“Cathey Cadieux — Cover Girl”
Article by Molly Siple
From the February 2011 Gold Medal Award Edition of the California Art Club Newsletter
The eye-catching painting on the cover of the California Art Club’s soon-to-be released centennial book, California Light: A Century of Landscapes (Paintings of the California Art Club), is a dreamy, quintessential southern California scene by artist Cathey Cadieux. When Cadieux found out that her painting had been given this honor, she was absolutely thrilled, beside herself with amazement, and even a bit in shock. She humbly asked, “How did this happen?!” Here’s how.
As co-author of California Light with Jean Stern, Executive Director of The Irvine Museum, my responsibility was to gather possible images for my section, which is about landscape painting today. Touring the 2009 On Location in Malibu CAC exhibition held at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University, I spotted Cadieux’s painting and thought it a good addition to the mix of more traditional plein air paintings that I had already assembled. The strong color and graphic design of Cadieux’s painting would make a good contrast. By then, I had already looked through two to three thousand images, those submitted to this project by artist members, plus images on artist websites, gallery websites, previous Gold Medal Exhibition catalogues, and so forth. My first objective was to find paintings in line with what Rizzoli International, the publisher, had requested, “Gorgeous pictures of gorgeous California” — the kind of paintings that cause people sitting in snow-bound New England to say to each other, ‘Honey, why don’t we move to California?’”
I also needed the subject matter of the paintings to follow the storyline I was writing, a tour of the state. I had to hunt for paintings showing views of Humboldt County near the Oregon border, but had loads of paintings to choose from for areas such as Carmel. At last, conferring with my co-author, I put together a large batch of painting images and submitted these to the publisher in New York, turning over the images to the editorial team back east for final selection. Works that they chose to illustrate the book’s text next became candidates for the cover.
Rizzoli then took the lead in cover selection. This is standard procedure because cover design is product design. The publisher, editor, art director, and marketing department all huddle to come up with an image that will best illustrate the book’s title and theme, and also encourage a potential customer to walk over to a display in a store, pick up the book and buy it. Assorted points of view are aired and the process of selection can take months, as it did with this book. Hopefully though, in the end, and in this case, a great “marketable” cover is chosen. Cadieux’s painting, with its palm trees and sun setting into the Pacific Ocean, is all about California and our special light, and beautifully illustrates the book’s title. In addition, Cadieux’s simplified rendering of trees and clouds, according to the Rizzoli marketing department, is relatable imagery, helping make the book customer-friendly. Even the painting’s title is tantalizing: “Malibu Winter Sunset, View from My Bedroom.” Ah, that beautiful California lifestyle!
Cadieux was voted in as a Signature Member of the Club in 2010 and has enormous gratitude for the benefits she has received since becoming a CAC member in 1999. “Becoming a member of the California Art Club literally changed my life!” Cadieux declares emphatically. “I gained the friendships I now have with such talented, wonderful artists. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I was born and raised, the atmosphere among artists was mostly competitive, not like the camaraderie that we have here. I think the CAC community is completely unique in this, something you don’t find even with the well-known national organizations whose membership is too spread out geographically.”
And she continues, “Being a CAC member has even affected what and how I paint! I came to California as a studio painter and only occasionally painted outdoors. Paint-outs with CAC friends encouraged me to paint more landscapes. I remember taking a plein air class with David Jonas at Peter Strauss Ranch in Malibu. It was winter and the weather and views were magnificent. I thought, ‘Oh,’ landscape painting when you live in a great climate. This is awesome! And the CAC artists I’ve painted with, David Gallup, Dan Pinkham, Sharon Burkett Kaiser, Lynn Gertenbach, and Frank Serrano, have been so willing to share with me what they know about landscape painting. These artists have all learned to compose on location, freely using the elements of nature to tell their stories. In art school, painting portraits and the figure, I had learned to ‘squint and paint what you see,’ but then I noticed how much poetic license landscape painters take with their subject matter. If you just reproduce the scene accurately, your painting may not work. The artist needs to make sure that their final painting is well-drawn and convincingly three-dimensional, but they also have to alter the original scene. I discovered that to create a successful landscape painting, it’s not only desirable to edit, redesign, and invent elements in a scene, it’s necessary!”