We had the good fortune of connecting with Clarione Gutierrez-Owens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clarione, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
The price of the artwork or service isn’t simply reflective of the cost of materials and time spent creating/performing it. It incorporates years of training and experience building up that value. It also covers the cost of making a livable wage. When applying for a job, under “Salary Expectations” don’t you write what you think you’re worth? How do you determine that number? It’s the same principle for artists except that “salary” is broken down into the prices of our pieces. Layer on to that the amount of criticism an artist experiences in their career from people who feel they are qualified to appraise your art and skills (they’re usually not). People may assume that criticism comes with the job but most may not be aware of how much an artist may receive. Even some of the most prestigious creatives get their fair share of unwarranted critique. The most ironic thing is when someone will sing your praises for how amazingly talented you are until you give them a quote. So I always tell other artists and creatives, “Your value doesn’t decrease based upon someone’s inability to see your worth.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I grew up with an undeniable passion for art. I discovered my ability to draw at age 7. Growing up, I loved to draw Disney characters, comics, and other cartoons. Through the years, I’ve developed proficiency in many disciplines but I specialize in character design and illustration. I incorporate both digital platforms and ink-to-paper drawing to provide a mixed-media effect in my artwork. My style is a combination of my passion for comics, color, graphics, and fashion to create bold, stylized images that highlight the beauty in my subjects. Aside from my studio work, I also perform as a live speed-painter in my own stage show that combines two of my favorite things: art & performing. In high school and college, I did a lot of theater and dance so being on stage was something I loved. To be able to paint and perform at once is really a perfect gig for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform on stages at Downtown Disney, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland CA, and with “The Lion King” on Broadway. But primarily, I perform for corporate events, private parties, and fundraisers across the country. I’ve been a professional artist for over 20 years. When I was 17, I got a job as a caricature artist at Sea World (San Diego) and pretty much established my professional art career. That job taught me so much and helped build the foundation for my business today. I was trained by some of the country’s best artist and I developed my skills very quickly, but I didn’t just learn how to be a better artist. More so, that job in a theme park environment taught me how to work under pressure, provide excellent customer service, work with a variety of personalities, and how to pitch and close a sale. There are plenty more examples and I could write a book on how having this caricature job set me up for success, so it certainly is a major contributing factor to the quality of my work ethic. Because of that job, I can also say that I have artwork in all 7 continents. In addition to that experience, I also have an extensive background in retail (visual merchandising, sales, and management) with several companies which essentially taught me how to run a business. So with my combined experience, I knew I had the knowledge I needed to start a business for myself and pursue art as a career. In 2012, I partnered with 2 very good friends of mine to build a live art entertainment business that provided live art to corporate and private events all over the world. It was a great business model and we were one of the only companies in the event entertainment industry who provided these services, so we were very successful. It was certainly a dream job. At that point in my life, I wondered if things would have been different if I just did this 10 years ago. The thing is, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge and experience to succeed with this 10 years ago. Even with our combined experiences, we still came across so many obstacles and learned so much from starting this business. But I will say this company developed me more as an artist and business man and eventually allowed me to focus on my own brand. Despite the stigma of being a professional artist, I knew I could sell my own art and how to do it. There are many different avenues for selling your art and you just have to know which one works for you. I think where a lot of artists fall short is they lack that business mentality. If you want to sell your art, you have to know how to sell it. Most artists are commonly known to be introverts so the idea of putting themselves out there is uncomfortable or even terrifying. But like any business, you may have a quality product but you have to know how to market yourself and stay relevant. The road to where I am today was not easy. It certainly looked fun on social media but those posts are a result of years of hard work and personal investment. As I’m sure any business owner will tell you, the keys to your success are the experiences. These are the things that teach you to be better. There are no shortcuts. You have to go through the failures and the dead ends. You also have to be resilient and adaptable. If one thing doesn’t work, come up with something better. What I think sets me apart as an artist is the diversity and versatility of my styles, mediums, and applications. From a business perspective, it allows me to offer more creative solutions for my clients. On a personal level, it shows adaptability and ability to grow. I constantly want to learn and try new things. If my style is feeling stagnant, I’ll try a new technique. I have to evolve as much as my business does. The project I am proudest of is a children’s book I created with my dear friend, Tyler Curry, called “A Peacock Among Pigeons.” Tyler is a writer/journalist and I would create illustrations to accompany his articles. As a side project, we decided to create a children’s book together (he wrote and I illustrated). The project gained immediate traction and support and we were able to send this book to print within 3 months of its initial conceptualization. It’s the story of a peacock named Peter who grew up with a flock of pigeons and after some self-searching (and some help with new friends), learned to love the feathers he was born with. It gained immediate attention, especially with LGBTQ+ organizations and educational groups, and has won awards and been placed on many suggested reading lists across the country. More importantly, it has gotten into the hands of over 4000 children who need to know that they should be proud of who they are. I am a native San Diegan so contributing my art locally is very important to me. I have murals and artwork displayed in several restaurants and businesses throughout San Diego. I am also very passionate about being active in my community and love to help local non-profit organizations raise money by donating my artwork and performances to their fundraisers. I believe with as much as I’m given, I have a responsibility to give back and pay it forward. Too many people are disenfranchised and presented with inequitable opportunities. Share your successes. Build those bridges. Open doors and enable others to be successful as well. There’s plenty of room for everyone. No one ever said there were too many flowers in the field or stars in the sky.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego has a reputation for its amazing weather but many tourists are surprised at how much more it has to offer. I love staying up to date as much as possible with new and emerging establishments but it’s growing so fast that I can hardly keep up. So when making recommendations I stick to our staples and the spots that have remained tried and true throughout the years. Though we’ve made our mark with craft brews and burgers, I will always stand behind our Mexican food. Telling you which spot is the best is like arguing with a New Yorker who has the best pizza (you just don’t do it). But my personal favorites are: JV’s (California Burrito), Tacos El Gordo (tacos), and South Beach Bar & Grille (fish tacos). For brunch, hands down you need to try Breakfast Republic. My go-to is their breakfast jambalaya but their pancakes are also insane. If possible, I would recommend going midweek for low wait times. My heart is in Hillcrest so this is where I hang out for drinks and catching up with friends. InsideOut is a truly unique experience that makes you feel like you’re in an urban oasis. The drinks are expertly crafted and the staff is always so friendly. But when I’m looking for more of a dive, I’m usually at Number 1 on Fifth: simple, stiff drinks and where everybody knows your name (which may not always be a good thing). San Diego also offers so much in outdoor activities to enjoy the incredible weather. You can rent kayaks in La Jolla or paddle boards in Mission Bay. I even love just going on a quick jog up and down the Mission Beach boardwalk and I’ll get some fitness and people-watching done at the same time.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to my mother, Cecile Gutierrez, for never telling me ‘no’.
Mikee Catacutan, Chris Bogard, Michael Lawrence, Tim King, Jose Islas