Anna: Thank you, Carolyn, for visiting The Sol Within today!
When did you know you wanted to become an artist? What does it mean to you to be a Latina artist?
Carolyn: The first time I knew I wanted to be an artist was probably around age 8 or 9. I remember I was sitting on the floor of my Grandparents living room watching the Flintstones (my favorite cartoon), my Mom had sketched all of the characters while I was watching the show. I didn’t know she could draw. I was dumbfounded, she was really good! My Grandpa said, “Maybe one day, you’ll be an artist”. That was a revelation to me. I could be an artist? That’s all I wanted to be from that moment forward! I have always loved to draw.
I am proud to be a Latina artist! My life is surrounded by my Hispanic heritage and it is what inspires me. When I first started painting I had painted a woman and her skin was my color, a delicious chocolate brown (jaja). I was told by someone that her skin was the wrong color and I needed to work on that. At first I was discouraged and my Best Friend said, “Why is her skin wrong? It’s the same color as yours, is your skin color wrong?” I opened my eyes, I realized my art, is exactly that, MY art! And from that point on it was going to tell the story of my life, my family, my heritage and everyone I love. I feel it’s my duty to share all that I have been blessed with, with the rest of the world.
Anna: When did your career as a serious artist begin and what was the first piece you ever sold? What is the current price range for your work?
Carolyn: My career as a serious artist only began January of 2008. This is when I decided I was going to see if my art was good enough to be accepted to the Contemporary Hispanic Market, one of the largest art shows here in New Mexico. I was so nervous that day. The process is a lot of waiting. You don’t know if you’re accepted for at least a few weeks. I finally got my results in and they have accepted me the last two years as an alternate. This is a very successful show for me I have met people from around the world such as Europe, France, Mexico, India, Jamaica and more and of course around our own USA. I have hardly left New Mexico so this is exciting to me. I really enjoy seeing repeat customers. Although I don’t really like calling them “customers” I feel like the people who buy my art are purchasing important pieces of my life. So to me they are more than just a customer, they’re more of a friend a Flores Original patron, but definitely more than just a “customer”. The very first piece of work I sold was 2007 of November. It was a saw blade and I painted winter scenery on it using oil paint, and it was sold for $20.
My original work ranges from $45 to $800.00. But I like to have items available for everyone. I incorporate my art into anything and everything, from bottle cap bracelets to jewelry boxes, light switch covers, wallets, necklaces, greeting cards, ornaments and so much more. I want everyone to be able to afford a Flores Original. These items range from $2-$75.
Anna: Who or what is your inspiration for your work?
Carolyn: My husband Ray is my main inspiration, because without him I really wouldn’t be able to do any of it. I have 3 children and I am a stay at home mom, which a lot of people don’t realize is a full time job in itself! When I am preparing for a show, my husband goes into super husband mode and helps with dinner and the kids. If I am working with wood, he’s my guy! He is learning right along with me, he is an electrician not a wood worker, so between us we have made some pretty funky things, but we have improved together. My inspiration comes from my family, friends and this awesome state of New Mexico. Inspiration also comes from the feedback that I get from shows, people have so many opinions, comments and compliments and yes even the critics inspire me! I do enjoy incorporating my family and friends into my pieces. Sometimes you will find hidden images in my work. Usually if I don't show the onlooker they never notice. The hidden image I like best is 3 tiny foot prints; this represents each one of my children Pablo, Marielena and Lorena Flores.
Anna: We always hear of the "starving artist", have you ever encountered this and if so, what advice would you give to other artists wanting to pursue a career in art, but are currently struggling financially?
Carolyn: I wish starving artist meant that I could lose weight in the process, ah que suave, I’d be so thin (jaja)... Yes, I have been a “starving artist” which means basically I paid the employee’s wages at the art supply store, just to keep on painting. No matter how scared I have been at times to try a new show or gallery showing, my love for art just keeps me going! When I first started out, I was so scared to be called “an artist” (I know it sounds funny), sometimes in this business, (just like any other) you run into the snotty artist. These artists are the ones who give you passive aggressive compliments. These artists used to intimidate me. I needed a new way of thinking. I told myself over and over, an artist is a person who creates passionately from their heart. I won’t ever let anyone tell me I’m not an artist or put my work down, I can’t stop them of course, but I definitely won’t believe it! My advice to other artists wanting to pursue a career in art, is to always take a chance. There will always be people out there to knock you down a peg and criticize your work, but in the end the art, and opportunity to create, will outweigh the struggles. If you love what you do, build a strong wall of passion around you and no one can knock it down. I am inspired by God, my faith, other artists and family, and friends.
Anna: Writers are always told to have "thick skin" and not to take the criticism personally. As an artist and crafter, have you ever read or overheard criticism of your work that surprised you or hurt you? What did you do? How do you overcome it to create again?
Carolyn: Yes, the second year that I participated in the Contemporary Hispanic Market, I started to hear criticism. I participate in a lot of Dia de los Muerto (Day of the Dead) shows. One of my largest pieces is a Marilyn Mon-Muerto. I like to have humor in my work; she is a very sexy Skeleto (skeleton). So, I stood outside my area where the public was. I heard things like , "I know that "stuff" is supposed to be happy "stuff" but Marilyn Monroe was an icon, and to portray her as a skeleton is just awful." or "That's horrible, look at that!" or "Oh My Gosh (roll of the eyes)", I used to think I would fall over and die if someone criticized my work. I’ll tell you why, when I first had to go take my art in front of a panel of judges for the first time, I felt as if I were going to be sprawled out in the nude on a table while they judged me, not my work, me! However, I didn’t die; in fact it did the exact opposite. It drove me, I was so excited! I made people feel something, and as an artist that is my goal. I heard comments that were good, bad, shocking and uplifting. This is not to say that criticism has never hurt me, it has, but luckily I am surrounded with so many people who support me and feed my artist ego...(Jaja)... I have wanted to quit so many times, I can be a weird emotional artist. The worst is when you get painters block. I had it for 3 months one time; I thought I would never paint again. And then one day inspiration hit! Thank God!
Anna: What has been the most meaningful piece that you ever created and why? Did you sell it or do you still have it?
Carolyn: I am heartbroken over a piece that I will regret selling for the rest of my life. I had a piece that my Grandfather and I made together. My Grandpa made me a special frame, the painting fit into the frame like a puzzle piece. This piece was featured in our local paper, my first interview. I loved this piece, but I sold it for a mere $200 to a very nice woman who is an author and resides in Sweden. Although my painting got a good home, I still regret selling it. I got desperate to make a sale, at a slow show, and my consequence was losing a very special piece.
Anna: What artists, living or deceased, do you admire? What artist/crafter living today would you like to collaborate with if you had the opportunity?
Carolyn: Oh I love this question. All of the artists that I admire are indeed alive!
The coordinator and artist of Arte de Muertos, Mr. Hank Estrada is someone I admire. He has such a drive and is passionate about this show that he has created and continues to work hard to put it together for us. He has carefully traveled to pick out handfuls of artists that are amazing. He has also managed to bring us together like a family. Hank is always researching and working on ways to make the show better. He cares about all of us artists and when we have other shows, he is always there to support us! I feel so blessed to be a part of this family and for this I really admire Hank.
Another artist I admire whole heartedly is Pamela Enriquez Courts. She is so amazing, her work really inspires me. Her religious art is very heartfelt and beautiful. Her Muertos are stunning and I am in awe at the combination of costumes and backgrounds that are brought to life with the metallic paint that she covers her canvas with. She is one of the greats! She is not only an amazing talent, but also one of the nicest and most generous people I know. .
Another great artist that I admire would be Cathy Ashworth from Cat Box art studio. She is an artist from California, when I first stumbled upon her art on vacation; we were visiting the famous Olvera Street. I immediately fell in love and had to contact her to tell her how much I loved her work. She is also a very nice soul. Brandon Maldonado, hands down is another favorite of mine. I do not own a piece of his art “yet” I hope to be able to own at least a print one day. However, I do have his book that contains some prints of his works. I could live in his paintings; I really think he is amazing. Antonio Garcez, is another favorite of mine, he is one of New Mexico’s award winning authors. The collections of stories in his books are just amazing. I admire Antonio because his passion for his work is found in everything he does.
I would also like to mention Christina Medrano from the Fancy Chola. Her mind is boggling. Her ideas and sense of style are like no other. She invented the “Patron Pin-up”. She actually has one called “Carolyn, the Patron Pin-up of Artists” She has the patron pin-up of Latin girls, sassy girls and so much more! I admire her for her unique style; I think her ideas and creativity are just awesome!
There are so many other artists that really inspire me as well such as Scott Garcia, John de Jesus, Richard Trujillo, The two Gringas, Michelle Tapia, Michelle Padilla, Alex Chavez and so many others.
I would love, to collaborate a triptych piece with Cathy Ashworth and Pamela Enriquez; I think this piece would be amazing. The themes in work are similar but at the same time so different, and I would love to see how the combined creativeness would turn out. I think it would be amazing.
Anna: Who is your target audience? What do you aim to accomplish with your art? What do you want your children to always remember about you and your art?
Carolyn: My target audience would be people who are young at heart, and possess a love for life! Sometimes these people teach me something I didn’t know about my own piece! I feel that I have accomplished what I have always wanted, and that is to earn a living from something I love doing. I love to paint.
I want my children to always remember that I had a dream and I followed it. I had a fear and I overcame it. They are my inspiration, and I hope they always follow their hearts. I think when you are happy with what you do your whole family is happy. I hope my children will always follow this philosophy! My oldest daughter always tells me when she is an artist, we're going to change the name from “Flores Originals” to “Flores Origi-Gals” I can't wait for that day!
Anna: What would you ultimately like to see happen with your career? Your own store, museum exhibits, teaching classes, etc.?
Carolyn: Two things I would ultimately like to see, one being my studio actually starting and getting finished. Right now I have the plans and I am working on getting it started. I have many patrons who ask me if I have a studio and I sadly have to answer no. They want to come see all that I have or something in the works. I currently work out of my home and have no space for all of my works to be displayed so this studio will be ideal. When the studio is complete, and I am not participating in shows, I will have a place for the public to view my work at any time.
I would also love to start traveling outside New Mexico to show my work. I think that 2010 will be the start of this. Next March of 2010 in San Antonio, Texas at the Centro Cultural Aztlan, I will be participating in a large show that will only feature three artists, me being one of them! The show will be called Carolina Flores x 3. The show will start March 5, and continue through out that month.
Anna: What does creating your art do for you that nothing else in your life- family, people, relationships, books, music, traveling, etc. - cannot or has not done for your soul within?
Carolyn: It does so much for me. It’s a very intimate process almost like a prayer. Painting for me is a way of expression, I am not a verbal person and I used to be horribly shy, but art has allowed me to be expressive, and confident. I would like to add a special thanks to a friend and Flores Original patron Mr. Wesley Starr from Florida, who had followed my work since I first started selling paintings on eBay and is still with me now. Thank you Wesley for your support and friendship!
I would like to add if anyone is looking for unique Christmas gifts, you can visit my etsy shop at http://www.floresoriginalz.etsy.com/, also visit my blog for upcoming show information at http://www.floresoriginals.blogspot.com/
Thank you Anna for this opportunity!
Anna: Thank you for being here today, Carolyn! Your work is beautiful and inspires me! It has truly been an honor to host you and your wonderfully crafted Flores Originals art on The Sol Within. I wish you the very best in life, with your family, and with your career as an artist!
(Photo at right)
If you aren't the lucky winner today, don't fret, just visit Flores Originals and place an order at Carolyn's etsy store (online). You will find bottle cap bracelets and earrings, prints, paintings, light switches, and so much more! Still in search of that perfect Holiday gift...give an original piece of art! Carolyn tells me that she is holding a sale at this time and don't forget to order soon to ensure that you'll have your art in time for the Holidays!
Take a stroll through the Flores Originals slide show! Some of Anna's favorites: El Chingon, La Chingona, Aye los Flores, La Grenuda, Metoteras, Taco Tuesday, Senorita, Madre del Sol, and the bottle cap bracelet in the intro post! Marilyn Mon-Muerto is pretty cool and so are her Frida jewelry boxes!
Happy Holidays and happy Flores Originals shopping!
Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~
Supporting Latino arts and those who create it!