Tuesday 4 November 2014

Tell All Tuesday ~ Featured Artist: Denise Cassano

Hi guys
Happy Tuesday =) tuesday here means TAT day but I'm not gonna lie to you, I feel really funky junky funk today! Not sure what's going on, tried numerous ways to get out of it/shift it/ignore it completely and just enjoy myself. Nada! I'm honestly telling you this TAT interview has been the best thing I've come across to lift my junky mood a lil and get me motivated! 
Serendipitous you may say.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did =) 

Tell us a little bit about yourself & what kind of artist you are.
I am an illustrator & art teacher in New York and mommy to two adopted dogs. I am personally interested in narrative art- telling a story through pictures and words, details, textures and mood. I lean towards dark, ambiguous images that may be interpreted in different ways. I primarily work in oil, but have had success with graphite and watercolor. Working with children for the past 20 years, I see how they intuitively intertwine words and images, which lead me to investigating transmediation. It means seamlessly moving between symbol systems, i.e. images and words. Coincidentally, that’s what you do with your beautiful journals! More recently I have been working on painting dog sculptures. I have two rescue dogs and I volunteer at a shelter, so dogs are very important to me. My new series will include dogs and Art Deco motifs. Maybe that’s the influence Downton Abbey is having on me, who knows!

What is the biggest challenge you personally face as an artist and how do you overcome it?
Producing a body of work that is cohesive and that I am proud of. Most people want to sell, as I do, but what is much more important to me is that I have produced many pieces I can stand behind. This is probably the challenge most artists have, regardless of the medium or style. I remember an art professor I had in Venice, he said, “We all have 24 hours in the day: 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, you have to decide how to spend the other 8.” I think that is the point. If you live with purpose and are aware of how you spend your time, you will make time for making art. My wake up call was this spring realizing that it was many months from the last time I finished a painting. I made the decision to work every day. What does that mean? For at least one hour every day I work on my blog, paint, clean my studio, try new materials, draw in my sketchbook, etc. Something creative. In my opinion it is much more important to have small but steady incremental steps than to have fits and starts, with no direction. But that doesn’t happen unless you intentionally make a commitment to make art. Until I can make art full time I have to be careful how I make my schedule. That means I may have to say no to other things, and that’s ok. Think about it, in your final days, what will you regret: Not having spent more time on Facebook, or not having made more art? I have never regretted a minute I spent creating. It’s like anything else- you have to make the time.

Do you think you have achieved a uniquely recognizable style as an artist, or do you find it a struggle to find your own style?
Yes, I think this is common problem. You can see from my art that there is a range. One reason is that there are too many materials, options, new ideas, and techniques that pop up all the time. It’s the Shiny Penny Syndrome- you are focused on thing, and then get distracted by some other ‘shiny’ object. The problem? Nothing gets done. It is easy to be distracted. I don’t think you can ever be prolific at anything unless you narrow down what you are doing. That doesn’t mean to close yourself off to other artists or ideas or materials- but if you keep changing your mind as to what you want to do, you’ll never be at the highest level you can. In a nutshell, I’ve realized I need to focus on less things, but do them better than anyone else. I need to see it through. The other reason I think it is difficult to narrow down a style is as soon as something is difficult, or does not turn out the way you intended, our tendency is to shift gears, give up and go in another direction. Maybe that is the exact time we should push through and see what happens. I made an analogy to a musician friend of mine. I said, “ Do you think you have to write a lot of bad music before getting to the really good stuff?” He laughed and said, “Yeah I do, tons, but you just have to get through it.” Bottom line, art is a work of love, but work none-the-less. So I have to tell myself what I tell my students, “Less talking, more working.”

What inhibits you most from being the artist you want to be?
I call it ‘negative speak”, you know, the voice in your head that needs to get a life. I have an artist friend of mine who went back to art school at the age of 42, after working in banking (ugh!). She is a little insecure about her ability. I said to her, “Look, when you see an amazing piece of art, remember that the artist was once a beginner and it took years to get to that point- you didn’t see the 500 bad versions he made.” I think about that when the voice calls. I have a quote posted in my studio, “What one man can do, another can do.” Immerse yourself with positive, creative people. That’s why I like Tim Gunn so much. All of us can learn from him- don’t be intimidated by others, be inspired!

Tell us where can we find out more about you & your art?
My Facebook 

Thank you so much Denise, as I said at the beginning you really motivated me with your interview. I'm so glad that I now of one more encouraging art teacher on this planet (I was not blessed with one myself), you've inspired me enough to put in a lil time arting this eve (when I might have just buried myself in chocolate instead) so I'm off like speedy-gonzales, thank you xx

Do you want to see your work here?
To be featured email me or find all the details here =)


  1. Wow I have to say Jenny, this is one of the best TATS ever. I love Denise's take on work and time. Thank you so much for continuing this series. I always read TAT but sometimes don't post a comment cause I don't take TIME to do it! Thank you Jenny!

  2. Gosh Jennibellie that interview was just awesome!! Now i've got that quote on the brain.... ' What one man can do another can do' Where in the world have i heard that before??? Anyway great job to both you and Denise. Thank you! Headed to the artroom now. :) Hugs! deb

  3. Hi all- Yes the quote is from the movie "The Edge" with Anthony Hopkins. He said it in regards to killing a bear that was stalking them. He (and Alec Baldwin) were being stalked by the bear and Baldwin's character wanted to give up. Hopkins yells at him, " Are we going to die out here? Should we just lay down and die? We will kill the bear! What one man can do another can do!" I love it- I'm going to paint it on my wall.

  4. Oh, thanks soooooo much! I started artjournaling this summer, actually, that was the start of doing anything art-like ever! (Since my art-teacher in highscool made fun of my drawing in front of the whole class... ) And I bought so much stuff, things, to do all the techniques I watched on courses, youtube, blogs and books. And now I'm kind of stuck. That's such a good advise. Focus on one thing till you got it! Make it better, don't shift focus because you can't get it right at once.
    I'm gonna focus on drawing faces! Love faces! So thanks Jenni and Denise! <3

    Love, Anne

  5. Oh, and that quote, and to do art everyday, even for a short time, thanks!!!! Denise you've really helped me, the newbe, forwards> :-)

  6. Enjoyed reading this interview. Sometimes I also feel little funky and just enjoy everything that is around me. Well I am also an aspiring Aboriginal Art painter and love to create something new when I have some free time.


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