Artist of the Month: Candace Rose Rardon

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Mar 02, 2017 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Let me tell you one of the joys I find in the world – ART. Art matters, and art about place brings incredible happiness. I have long followed our Artist of the Month, Candace Rose Rardon, for just this purpose – moments of joy. Candace is an extraordinary writer, sketch artist, and illustrator with a passion for connecting with the world through art. Her stories and sketches have been published on National Geographic's Intelligent Travel site, BBC Travel, World Hum, and in Lonely Planet literary anthologies, and her travel blog, The Great Affair, has also been featured in the New York Times. Originally from the state of Virginia, she is now based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Every time I see her work, I stop, breathe, take in all that she has to share. Her work is beautiful, perfectly captures a place, and also shows interesting details you might not see at first glance. Her work encourages you to stop and look, to be mindful about where you are. To that end, she’s started several projects you might be interested in – a monthly Moment Catchers sketching challenge (which inspired my brother’s family to capture Seattle through sketching), the Atlas of Connection, in which she shares her readers' stories of kindness and connection from around the world, and, of course, on her website and social media, where you’ll find daily inspiration.

I was more than pleased to catch up with Candace, and ask her about her art, inspiration, and more. I’m sure you will, yourself, get inspired by and learn from her, too. Take a look… 

How long have you been an artist?
There’s really two answers to this question :) My father is a trained artist and my mother has always encouraged my siblings and I to take part in creative activities, so on the one hand, I’ve been making art since I was very young. 

I still remember favorite sessions with one of my first art teachers, Mrs. Giancoli. I was only about six years old at the time, and I loved recreating artwork with her in the style of famous artists like Degas and Monet. I also took private watercolor lessons when I was 12 and 13 years old, and I know a lot of the techniques and styles I learned then have stayed with me over time.

At work on a middle school art project about Sacagawea. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
At work on a middle school art project about Sacagawea

On the other hand, I also stopped focusing on art once I got to high school. I was more focused on music and songwriting throughout college, and art unfortunately took the backseat for about 12 years. It was only in 2011, when I was 25 and studying towards my Master’s in Travel Writing in London, that I decided to bring a sketchbook and set of watercolor pencils with me on my next weekend trip from London to Portugal. 

That decision really marked my reentry into the world of art, and I now consider it the pivotal moment I became an artist once again. I immediately fell in love with the gifts that sketching offers us — it helped me be more present in the here and now, pay more attention to the world around me, and create more connections as I was traveling. Most importantly, I felt like I could catch more of those little fleeting moments that make up a journey, just by spending an hour or two with my sketchbook in each new place.

My very first travel sketch from Porto, Portugal. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
My very first travel sketch from Porto, Portugal

Sketching on-location in Bagan, Myanmar; it didn’t take long for sketching to become an essential way for me to document my travels . Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Sketching on-location in Bagan, Myanmar; it didn’t take long for sketching to become an essential way for me to document my travels

Is your art your full-time career?
When I started sketching again in 2011, if you had told me then that art would one day become my full-time career, I definitely would not have believed you — so it’s with a great deal of wonder and gratitude that I can answer ‘yes’ to this question today :) 

Although I was initially focused on freelance travel writing, both the primary projects I spend my time on today and the primary source of my income are freelance illustration. I love specializing in illustrated book covers and interior illustrations, website headers, and hand-drawn and illustrated maps — for me, each of those projects is a chance to tell someone’s story visually, and to bring together a collection of places that have meaning in their journey or life.

Two of my favorite book covers I’ve had the honor of illustrating. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Two of my favorite book covers I’ve had the honor of illustrating

A hand-drawn map I created for Lonely Planet travel writer Lisa Dunford. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
A hand-drawn map I created for Lonely Planet travel writer Lisa Dunford

Where do you work? How long have you been there?
I’ve been living and working in Montevideo, Uruguay, since last September, as my boyfriend José — a Uruguayan architect — is from here. 

 I’ve loved being based in Montevideo for the past five months. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
I’ve loved being based in Montevideo for the past five months

I’ve worked for myself as a freelance writer and illustrator since 2011, so I’m grateful that both my vocations are extremely mobile and I’ve been able to view the entire world as my desk and studio. Before moving to Uruguay, I’ve spent longer periods of time in a range of places, such as Norway’s Lofoten Islands, Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, and the Costa Brava region of Spain, where I was once a sketch artist-in-residence.

Inside the heart of a historic youth hostel in Stamsund, Norway, where I spent six weeks working on a book project in 2016. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Inside the heart of a historic youth hostel in Stamsund, Norway, where I spent six weeks working on a book project in 2016

Enjoying my little house-with-a-view that I rented along Lake Atitlán in Guatemala in 2015. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Enjoying my little house-with-a-view that I rented along Lake Atitlán in Guatemala in 2015.

Sketching an iconic riverscape in Girona, Spain, where I had the chance to be a sketch artist-in-residence for six weeks. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Sketching an iconic riverscape in Girona, Spain, where I had the chance to be a sketch artist-in-residence for six weeks

Do you have favorite places you like to create?
If I’m working on an article or illustration commission, then without a doubt, my favorite place to work and create is simply my desk. I brought a few of my favorite travel trinkets and postcards with me to Uruguay, so I love being surrounded by them while I’m working on a new illustration. I’ve also recently started working at a popular coworking space in Montevideo called Sinergia, but for me, I’ll always prefer the solitude and quiet atmosphere of my own desk and room.

If I’m heading out to sketch on-location, it’s just occuring to me now that I look for the exact opposite in my workspace — while I love solitude at my desk, I love to sketch in places where I have a greater chance of meeting and connecting with other people as I’m sketching. This means I always look to sketch in places like city squares, plazas and parks, or along streets that are frequented by lots of passersby to chat with.

Sketching on-location in Bosnia, Mostar, helped me connect with many local families, including two high school students who were also passionate about art. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Sketching on-location in Bosnia, Mostar, helped me connect with many local families, including two high school students who were also passionate about art

What does a typical day look like? Is there a typical day?
For me, it’s usually more that I have a season of typical days, based on whatever project I happen to be working on at the time. For example, in January, I was working on the sample chapter for a new book project of mine called The Atlas of Connection, which is a collection of hand-drawn maps paired with personal stories of connection from around the world. Thus every day in January tended to look the same — wake up, make coffee, draw and paint that day’s map, repeat :) 

An excerpt from my sample chapter for The Atlas of Connection. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
An excerpt from my sample chapter for The Atlas of Connection

But while the projects I’m focused on vary throughout the year, I’m also a big fan of having favorite rituals and rhythms that give my days a sense of consistency and order. I love starting every morning with a cup of coffee and reading for half an hour, just as I like to end each day by writing in my gratitude journal. 

These little rituals help me know what the structure of my days is going to look like, so that I can reserve more headspace and energy for my creative projects — an idea that Gustave Flaubert once wrote about: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” 

What materials do you prefer?
Whether I’m working on a sketch or more polished illustration, my favorite materials and process are the same — I start every sketch with a light pencil outline, draw in the details with a waterproof pen, and finally fill in the sketch with watercolors.

In terms of specific materials, I love Derwent sketching pencils (with a hardness of HB), Faber-Casell PITT artist pens (with an XS nib size), and Winsor-Newton watercolor kits, including their professional watercolor compact set, and I also prefer Canson Montval watercolor sketchbooks and paper.

Sketching on-location in Bagan, Myanmar, with my favorite supplies. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Sketching on-location in Bagan, Myanmar, with my favorite supplies.

Where/How are you inspired?
As a sketch artist, there’s a huge range of places and subjects that inspires me, especially anything that’s colorful or striking in design. I’m often drawn to sketch a beautiful building, cathedral, or temple whose design inspires me, as there’s something about buildings with religious significance that always speaks to me.

Sketching the Tromsø Cathedral in northern Norway, and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Sketching the Tromsø Cathedral in northern Norway, and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Red paper lanterns are another favorite motif of mine to sketch, so I loved pulling my sketchbook out in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Red paper lanterns are another favorite motif of mine to sketch, so I loved pulling my sketchbook out in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco

At the same time, I could also be inspired just as easily by a simple moment that feels worth remembering. Just the other day in Montevideo, I went to a café for tea and was so moved by the care and detail with which they presented a single alfajor on a wooden tray, that I returned three days later with my sketchbook to capture the moment.

Capturing a scene from my new favorite café in Montevideo with my journal, and then three days later with my sketchbook. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Capturing a scene from my new favorite café in Montevideo with my journal, and then three days later with my sketchbook

How do you know when your piece is done?
I also have two answers to this question: On a technical level, the great thing about working with watercolors is that they often tell you when your piece is done — i.e., you can only keep working the paint and adding more washes of color for so long before you risk damaging the paper and rubbing it too hard. 

On a deeper level, I can often sense that a sketch or map is done when I’ve included a sufficient amount of details and depth. If I’ve especially been able to add enough shadows and create an interesting contrast between dark and light values in the scene, then I usually feel as though I’ve told the story of that particular scene well enough.

Do you work on one or more pieces at a time?
As a big fan of the Flaubert quote I shared above, I tend to be pretty left-brained and orderly throughout my vocation — so this means I prefer working on one piece at a time. I truly do think of each sketch or illustration as telling its own singular story, so I generally like to “finish” one story before moving onto the next.

Telling the story of the oldest street in Colonia, Uruguay. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Telling the story of the oldest street in Colonia, Uruguay

If you were not an artist, what would you do?
As I mentioned earlier, I have my Master’s in Travel Writing and have been writing professionally since 2011. If I wasn’t an illustrator and professional sketch artist, then I would no doubt just continue being a writer. But one of the things I love most about my twin-vocations of writing and sketching is that I love being able to tell a story both visually and verbally. If I had to focus on just writing, I would definitely miss the visual aspect of art.

How can our readers find and purchase your art?
In addition to my website, I also have an Etsy shop called Serendipity’s Sketchbook, where I’m available to work on custom watercolor illustrations such as hand-drawn maps, website headers, and personal commissions. I focus more on creating custom artwork for clients, but if anyone is interested in purchasing a previously created sketch, I also invite them to get in touch via email, at candacerardon[at]gmail.com.

Catching another favorite moment from my summer along Lake Atitlán. Artist Candace Rose Rardon
Catching another favorite moment from my summer along Lake Atitlán

Would you like to share anything else with us?
In 2016, I didn’t get out and sketch on-location nearly enough, so I decided to set a monthly sketching challenge for myself in 2017 — but I didn’t want to do it alone. I decided to open the challenge up to my blog’s community of sketch artists and called the project Moment Catchers, as I’m determined to catch more of life’s little moments with my sketchbook this year. 

During the first weekend of every month, we sketch wherever we happen to be in the world, and then come together on social media to share our sketches with each other, using the hashtag #momentcatchers when we post photos of our sketches. Our next sketching challenge is this weekend, March 4-5th, so if you’re interested in joining, you can read more about the Moment Catchers community on my blog here.

I hope you can join our next sketching challenge in March! Artist Candace Rose Rardon
I hope you can join our next sketching challenge in March!

 

Find Candace online:
www.candaceroserardon.com
https://twitter.com/candacerardon
https://www.facebook.com/GreatAffairTravels
https://www.instagram.com/candacerardon/

A copy of her free ebook on travel sketching 101

And her book,available at Amazon, Beneath the Lantern's Glow: Sketches and Stories from Southeast Asia and Japan 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Candace Rose Rardon