Have you ever heard a song countless times but – during one particular eureka moment in your life – specific verses trickle deep down into your soul, triggering a torrent of emotion? Caroline Gaudreault is, of course, not the first person to experience a songwriter’s words with far greater depth than she once did. Nonetheless, the sentiments conveyed in, “Le Blues du Businessman” – a lyrical lamentation about professional success at the expense of artistic fulfillment – triggered a life epiphany for the Quebec native. “I wasn’t living my life the way I should,” she reflects. “I was allowing it to lead me instead. That’s when I began to realize that my life would be incomplete without art.”
What makes Caroline Gaudreault’s backstory so interesting is that we see ourselves reflected within her mirror. She began, like so many of us, instinctually drawn to all creative endeavors. That could partially be attributed to the natural inclination of children to express their joyful spirits upon humble canvases. In Caroline’s case though, the act of creating was also an intrinsic part of her upbringing and young adult life. She recalls how adept her mother was at knitting, embroidery, sewing, and various other crafts. Running with their own maker torch, her brothers endlessly hatched their next grand DIY projects.
Caroline chose to explore her own unique and multifaceted creative path. As a child, she found the process of creating and making her own toys and games far more preferable to actually playing with them. She illustrated her own stories, as well, and even became an avid fan of drawing her favorite comic book and cartoon characters. Archie, a kimono-ed Yoko Tsuno (from Roger Leloup’s inspirational series), and various characters from the Japanese shōjo manga series “The Rose of Versailles” were among her top skills-honing motivations.
Her desire to create even extended into her wardrobe. Using fashion magazines as visual inspiration, she modified her clothing so that it was more reflective of the artistic spark that she carried within her heart.
With such deep-seated creative inclinations, it makes sense that Caroline obtained a Visual Arts degree and even sold several pieces of her own art. Due to nagging internal dialogue, however, how many of us become convinced that pursuing the path of a professional artist must inevitably be brushed aside like a foolhardy notion? Indeed, that afflicts the best of us, Caroline included. In an effort to pursue a more financially stable career path, she ended up teaching university-level history and, for several years, Spanish. Somehow, she even managed to fit programming into the fray.
Caroline Gaudreault is one of those people who are fortunate enough to absorb knowledge easily. In theory, this seems like a wonderful superpower. In practice, however, she says that her academic aptitude paved the way for an “irregular career path” laden with professions that weren’t compatible with her core nature. “I often mistakenly believed that I was destined for a particular profession because I was able to do it,” she states matter of factly.
Each time, I wondered why I felt so empty and unfulfilled in my professional life. It’s as if – all of those years – I allowed myself to be carried away by opportunities without really doing what I should have done from the start.
Anyone who is gravitationally pulled toward the arts can likely identify with Caroline’s life path. First, you joyously run directly into the red hot flames of artistic fulfillment (as your genetic programming intended)! Following far too many dark moments of sober adult contemplation, you then screech to a halt. One question relentlessly nags. “Art gives me life, but what if I want to afford a non-instant-Ramen-noodle lifestyle?” It’s a Catch-22 situation. For those of us who have pursued the path of fiscal plenty, being able to comfortably pay one’s bills is great, but what if you lose your creative heartbeat in the process?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably figured out that we have good news to share. Inspiring news, in fact! A little over a decade ago while Caroline was living in Mexico, she got reacquainted with her artistic pulse. It all began with a painterly ode to her cat Lolita, who was ill at the time. Soon, she created canvas renderings of the rest of her feline brood, all of whom are still very much alive and kicking. (For those wondering, she is indeed an unabashed cat lady.)
Notice the blooming orbs that are so characteristic of her kitty beauties? That Caroline Gaudreault hallmark was directly inspired by colorful, ornately decorated Día de los Muertos imagery. Much of it depicts skeletons happily engaging in human activities despite their earthly existence being over. “What I like, above all, is how death is represented as something normal and even joyful,” the artist says. In particular, the practice of “decorating the eyes of the dead with flowers” really resonated with her. Despite knowing that “every living being must irreparably die one day,” she liked the idea of balancing that sobering truth with a symbol of eternal beauty.
Unlike other belief systems that perpetuate the notion of death as a black cloak of eternal fear and suffering, Caroline found the celebratory spin far more appealing. Mexican culture “makes fun of death, in effect making it less scary” by injecting art with fun and fanciful flourishes. Since the animal subjects that Caroline paints are very much alive, she explains that their floral orbs are representative of “how a living being embodies diametrically opposed elements like life and death, beauty and ugliness, frivolity and depth.”
What I love, above all, is the idea of painting my own reality, or bringing out another reality that exists but is hidden.
Let’s talk about those lovely blooming orbits. Caroline Gaudreault’s intent with her signature floral element “is to mirror the soul of my canvas characters.” To render botanical accessories that are uniquely suited to each muse, the artist must individually customize them. Do not underestimate the distinct challenges of painting ocular-worthy blossoms that complement the facial landscape of lady and critter, alike. While Caroline uses reference images as a basic source of visual inspiration, contrary to what one might imagine, “no single flower shape is suitable for an eye socket. I have to redesign them completely so that they adapt to the shape of the face.” She adds, “To get the right angles, I sometimes even use fabric flowers that I buy in craft stores.”
At what point did Caroline go from creating bloom-enhanced portraits of her beloved whiskered trio to becoming a full-time, full-throttle artist who creates large-scale acrylic paintings as well as ink and watercolor illustrations? As soon as her young son, Emilio, started attending school, she decided that pursuing art professionally was necessary for her spiritual fulfillment. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” she acknowledges, “but I was ready.” That’s when she decided to launch her “Make 100” Kickstarter campaign, which ended up laying the groundwork for the career momentum that she’s experienced to date.
It all began in early 2020. Caroline’s “Make 100” Kickstarter was blessed by the art angels when the creativity crowd-funding platform categorized it as a “project we love”. As if that elevated exposure wasn’t great enough, one of the personalized perks that she offered to supporters of her ink and watercolor animal portrait print project ended up becoming quite popular. Caroline created custom portraits of pet owners’ wet-nosed sweeties, complete with a floral soul window upgrade. She received so many commissions beyond the confines of her Kickstarter perk that she remained busy fulfilling orders throughout the entire year.
These days, she is eager to breathe new life into her large-scale fine art pursuits laden with atmosphere and emotion. Her decision to abandon personalized pet portraits isn’t based on a lack of fulfillment. In fact, the avid animal lover quite enjoyed the process. Still, creating accurate representations of people’s beloved pets requires playing by the rules of visual reality. In contrast, returning to her own acrylic projects enables her imagination to take flight. “When I paint my own creations,” Caroline explains, “I have absolutely no concern about accurately rendering facial and body features.” This liberation enables her “to have the full control over the creative process”, paving the way for a visual experience that is rooted in “surprise, amusement and delight”.
If you are among the many creatively inclined people who have longed for a sign from the artsy gods that your dream is worth pursuing, please allow Caroline Gaudreault’s experience to sink in. Firstly, listen to your gut. “That’s really my biggest regret,” she admits. “I ran away from art because I thought it wasn’t an option. If I could start over, I wouldn’t waste a single moment.” Secondly, make the most of “absolutely indispensable” self-promotion tools such as social media. Caroline says that cultivating an online presence made her “realize that I could fulfill my own dream”.
Beyond those two key points, you must know deep down within the dark and gooey center of your soul that your preferred creative pursuit amplifies your H A P P Y. Experiencing H A P P I N E S S is great, but being in control of your own personal H A P P Y is a recipe for life fulfillment. Caroline finds the experience of creating each new painting to be “very close to a meditative experience. It’s like a void where everything is on pause and only the present exists.”
Since Caroline embraces the natural evolution of her work, a single painting can take up to several months to complete. She notes that while the commitment of time can be difficult, “the entire artistic process generates a feeling of wholeness and accomplishment” that is incredibly affirming. Fortunately, the painter of furry and fleshy faces festooned with dark yet whimsically balanced floral flourishes is exactly where she needs to be now. Perhaps getting derailed during the course of her journey was necessary so that she could finally hear the music emanating from within.