmm. Well, to be honest, I really don’t use my LinkedIn account as a place for my artwork. So far, I have only used it for networking for my day job. But I do see a lot of artists there and have thought about posting some of my artwork there, too.
Kaline Carter in his studio
Kaline Carter in his studio
“After a brief and notably unsuccessful stint at Parsons School of Design in the early 1990s, I found myself in a creative dry spell for about two decades”. I have interviewed recently a few people for whom such history is very common. I am starting to believe that to find your own way as an artist you have to go through such a “dry spell”.  
Interesting. You’re right, it does seem that a lot of stories include the “dry spell” period. Looking back, I felt frozen in my life in so many different ways during that period. I was not really applying myself or believing in myself. I lacked confidence and had kind of given up. It takes a lot of strength and courage to begin something you have left behind 20 years ago and I tapped into that energy with my beautiful friend Ann who was an abstract artist. She literally handed me a paintbrush and told me to paint. When she unexpectedly passed away, I felt compelled to continue in her honor. I also think meeting my husband pushed me into creating art. My husband is a dynamic personality that just inspires me so much. He wastes no time and just makes everything seem so possible in the moment. He just made me realize it was possible for me to paint again and then also encouraged me to show my work.
It seems that, from a biography perspective, you also have something in common with Agnes Martin. What do you find special in her art?
I definitely connect with Agnes on a deeper level and yes, we do have a lot in common. Her art is my favorite. Her artwork is quintessentially her. When you see one of her paintings, you see Agnes. Her paintings are quiet, meditative, contemplative and peaceful. I also like that she embraced her paintings’ imperfections - they each had their own quirks and uneven lines.
Agnes Martin for me is also very interesting and original from her views on inspiration. What type of artist are you: waiting for inspiration or basically making it happen by working? 
Definitely both. I like the experience of encountering unexpected inspiration. A lot of times, something will pop up and inspire me. I love being the passenger in a car because I can keep my eyes out the window for something interesting and snap hundreds of photos with my phone. I have to be careful not to let sudden and dramatic inspiration to shift my direction too far when I am already in the middle of a project. I need to have an outlet for new ideas. This is why I constantly am taking pictures of things that inspire me, keeping lots of sketchbooks and notes. This allows me to be inspired by new things and prepare myself for future projects while staying focused on what is already in progress. I also always seem to have more than one project going at a time- a commission painting, a new series, a painting I am doing special for a show, etc. While working on something, I will often find a new color or find a new shape that inspires me. So, I will work through that when it happens and sometimes it leads to a couple of extra paintings I had not planned. It’s like a little sidebar. Agnes was very disciplined and she was very opinionated when it came to this kind of practice. She really thought it was important to keep your mind focused on what you are working on or it could ruin you as an artist because you could become too scattered and your overall vision could blur. I understand that and don’t disagree. I try to be aware of it when it happens. I do think keeping the sketchbook helps me curb the temptation to go overboard with too many ideas simultaneously.
What is the most challenging part of becoming a full-time artist and making a living out of it? 
Well, I actually am not a full-time artist and not making a living out of it… yet. I still have my day job. But in the past, I have had to travel quite a bit for my work and most of my travel was on weekends. But when the pandemic hit, I stopped traveling. This allowed me to have more free time to paint and so I do think I am on my way to being a full-time artist soon.
Kaline Carter, Los Angeles 95, Acrylic and Flashe vinyl paint on panel, 10 x 8 in.
Kaline Carter, Los Angeles 95, Acrylic and Flashe vinyl paint on panel, 10 x 8 in.
I have noticed that you are on the representational side of the hard-edge painting. Weren’t you tempted to go on a trip into more abstract regions? 
It is interesting because I set out to be more abstract, but keep getting pulled back into something more representational. It is a constant pendulum in my mind. I get very disappointed in myself if my goal was to completely abstract something and then it comes out more representational. But then if I am trying to take something and abstract it, isn’t it just representational anyway? So that is a topic that is top of mind for me always. I want to explore total abstraction at some point- I am working my way there. Oddly, my next series I am working on is very, very representational.
I have seen a few series of your: New York, Los Angeles and my favourite Jackson. Which city would you like to paint next? 
I love that Jackson is your favorite- I just loved that blue sky there- it is its own blue, unlike no other. Something I find myself doing lately, is going back to a previous series and adding more paintings. I just did a few more for my Neufert series and I think I do have a few more to add to my New York series now. I keep a long list of cities and have folders and folders of photos that I have taken in each city that I will use to inspire new paintings. Currently, I am working on a new series inspired by Palm Springs.
Until recently, the art world was not a very friendly place if you were a woman. Even now, when I am doing interviews, I hear about many different experiences or comments. Do artists from the LGBT community share the same experiences?
I have known so many women artists who have told me the same. My best friend is a woman artist so we have had this discussion many times. Yes, I do think that artists in the LGBT community share similar experiences. The art world is such an interesting place- it wants to be all-inclusive. But it also has a natural tendency to categorize, catalog and label everything. So, in an effort to try harder to include women artists or black artists or hispanic artists, we see shows that are all women artists or all LGBT artists. While seeing these groups come together can be quite powerful, make great art shows and garner major attention, the downside can be that it is perceived as sidelining those groups of artists. I think the art world is constantly having this dialog and I do think as long as that dialog is present and we stay aware, we will stay on the road to having more diverse, inclusive exhibitions.
Kaline Carter, Los Angeles 80, monoprint, 15 x 15 in.
Kaline Carter, Los Angeles 80, monoprint, 15 x 15 in.
How do you perceive success? 
Am I happy with my work? Am I growing as an artist? The answers to these kinds of questions define success for me. Yes, of course I would like others to like what I am doing and I would like for my work to sell and find happy homes, but I think if I am happy with what I am painting, then I am successful. Success is a state of mind for me.
Are you still running a sketchbook? 
Yes. My sketchbook is my baby. I have to take it with me everywhere I go. Sometimes I will go days without an entry, but I have to have it next to me at all times, just in case. I have a little serving tray in my house where I keep the sketchbook, colored pencils, rulers, triangles, photos, and pencil sharpener. I carry this from room to room so I always have everything I need whenever a new idea strikes.
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer? 
My advice is to keep making art and keep designing. Make time in your life for creating art. You have to sometimes sacrifice other things in your life to make time for it. One of my favorite quotes from Agnes Martin is “To progress in life, you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind.” Agnes has a point. Doesn’t it just make sense that we should just be doing the things we love to do?
Kaline Carter,  Jackson 15, Acrylic on paper, 14 x 11 in.
Kaline Carter, Jackson 15, Acrylic on paper, 14 x 11 in.
What is your approach to the colors? Are you using them straight out of the tube or playing with various additions and pigments? 
I love color. I love mixing different colors just to see what will happen. I can spend a lot of time in my studio just trying to find the perfect color. If I am looking for a good blue color, sometimes I will have color charts that have 100 different blues on them before I find the perfect blue. It is a fun game for me- I like the exercise. I do have a few colors I am willing to use right out of the tube, but not many. A lot of the metallic colors I use are right out of the tube, but I am still always adding mediums to them and I do have a tendency to add a touch of white just to soften the acidity to some brighter colors.
And what is your favourite color? 
Purple. And I almost never use it in my paintings. It’s like too good of a color, so I am saving it for something super special. Ha! I would like to do something with lots of different purples- deep violet, warm purple, oxidized purple, soft lavender, etc.
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