The Color Wheel: A Conversation with Camilla d’Errico
We are in various stages of adapting to a new world of exhibitions and virtual showrooms, and as Camilla d'Errico's newest solo show The Color Wheel was set to "come down" from Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles on July 3, we wanted to catch a glimpe on how the works came together. The Vancouver-based painter is always busy, from books, prints, classes and her fine artwork, she was the perfect artist to gauge just how much this new terrain was effecting her process.
Evaa Pricco: I think everyone has their own sort of unique, albeit common, story about how they spent the early months of the pandemic, but I take it this could have been a really productive time for you as an artist. Did you spend most of your time in the studio?
Camilla d’Errico: It’s crazy how this crisis affected people! When the pandemic started so much of my life was turned upside down, so even though my travel schedule was wiped out, that free time didn’t translate into production time for my solo show. You’d think it would, but sadly life isn’t always that simple.
My husband was laid off, so we found ourselves in our small apartment in the city and realized really quickly this wasn’t going to work long term. Since I had to move out of my studio last year because of Vancouver City tax laws (long story!) I’ve been working on my kitchen table. Creating a solo show in 10sqft was challenging to begin with. And with so many things shutting down and more and more of our free space being taken away, we made the decision to move over to Vancouver Island until the pandemic was over. Relocating to my family home definitely gave us the space we needed and I was able to work in a larger quieter space. I turned a bedroom into my studio and painted as much as I could.
I’d like to say that I spent ten hours a day in the house painting but each day presented new challenges. As all of my conventions cancelled or rescheduled one after the other over the course of many weeks, I had to spend a lot of time with my coordinator and team reorganizing all of the shipped merchandise and prints, travel bookings and all. A big part of my livelihood comes from the income from conventions and with all of that gone my mind was occupied with a lot of worry about how I could sustain myself and also the people who work for me. So mentally I wasn’t really in the head space to sit and paint, I had to focus on restructuring my business and redirect my team. Unfortunately, I had to let go of one of my team members which broke my heart. But we began adapting to this “new normal” focusing on online sales. There is so much involved in doing online sales, but we are working hard each day to survive and thrive.
Creating art for me is all about focus and clearing the mind. It was really hard to be zen when every day since March there was a new crisis to deal with. I also didn’t know for sure if my solo show would still happen. I kept waiting for the news to tell me that things were better and that the borders would open but that news never came. To be honest it was hard to paint when in the back of my mind was the thought “Is this even going to happen?” So, in the end I wasn’t able to create the entirety of the pieces I had planned for “The Color Wheel”. I wish I could have had one more month and I would have been able to include three more pieces which would have rounded out the show. However, I am really proud of the body of work I produced; it shows a lot of emotion, takes the viewer into surreal portraits that I hope will transport them to magical places where we can separate from reality and enjoy beauty.
Did the pandemic make its way intoThe Color Wheel in any way? Did you make any of the works while sheltering in place?
Half of the show was already or near complete before March. The greyscale girls and desaturated pieces were all pre-pandemic. I was well on my way before the crisis struck, but unfortunately, the crisis came just as I embarked on my most ambitious pieces, the Spectrum Girls. It’s really ironic to me that just as the world was losing stability and essentially going grey, I was beginning to paint girls who were nothing but bright and intensely colorful. I was happy though that I had these portraits to focus on and brighten my days. Looking back, if I was painting my greyscale girls I think I would have spiraled into a darker place with my pieces.
Was it a bit weird to make work that you knew was exclusively going to be seen in a digital platform? Did that change any of the process for you?
I didn’t know until a week before the show that my art would only be seen digitally. Corey Helford hoped, like so many of us, that the restrictions would lift and the opening could still happen. I knew a few weeks before that, personally, I wouldn’t be there, but the gallery was making plans to have people come for the opening reception in a safe manner. Sadly, that didn’t happen and we had to switch gears quickly to focus on doing the show online. I was very happy, however, that we were able to create an online IG live event. The gallery walk-through was incredible. It allowed me to showcase my show in a personal way that I’ve never been able to do before. I had a dialogue with the viewers, I could speak to hundreds/thousands of people about my concepts and see their reactions. I loved that connection. I hope to always be able to do that in the future with my art shows. I think it added so much more to the experience.
Can you talk about the title of the show and why you called it The Color Wheel?
I have several reasons for the title, and part of the reason is I wanted to show the 360 cycle of my progress as an artist. My art began with black and white paintings, then I began to paint colorful girls with animals, and over time, I diverted from that imagery and birthed my Rainbow Children paintings. I paid homage to my past with this show by returning to where I came from. I painted in greyscale, I painted my fauna girls and rainbow children but in a new way that speaks to who I am as a person today. Another part of the title comes from a bad experience I had in college where I got a D in color theory. I think in the past I didn’t understand the impact of color or how to use it. More than fifteen years later I’ve become obsessive with people’s emotional reactions to art.
I’m fascinated by how people react to color or lack thereof. I love color but I also love black and white art. So, I asked myself the question, “Does color affect emotion, and how so?”. In a way I was relearning color theory with these paintings and taking the viewer with me.
The works are small, but you pack so much storyline and imagery into those small spaces, and with so much detail. Have you thought about working on a 72" x 90" canvas to see what you could do, or do you like that tightness?
I’ve fallen in love with the smaller canvases over the years, although I have painted quite large before. My older works ranged up to 24x36 and I also live-painted a massive 72”x90” canvas outdoors in Whistler for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Over the course of my career I shrank my canvases as I began to tighten up my style. When I painted larger it was more fluid and raw. I was untamed and didn’t achieve the same level of rendering I do today. It takes me so long to paint a 16x20 piece now, I don’t dare imagine how long a 72x90 painting would take to complete!. I’d be old and grey by the time I got around to finishing it.
What was the story in your head working on this show? What were your characters going through?
I really wanted this solo show to be an emotional journey. Each piece is intended to elicit a unique emotional reaction from the viewer. It’s divided by the greyscale art and the Spectrum girls. I purposefully desaturated some of the girls and focused the color into the elements surrounding the main characters so I could see what connection people would make to the art. Did they see the girls as protagonists or was color the main event for them? How does the viewer read the story I’m telling? Without a doubt, each of the greyscale pieces is a narrative in my mind, and they have specific emotional stories and connections through the lack of color and rainbow elements.
With my Spectrum girls I wanted to elicit completely different reactions from people. I wanted to test the theory of how people will react to their favorite color when it’s hyper focused in one piece. Does that reaction change with the imagery? Each of the Spectrum girls celebrates the natural world and the various creatures that have specific colors. I also planned specifically to have these paintings lined up in the exhibition on one singular wall, so that when seen in a line together they form a rainbow. So even though each portrait focuses on one color they are actually part of a whole.
It seems like we are going to be in and out of shelter in place for the foreseeable future, so in many ways, planning a future is a little rough. But you have so many projects and releases that allow you to connect with your audience. What do you have coming up?
Planning ahead is almost impossible nowadays. You never know what is going to happen each and every day. The world seems to be in a constant upheaval in 2020. But the most important thing, I think, is to stay true to who we are. I am a very positive person who wants to spread love and unity with my art. I want to channel all of this chaotic energy into beauty and be a beacon of inspiration and joy. My goal with my art and with my future releases is to make people happy and to help others. I want to connect with my supporters on a deep and real level. So I have a few things coming up that I think will help me survive these hard times and also give back to my fans. With the cancellation of my biggest convention, San Diego Comic Con, I’m planning a big online event that will start July 21st and end July 26th. I’ll have all new items on my online shops, exclusives, and gifts with purchase, as well as doing online live events! Because we have the technological capabilities to do live streams I’m planning to do an online art demonstration, online live interviews etc. I want to connect digitally with everyone to show that, even though we can’t be near each other, we are still connected.
After my SDCC online event I will release the second of my Spectrum prints and follow that up with a few more online releases including my newest coloring book in the fall. I know times are tough but I hope to make them a little better.
See more of Camilla d'Errico's work at https://camilladerrico.com/