I’ve loved to watch Simona Candini’s paintings evolve over the years. Always providing a sense of mischief, fun and fantasy, Simona Candini reminds me of that little bit of childish freedom we should protect in ourselves. Tap into it, and we can fully enjoy the stories of our youths, and appreciate the re-imaginings of well known characters and creatures. Because which of us doesn’t need little more joy in our lives?
In this interview, Simona and I discuss not only how the dreaded 2020 caused challenges – but how to overcome them as well. Just like her paintings, Simona Candini emanates an energizing glow. “Even when we cannot change things, we can still choose how to react to them. By doing this we create a shift of energy that we release into the universe”, she shares with me. Read ahead to find out more.
Sometimes, I read an article I wrote years ago and realize how much has changed in that precious time! Three years ago, you were interviewed for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine and I wonder if you feel something similar. Looking back, how has life changed since your Fight Like a Girl exhibition in 2017?
My last interview focused mainly on my solo show that took place in NYC based on the theme of women empowerment. Working on this subject definitely raised my own awareness and helped me grow not only as an artist, but as a woman. Heroines break the rules, crack the limits and teach us to step out of our comfort zone to follow our call and our vision. During the past three years, I’ve been pushing to overcome some of my own limits and set new goals and new standards for my work. For example, I’m not a miniaturist, but I’ve never painted on very big panels either. This is a habit that I’m working to change little by little. Giving myself the chance to work on bigger formats, creating more complex compositions and more detailed artworks.
The biggest challenge for me though has been more with adjusting my schedule and lifestyle. I’ve always considered myself a night owl. Usually I started to feel more active after lunch and keep working until 3 or 4am at night. I have to say my energy levels were not optimal! Often I was feeling tired. After a certain period of struggle, I came to the conclusion that I needed to follow a more natural schedule, around the circadian cycle of light and dark. Now, I’m waking up at 5am and going to bed pretty early. I’ve read a number of self-improvement books. All of them pushed on the importance of waking up early, creating a morning routine, follow to do lists, and having more discipline in the pursuit of your goals.
I felt that I really needed to restructure my schedule for the first time during the period of full lockdown back in March. Everyday was passing and seemed the same. I had to keep myself lucid, and it was easy to fall into depression and be unmotivated.
The first days I felt lost, the pandemic and all the crazy things happening around the world. I was frozen, petrified. I couldn’t function properly and felt unmotivated to create art and beauty. But I knew that I had to do something and shake myself up somehow.
I also spent time re-organizing my home and studio to make my environment better to help with workflow. It’s not easy, though. Sometimes I still fall back into the old schedule (disclaimer: any schedule is fine if it makes you feel good; it just wasn’t working for me anymore). And I’m still working on correcting bad habits like being late and not keeping track of the time. But the change has started and I think that this shift of perspective in my personal life is reflecting a lot into my work too.
Of course any change like that it hard, especially when you have a hands-on approach to creating art like you do. As well as using different mediums, you’ve used coffee to pre-stain your paper before you paint. You’ve even painted your own frames! Being an artist seems to be a lot more than just creating a painting for you.
I love to have variety and work with different media. I think this helps to keep my work more fresh and fun. My favorite medium is oil on canvas. Every year I try to learn more about this incredible tool of creation. It’s nice to see the gradual improvements when you look at your past work and your current work side by side. Painting in the figurative field, I think that technique is very important and I know that I’m still very far away from my goal, but I’m happy with the path I’m on now.
I start creating an underpainting, using both acrylics and oils for this step, depending on the effect that I want to obtain. Then, I layer thin glazes of colors on top of it. This process is very long and also requires all the previous layers to be perfectly dry before the next one. Hence, I always work on several different artworks at the same time. I love to alternate with more illustrative drawings on paper.
I’ve developed a technique that is a mix of watercolors, acrylics and colored pencils layered on top of a graphite drawing. This is then fixed onto the paper with a coffee bath. I don’t know exactly how I came up with this, but after experimenting for a while I found that it was working for me so I stayed with it.
Lately, I’ve started a new series with black ink and gold enamel, something totally new for me and I really enjoy it.
Are you leaning towards any particular mediums at the moment?
Oil on canvas is my favorite because it reminds me of the classics. My vision is inspired very much by the old masters, even if it’s revised in a pop key.
And what about your magnificent frames, are you still creating these alongside your paintings?
I’m still painting and customizing most of my frames. I really like to make them match with the paintings inside! Lately I’ve been creating an ongoing series inspired by Alice in Wonderland and also my love for bone china tea-sets. I’ve been painting my frames like porcelain teacups as well. A couple of years ago I’ve created a series of Victorian Gothic paintings with frames all covered in black lace, brooches, rhinestones, velvet and satin ribbons. I enjoyed making them so much. Now I’m getting into resin, mould and polymer clay to create custom elements that I can add to my frames, but I’m still experimenting with these.
Thinking more openly about your entire process, do you find your initial ideas tend to be quite close to the final artworks you create?
I usually sketch out my ideas with graphite on paper and then I report the final drawing on the support that I intend to use. Usually, the composition doesn’t change because it’s well studied beforehand. What can change is the expression of my characters, perhaps some small details. But overall the paintings turn out to be what I have in mind. In the beginning of my career I was finding myself sometimes going in different directions than what I planned. However, I became more consistent with sticking to my plans and I prefer it this way.
You’ve recently revamped your website and I hear that you are now shipping prints from the USA. It’s uplifting to see artists such as yourself who have managed to keep moving forward, even through all of the negativity that 2020 has brought! How has this year been for you?
This year has been very challenging for everybody under many aspects. And this goes back to the topic of the message that I wanted to convey in the first part of this interview.
Even when we cannot change things, we can still choose how to react to them, and by doing this we create a shift of energy that we release into the universe.
We can ignite a spark, something that will initiate a chain of events that will inevitably create that change that we are seeking.
This year I am celebrating my 10th anniversary as a full-time artist, after working many different jobs. I was determined to do that by remaking my whole website, making it into an e-commerce, with my own shop and everything! Unfortunately I had to keep my store closed for two months because of the lockdown. I was quite concerned just sticking my nose out the door to go to the post office to ship orders. However, I realized I had to make a good use of the time. I wanted to accomplish this project for better days, even though everything looked so uncertain.
I cannot hide that it was quite a challenge. Not everything turned out smoothly on the first attempt, but in the end it was a great satisfaction because I managed to make it on my own. Truthfully, I like to be independent with these things. I may be a little bit of a control freak under certain aspects of my work! I wanted to make something special for my collectors, so I’ve created a private page in my website titled “Originals”. Here, I offer original artworks. To get access to that page, you must create an account on my website to become part of the family!
Also, since the beginning of the year I’ve started my own collectors preview list. All collectors on the list receive a picture and info about new original artworks available before I post anything publicly on social media, so they can have first dibs on their favorite paintings. It’s possible to be added to the list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have to say that my collectors are awesome. They never ceased to support my art and vision. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them, and I will never stop sending gratitude and love to them every day. Their love pushes me forward.
The second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 was a tough period for me. I had to undergo a surgery, and I was in and out of the hospital all the time. It seemed never-ending. I received so much support and love from my collectors and from this wonderful art community and I feel so blessed for that.
Another accomplishment this year was to have an assistant based in the USA to take over my Etsy store. Now, I can offer a faster and more economic shipping service for my prints and other goodies in my little shop. On top of that, I now have much more time to dedicate to actually create new art. Taking care of print orders was starting to take up a lot of time. Even though it was something I enjoyed doing, I prefer having more time to actually create the original artworks! These will also be available as prints. I know my assistant James very well and he is super precise and thoughtful. Thankfully, I know that everything is being managed in the best way, and for me this is a huge help. I can’t thank him enough for his hard work.
I believe that you are now accepting commissions! Has this changed how you work?
I stopped taking commissions for a few years as I was always very busy with shows. I love working with galleries around the world and for me it’s a great honor. Recently, I felt I needed to slow down and complete some projects that I kept postponing. So, I didn’t plan many shows for this year. I got a lot done from my to do list and also had the chance to start taking new commissions!
Commissions are great. I love working on these because those who contact me already know my style; I don’t have to worry about someone asking me to paint something that I don’t desire to paint. In fact, most of the time I feel quite free and receive very inspiring and creative inputs from them. Also, I love the direct contact with people. They open up with me, telling me their story, the story behind their vision. And sometimes, this is also the starting of a new friendship.
Currently, I’m busy completing commissions and preparing some special pieces in time for the holidays. However, I plan to start work on a new series that’s been brewing in my mind for a long time… more will be revealed next year!
Thank you very much, Natalia, for this chance to be featured on the Beautiful Bizarre website. It’s great to be here and my pleasure to speak with you.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me Simona, it’s been an absolute pleasure!