We had the good fortune of connecting with Corinne Cotereau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Corinne, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born and raised in France, and moving to San Diego changed my life forever.
I grew up in a working-class environment where art, culture and even entertainment were not the primary concern. I have three brothers, my parents divorced when I was one year old. My childhood was sort of bohemian… I had to cope with new homes, new schools… never spending more than 2 years at the same place.
My escape room was nature. As my mother worked long hours, and I was the youngest kid, I was often on my own. At 10, I would spend hours walking in the Alps with my dog. At some point we had to move to my father’s place near Paris where he died when I was 18. City life was suffocating and I sought a way out. I discovered Fauvism, Impressionism in books … and Van Gogh and Gauguin expanded my artistic horizon as I was admiring and copying them while learning to paint on my own.
When adult decision had to be made studying art seemed too unrealistic. Encouraged by my mother who had no higher education I attended law school. I received a post-graduate degree in International Law and became in-charge of an airline’s legal service in Paris. I married my soulmate from the Great North (…he is from Canada). While enjoying the paycheck of a young professional woman, I knew deep inside that I was not cut out to wear heels and a suit, and being cooped up in an office all day was not my cup of tea. The rat race was competitive and without mercy. I eventually took a parental leave so we could travel the world and give roots and wings to our 2 children. It was a privilege to be part of my young children’s life on a daily basis. We moved to Spain as a family and then to San Diego in 2006.
My artistic sensibility caught up with me in California after we camped in the Joshua Tree desert. Amazed by the natural beauty of the place I decided to return to my first love: painting. I took classes at the “San Diego Art Department”. I discovered the basics of oil painting, found freedom from the figurative style and learned to indulge with my own creativity. Meeting this wonderful artistic community was the first step to take me on the path I was meant to be on.
Back in France in 2009, we bought a century old building to renovate. After a few years of hard work, we opened a beautiful B&B in the southwest of France. The B&B kept me very busy but also allowed me during the off-season to work on my art. For the first time in my life I stayed rooted in one place for 7 years !
We moved back to San Diego in February 2020 but this time as empty nesters. Fortunately, both of my children inherited my artistic vibe. They are both talented in their fields. My son is studying cinema in Montréal and my daughter who lives in Madrid, soon to be an engineer, is also a musician.
And today I am a full-time artist. However, I am utterly French… I tend to see the glass half-empty instead of half-full. Doubts and questions are part of my journey. It is easier to have faith, to believe in success when you are surrounded by positive vibes. San Diego is such an inspiring city. Here more than anywhere else I can believe in myself.
The one thing I know for sure is that « Art is a guarantee of sanity » – Louise Bourgeois.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Creativity is a journey, not an end goal or a destination. And you never know where it may take you. In 2014 I lived in Savanah for a few months and started to collect and use recycled paper bags on canvas. I love the softness of paper, its sensuality, the idea of bringing back to life an already recycled material, finding its veins… Shaping and coloring paper became a way of reflecting nature. Paper would then become roots, stumps, and finally whole trees. I am more into expressing emotions than portraying a realistic approach. Abstract painting triggers the imagination of the viewer. When I was looking for a natural way to permanently protect my paper work. I discovered beeswax and shellac burn. A new way to make art. A new territory for experimentation. The encaustic medium is made up of beeswax and dammar resin (tree sap) that are melted together. They are then mixed with professional grade pigments to make the encaustic paint. All layers must be melted and fused together with a torch to create this beautiful sense of depth that you cannot get with any other medium. The paint can be opaque or translucent, allowing the viewer to look deep into the painting and the layers beneath. The wax also maintains sculptural qualities, inviting marks, carving and texture. Even 3D work is possible. The challenge was to learn the technique. But with time and effort I was eventually able to create interesting works. My next step is to share my passion. Here in San Diego I am planning to organize workshops in the coming months, and maybe next summer, at my B&B in France, I could share a bottle of Bordeaux with my students after a creative and stimulating day.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love the outdoor here and around San Diego. I would definitely take my friends to those amazing places that feel like walking into a different world. The Anza Borrego State Park for the “desert” experience, a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in Mount Laguna to hike along the rim. Closer to the city, the Saigon trail in Torrey Pine would be on my list, as well as the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and the 7 bridges walk from Balboa Park. Yes, we would definitely need a week. My favorite spots so far are: for breakfast, “The little lion” at the very beginning of Sunset Cliffs where eggs benedict are to die for. For lunch: the ”Jimmy Carter Mexican café” for its tasty Mexican cuisine and welcoming staff. For Diner: sunset over the ocean from the OB Brewery roof top is breathtaking… and even better with one of their craft beers !
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 want to give a shoutout to my husband. He was the first to encourage me to create. I remember very well the beautiful easel he got me for my 30th birthday. I did nothing with it because I was too busy undermining myself to give it a try but still, he planted a seed. He believed in me from day one. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes many people to comfort a person and convince her that she is on the right path. It is scary to take a leap into being a full-time artist. I should thank the nice lady who knocked on my door one day in 2008. She saw from my window that I was painting and asked for a commission, my first ever ! I should also thank an old neighbor who was slowly turning blind and who gave me all her oil paints, brushes and easels a day before I went back to France. Such a beautiful sign to say “do not quit… persevere”. I am grateful to have good friends here and in Europe who supported my dreams. Marianne Reiner, Diana Gleave and Brett Weiss helped me with this interview when I was lost in translation. Art is such a powerful way to connect with people. It is a blessing to be able to express feelings and share them with total strangers. Curiosity, confusion, surprise… any reaction to my work is interesting. Last year I sold a very special painting during an exhibition. The lady almost cried when she looked at it. To me, it represented my mom and me. She saw in it her mom and herself. We did not talk much, but shared this moment of humanity. I wish I could have done something in these past few months to help fighting Covid-19. I just cheered on health care workers from my balcony. Well let’s do it again, thank you ! And thank you to my wonderful community for all the “We will get through this O.B.” written with chalk on the sidewalks. It helped me a lot to remember that in this time of uncertainty, Art can be an answer. My last shootout is to my good fairy, always in my heart. Now in the sky. Merci Maman !
Francis Bozzetto, Alan Kemp Campbel, Corinne Cotereau