Moody Animals: Interview With Heather Gauthier

Heather Gauthier's style is the culmination of many years of experience in drawing, painting, graphic design, sculpture, and showroom display. 

After a decade of living and working in Chicago and Africa, Heather and her family now reside in San Antonio. She works from her home studio, where she is presently focused on painting. Heather is represented in galleries from New Orleans to Napa, and she has a permanent collection hanging at the children's museum in San Antonio. She has been featured on the PBS show ARTS, as well as HGTV. 



My first desire as an artist is to create art based on what I imagine and find to be beautiful. I appreciate and often implement symbolism and visual metaphor, but beauty alone gives a finished piece value to me. My work is influenced by the time I spent living in places from downtown Chicago to a strawberry farm in South Africa, and my favorite paintings are ones that balance urban and rural elements. A damask patterned background styled after old wallpaper helps echo the classic, vintage portrait, but I employ animals as models. My animal subjects are collectors. Among other things, they collect flowers, china, books, and baked goods. My subject matter is unlimited.


Tell us about your creative journey. How has your work evolved over the years? 

“Art” was always the one thing I could do. I’ve painted and drawn my entire life but I wouldn't have called myself an artist. But some time around 2010, it began stirring in my mind. “Its time to be an artist”. And so I started work on my first “collection”. It took a while to find my style and establish a good work ethic, but I did it. I had a little cafe show in January of 2014 and I’ve been painting full time ever since. I made it through approximately 52 days of art school in the 90’s, so I always tell people I took the long road. But when I arrived, I ARRIVED. 


How does each piece come to life? Tell us about your process from inspiration to execution. 

I am a portrait artist. I often end up with a serious look and a ridiculous message. That message being “give your hippo some cake. Make him happy. YOLO. Or HOLO...”I love moody animals. Miffed cats. Hard-core owls, confused dogs. I paint the animal and then decide what it needs. Do you need flowers, fuzzy donkey? Do you need cake? It’s not always overly intellectual. 


You mention that you had to frequently move and travel. How do you think these experiences influenced your art?  

My husband and I married young and didn’t have kids for 13 years. We lived above a pizza parlor in Chicago and on a Strawberry farm in South Africa. I’ve never had a studio. I’ve had to squat in a corner next to the camping burner and paint off the floor. I think if there is anything I’ve learned, it’s to make do with the time, space and equipment I have. And also, don’t pick up hitch-hikers. I learned that in Masiphumelele....


How do you recharge and replenish your creativity?  

I take naps. I look at Architectural Digest. I keep the wall above my sofa bare, and when I’m having a mental block, I paint for that space specifically. It’s something different every time. 


Describe a perfect day in the studio. 

Now that I finally HAVE a studio....Coffee. GREAT sci-fi on Audible. Cat on my lap. I paint up to ten hours a day, 5-6 days a week. And I have little boys. If I can make it through the day without stepping on legos or having my paint-water kicked over, I’m stoked. 


What contemporary artists inspire you?

Kehinde Wiley. Kevin Sloan. Scott Listfield, Conor Harrington, Anne Siems

Share the best piece advice you received that helped you in your art career so far. 

Paint, paint, paint! If you don’t have inventory, you don’t have....well, art.