HomeL'Ma'An Sh'Mo

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.

“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!

Book cover for California Light: A Century of Landscapes

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!”

^ top

« BACK TO EVENTS PAGE [click to enlarge]
Malibu Winter Sunset, View from My Bedroom

“Malibu Winter Sunset, View from My Bedroom”

Again, her cover painting makes a good example. Cadieux’s arrangement of the palm trees in the foreground generates a lively rhythm while the artfully placed fan of clouds leads the eye outward from the trees and through the composition. In addition, certain colors in the actual scene are featured — orange, green, and purple — a triadic secondary color scheme, which she chose to create an overall colour harmony.

As much as she is enjoying painting landscape, Cadieux is glad she came to this genre having first had a thorough academic education in portrait and figure technique, which stresses accuracy in representing light falling on form. Beginning in 1974, she attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where she studied under the tutelage of master instructors such as the legendary Bill Parks (who taught both Scott Burdick and Dan Gerhartz). After graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts, Cadieux moved to San Francisco for additional studies at the Academy of Art College (now University), receiving in total five years of intensive education. She recalls, “During this time I totally dedicated myself to art. At nineteen, without the distractions of a family, pets, or hobbies, I just painted: five days a week, 9 to 5 at school, plus homework and painting on weekends. That kind of lengthy intensive study is what it takes to really master figure painting from life.” After her schooling, she returned to Tulsa and began a successful career as a portraitist.

Another facet of Cadieux’s current work is her religious paintings. About ten years ago Cadieux, who was raised Christian, became interested in studying Judaism. Ultimately, she began attending a Messianic Synagogue because their form of Judaism embraces Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. “I realized I wanted to say something with my art work about my new understanding that the entire Bible was a Jewish text,” she explains. With typical dedication and intensity, Cadieux delved into researching Biblical history, and learning to read and write Hebrew. “As I began to study Hebrew, I discovered it to be a highly visual language, far more so than English. Even the letters of the Hebrew language paint pictures.” Subsequently, Cadieux started including Bible verses written in Hebrew in her religious paintings.

“As I was painting ‘In Pastures Green,’” she recalls, “I decided to write in the background of the painting the first three verses of the 23rd Psalm. The last of these verses ends with ‘for His Name’s sake,’ which happened to fall in the lower right hand corner of the canvas where I usually sign my name. When I saw this, I realized that this is how I wanted to sign my paintings from then on, with L’Ma’an Sh’Mo, the phrase in Hebrew. Using this signature would give me a way of reconciling a conflict I had been struggling with for a while, having been influenced by Judaism’s prohibition against creating representational art. That prohibition stems from the part of the Ten Commandments which states that we are not to create any image of anything in the heavens, on earth, or in the seas because we might worship it. I knew I wanted to continue to paint God’s creation, but I also wanted to give Him the credit for what He has created. Signing my paintings this way lets me do both. It also exalts His Name, not mine.”

Among Cadieux’s other great passions is her love for horses. Cadieux first came to southern California in 1995 to work with Olympian champion, Hilda Gurney, in Moorpark, who could help Cadieux with a horse she had just purchased, Database, a Grand Prix dressage “schoolmaster” horse. The term schoolmaster refers to a top-level horse trained for the sport of dressage. The horse “teaches” a novice rider about how it feels to sit on an “educated” horse, one who knows all the right moves.

Gurney encouraged her to check out the wonders of the California lifestyle, including the art scene. Cadieux repeatedly postponed her return to Oklahoma until one day she realized she was officially a Californian. Cadieux still has Database, who is now twenty-five, and rides him, along with her Grand Prix Spanish Andalusian stallion, Karuso.

Today Cadieux’s home is her dream house in Malibu, with a view of the sea and stables just up the road. She is currently building a large art studio on her property where she will teach workshops and also organize classes taught by other accomplished artists. Cadieux has three decades of experience teaching portrait and figure painting, first in Tulsa, and later at the California Art Institute in Westlake Village. She has also taught portrait painting for numerous workshops associated with the Pastel Society of America and The Art Methods and Materials Show.

Thinking of all the good fortune she has experienced in recent years, and looking forward to a bright future, Cadieux says, “I dream big, but my life now is better than I had ever imagined!”

♦ ♦ ♦

Learn more about the book »