We had the good fortune of connecting with Renée DeCarlo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Renée, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve been representing myself as an artist most of my career, however it wasn’t until rather recently that I decided to put myself out into the public with my workspace and expose the inner workings of my studio life, sharing space with a gallery that I could curate and open up to other artists. This space, I call The Drawing Room. I conspired a very rough business plan for what I consider an “art project and residency”, after graduate school in 2000, but didn’t make it a reality until 2018 when life’s twists and turns forced me to take the leap, and I also happened to find the perfect space for such a plan. Truth be told, I have always wanted to have a storefront studio space- to share my processes, materials and work – with happenstance and curious folks. The art studio is much like the kitchen in a home – it can be central to the space as it’s messy and chaotic and is filled with magical curiosities. I love serendipity and how when given an opportunity to make space for it, interesting and fruitful things happen. I’ve always loved the “Open Studios” model and city-wide events that take place in San Francisco every year, as well as documentaries about artists in their spaces, among their materials and creations. I think art can be a powerful connector for people, and the stories behind the work can be make the connections even deeper. By opening up my studio to the public and engaging with people about the work being made, I am growing as an artist. People directly impact the work I make and always find their way in the layers of my abstract, process driven works. My observations of people, conversations and bonds formed through art, and sharing it satiates my inspirational needs. Working adjacent to a gallery space, I get to meet and work with all sorts of new artists – typically under-represented but amazing and masters of their own domain. I love a good story- and everyone has one, and The Drawing Room has become a place of just that. Stories, connections, people. Life.

It’s many artist’s dream to become represented and taken care of business-wise, to just focus on one’s work. That illustrious “dream” hasn’t happened for me and I’ll say that doing it all, is a lot, in fact even overwhelming sometimes. Balancing life – whatever that is for an artist can be challenging. I am also a single mom with 2 teen boys that have tremendously impacted and influenced my life, and deepened my conviction to fulfill my own career dreams. It may also be considered stubbornness, however making art and doing what I do, everyday, makes me the happiest so making it work is essential. As an artist, it’s often necessary to subsidize one’s income with other things, such as a time job, or working multiple other side jobs or just hustling at every corner with one’s work. For me, I have chosen to hustle my own wares. I sell textiles, scarves, bags, aprons, etc which help cover rent and costs to take some of the pressure off my overhead. I also have investors – collectors of mine and that believe in the power of exposure for an artist, and the life-changing effects it can have. Opportunities are abundant, but you have to put yourself out there to find them – so these investors believe that by helping fund the space for the artists to do their work or share their work, the artists can have more room to stretch, take risks and hopefully learn to thrive, without being encumbered by heavy rents and high overhead costs, reflecting in high commissions from artists, ultimately determining what is shown by how well it will sell and who can sell the most, and that determining who can show. I want to help artists get discovered, to stop someone in their tracks as their walking by – their breath taken away by a piece of art. That actually happens here and I get to watch it and be a part of it – which is an incredible experience for an artist to take in.
This business isn’t focused on becoming a lucrative monetary venture. This business is about cultural and social equity and investment by its artists and audience. The Drawing Room is a hub for community to touch base and connect through art, artists, their friends and communities and the ties that bind us all together. The gallery is professionally presented, the works are beautifully and consciously curated to help bring the works to life in the public, and ultimately in the hopes of finding new collectors and supporters. But the goal is to elevate our daily experience through art – and artists. Making more space for them to shine and share.

I recently was in a very bad accident on my bike and laid up at home for over a month. This event has forever changed my life in many ways, but it ultimately forced me to step back and let the village surrounding The Drawing Room to step in and take over for a bit. This accident forced me to let those that have been pivotal in its establishment and growth, to take the reins run things for a while, which was tremendous. I am building something that I hope will continue to grow. The space is an urban residency – shedding light on people, life experiences and the places that our worlds collide, through art and its making. I know that I’m doing something right, and that I’ll get to continue moving forward and bringing as many artists with me as I can find.

The Drawing Room will celebrate its 3rd year in business in November, surviving COVID, wildfires, a 7 month-long construction project and being closed almost a year to the public. Opportunities are daily as things open up, more people are discovering me, my work and the many artists that I regularly exhibit and promote. I’m optimistic and excited about the year ahead and beyond as because of these past many months of hardship, isolation and fear, people seem to be looking up and engaging locally – which is what all small businesses need. We need our local economies to support our local businesses.
#superhyperlocal #artislife #lifeisart @drawingroomsf

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work is derived from my own layers of life experience. I use materials and process metaphorically to express my own journey through life and the physical world around me and how it impacts and effects me. I begin everything with a line drawing – and in a place of transition, such as on a bus, in a car or tracking another person’s movement through the landscape. My drawings document a specific experience, and from these “points of departure” as I call them, I build much more complicated and multi-layered works on wood, paper or wall. I employ a variety of printmaking techniques to propagate a new drawing that I’ll work on, using color and a variety of pigments to derive order out of the chaos of lines. I continue to work in the spaces where lines and spaces need to connect and find resolve. I’m a bit at the mercy of whatever mess I created and from that, I let the work drive my next steps. I never know what a piece will become when it’s done, but continue to layer color and line work until the piece feels complete and resolved. I have been working my process for nearly 20 years. I discovered drawing while in graduate school. I had been working predominantly in ceramics and diving deep into atmospheric firing methods such as wood fire and pit fire techniques which, similarly to the way I work now, which forces one to let go of the outcome and let another force drive. I think working in materials in mediums that require one to relinquish some control of the medium, letting it guide the way, has really stuck with me. I started drawing at the end of school, simply as I wasn’t sure that I would be able to maintain my practice in clay after that time. Drawing was so much more accessible and limitless in the possibilities of what “drawing” is or could be. Since then, I’ve been exploring ways to draw that capture a piece of life’s action with a line.
The world of art making is rife with challenges. For me, my biggest challenge was always have enough time and space to focus on my work. As a mother of 2 teen boys, the early years were bleak for me in my studio. The 3 minutes a day I could take to work on a drawing would be all I could do, for years. During that time, I started to scan my drawings which I would start while riding in the car, and finish while nursing or while a child was napping. From the scans, I started to play with layering the drawings digitally and creating layers of color and transparency that would grow. This was never quite gratifying for me, as I am a tactile person, I love having dirty hands and ink under my nails. Creating digital works always left me wanting more, so I began to rip them up, sew them back together, collage them and force all sorts of “hands on” process onto them. Until finally, I decided that I needed to do this in the real world and that’s when I started to explore printmaking. From there, I began to develop the layers processes that I do now, which are so much more fun for me to make.
Ironically, I now take my finished works, scan them and print them digitally onto textiles, collaborating with companies to create scarves, bags, and home goods. I am continually looking for new ways to collaborate with brands, designers and textile manufacturers as using digital processes to give my mixed media works another life, is really exciting. I love seeing people wearing my scarves – as they are wearing my art. This also allows my work to become more accessible to more people. If anyone is looking to collaborate, HIT ME UP!!!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Francisco is a walking city so we explore this amazing place on foot or bike. Starting in the Mission district, we’d stay at a house so we could cook, but be central to a million options for going out. Since COVID, many of the shopping districts have embrace outdoor dining and most places are back up and running now. So we would break the week down by food, and explore that way – tying all of the art galleries and spaces that we can find into our food exploits. From the Mission, we’ll head towards Hayes Valley, seeing more shops, restaurants and possibly live performers in the evenings. Things are most lively here Friday-Saturday nights so we’d be sure to line it up. From Hayes Valley, we’d walk up Fillmore to Pacific Heights and down to the Marina – exploring one of the loveliest neighborhoods and vistas the city has to offer. Walking along the Marina, we’d hop on some bikes and hit Chrissy Field and parts of the Presidio, taking in the beautiful scenery and national park. The Presidio and Golden Gate park would be a great 1-2 day explore on bikes or walking. Finding out way out to the ocean, we’d find a plethora of shops and local spots to check out, and of course talking a walk on the Great Highway which is closed now to cars is pretty cool. Riding through GG Park on the way back into the city, we would end up in the Haight Ashbury, which is full of exploration and local life.
The Haight runs into the lower Haight, and then into the Castro – which we’d walk or ride through as we continue eating, shopping and whatever else we fancy along the way. After days on foot and pedal, we would end back up in Mission where we’d take a day to lounge and figure out what we wanted to do again. Full, happy, and tired.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my shoutout to my sons who have been my muses since their conception and who give me my internal strength and resiliency, the multitude of supporters and collectors who have believed in me and the work I make, the many artists I am surrounded by, who continually inspire and motivate me to keep moving forward, and to the random passersby who stop in their tracks and take pause from their lives to engage in art – even if for a second. I have the most amazing support system and community of humans around me and the business I am building. We are in this together and I’m so happy to have them with me.

Website: www.drawingroomsf.com www.studioreneedecarlo.com

Instagram: @drawingroomsf @studioreneedecarlo

Facebook: drawingroomsf

Other: Thank you!

Image Credits
Erica Marquez. Jenn Hale. Renee DeCarlo.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.