How to balance working and artistic life and use networking to progress throughout career. An Interview with Charlotte Gerald: Architect at DGM & Associés
A discussion on how Charlotte balances her working and artistic life, has found artistic inspiration through her experiences and used networking to progress throughout her career.
Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you do for a living?
Hello, I am an artist and architect in Paris. I work part time in an architecture firm and have my Fridays off to draw, paint and create art.
As a bit of background, I was born in Switzerland but both my parents are French and we moved to Paris when I was 3. So, I had A Levels in science with a Plastic Art option, I then decided to study architecture in Paris which is how I’ve gotten to work as an architect currently.
Could you detail your University experience and career path since?
Before going back to Paris to graduate, I did an internship in New York and also took part in an ERASMUS program in Oxford for a year. It was greatly enjoyable to see the differences in the French and English ways of studying architecture. In France, there is an emphasis on seeing the relationship between the individual and the space through drawing but in England, everyone does their projects digitally and it was very interesting to compare my drawings to other’s digital prints.
I then had another internship in New York that was centered more on design. After this, I found my first job in a big architecture firm in Los Angeles for a year before coming back to Paris to find a new job. I found one in a firm I’m working for to this day.
How do you find the correct field for you?
It’s definitely not an easy task. In France, and probably in most countries, you are pushed into the world at 18 and expected to know what path you want to take in life. I certainly didn’t, I first wanted to be an actress, then go into marketing and finally I talked to one of my cousins, who worked as an architect. I saw his passion and realised that I wanted the same thing for myself, I wanted to design, build and create. This led to my studies in architecture and my working in the industry. Yet, the actual job was so different from my experiences studying the subject, it was far more technical and I ended up missing that artistic side of myself. This is why I’ve started to work part time and would definitely recommend you to listen to yourself and know what truly makes you happy.
How did you pluck up the courage to study and intern abroad on so many occasions?
I think at the beginning I was a bit shy, I wanted to stay in Paris but seeing one of my sisters travel for her studies urged me to explore the world a little more. I remember she travelled to Australia and the US to study Economics, this gave me the courage to travel and to explore the different ways in which countries think about art and architecture.
What has your artistic journey been like?
I think people are born artists, I grew up drawing and painting and it has been the perfect medium for which I express myself. I dabble in all sorts of art, whether that be drawing, painting or using particular materials like wool — I find all these types to be very different but as I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to really center my art to really represent me. Right now, I’m into abstract art as I love painting and that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
I also took a transformative year off work in 2012 and travelled South America and South East Asia. I drew a lot on my travels and I found that it was an amazing way to connect with people of different cultures and understand them so much more. When I came back to Paris to continue my work at the same firm, I found it difficult to come down from the high of my travels so I decided to make all my experiences concrete by self-publishing a book of my sketches and experiences. I found this really empowering and see it as a somewhat debut for me and my artwork.
In regards to finding my particular style of art, I’ve honestly found it through a lot of experimentation and consistency. It’s difficult for sure but achievable through dedication and time. Another struggle I’ve faced is finding opportunities to show my art publicly, in fact, I didn’t start displaying my art until 2 years ago. This is because I put my artistic side to one side for a point and focused primarily on my full-time job as an architect. Although I love architecture, it can be intensely technical and doesn’t allow me to fully explore my artistic capabilities. This is why, two years ago, I asked my job if I could shorten my working week to 4 days and leave a day dedicated to my art. This then allowed me the opportunity to focus and finally display my art.
What was your experience when applying for internships and jobs?
I find that it can be fairly competitive. I went to so many firms, door to door, with my CV and I found that it took a lot of courage to dive in head first to a field I’ve never experienced before. It was also really important for me to maintain a positive attitude regardless of the difficulties I faced.
Another thing is building your network. You never know what will happen. One day, someone you met 2 years ago, may call you up and commission you to paint several pieces for him to display in his new hotel.
Leading from this, what tips do you have for networking in the art industry?
I find being on social media particularly useful. It’s where people can find you and really interact with your art. I also make a point to keep in contact with everyone I’ve studied and work with as they may end up being very valuable at later stages of your career.
I really encourage everyone to pursue their passions. I had so many ideas in my head and it is important to go forward constantly and to realise these thoughts.
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