Ted Simons: Twice a month on "Arizona Horizon," we bring you up to date with the latest from the local art scene. Tonight, we meet Phoenix sculptor Kevin Caron, who came to art later in life after serving in the navy, running an auto repair shop and driving a semi. Kevin Caron joins us now to talk about his work. It's good to have you here.
Kevin Caron: Pleasure being here, thank you.
Ted Simons: Boy, there's so much to talk to you about. I want to get to these past lives in a second but you make sculpture out of metal. Why?
Kevin Caron: Because I actually tried wood at one point and I found we didn't get along. And I tried metal, we needed a privacy screen in our backyard and I kept looking for the right kind of wood, I came across this piece of conveyer belt and made this screen and put it up and everybody went wow, even my wife looked at it and said that's amazing, go get the rest of that. Took some of that screen and I made a fountain out of it. And people were just amazed. That fountain is still running.
Ted Simons: And off you went. Are there limits working with metal that help you in the creative process? It's almost like you have to know the rules to be able to break the rules. I mean, because you can't do everything with metal, does that help a little bit?
Kevin Caron: Sure because that infuriates me more, that makes me want to make this metal do something. I need to learn a new process, a new piece of equipment, I need to make that metal bend to my will.
Ted Simons: Do you see what you want to make in your mind or do you see a piece of metal and say I think I can do something with that and start to work and are surprised at the finished product?
Kevin Caron: That's how I started earlier, using found objects. When I was driving the semi, I was doing a lot of reverse engineering in my head, just the shapes that I would see, something to keep my mind occupied while I was driving and that led me into being able to do sculpture because I knew what my finished piece was, I could take it apart and say well, I need a piece like this, a piece like that and I could start with flat sheets and say I have to create all the pieces to put it together.
Ted Simons: When you say you want a piece like this, does it wind up a piece like this or does it wind up a piece like that?
Kevin Caron: Almost never.
Ted Simons: Yeah.
Kevin Caron: I feel art is alive on its own. The piece is alive. It wants to be born, but I would say maybe 70% of the time it comes out the way I see it in my brain.
Ted Simons: Do you wait for the muse or sit there and I'm starting to work now muse, come find me.
Kevin Caron: Yes, I start to work now, you need to be down here to be able to help. Or you're walking off a cad drawing or just letting her run through the grassy fields of my mind.
Ted Simons: Let's take a look at some of your work and I want to ask you about this as far as, you know, big pieces, small pieces, is there a difference there in terms of how you approach and obviously, how you create to some degree. How do you differentiate between the two? You make some pretty big pieces.
Kevin Caron: I don't think I do. The small little pieces that I can make on my bench in front of me, these are the fun little bugs, the little ants, the little critters that I make, those are fun to work with but when it comes time for the bigger pieces, I just need the bigger machinery, the bigger table, I need more space.
Ted Simons: The creative process is still similar or the same.
Kevin Caron: I think it's the same. It's just scaled up.
Ted Simons: Do you use special tools and with those special tools, did you have to get special training?
Kevin Caron: I am self-taught. I am entirely self-taught at this. I had a very, very tiny little bit of training in welding way back in high school and when I became a sculptor, I expanded on that training. I've learned several different types of welding, all the machine work, all the bending, shaping, all self-taught.
Ted Simons: All self-taught. Let's get to this business to you starting late as an artist, these are absolutely beautiful pieces here. It's hard to believe that this guy was an auto repair shop and driving a semi. Were you an artist driving a semi or were you a truck driver just waiting to be an artist?
Kevin Caron: I was a bored truck driver that needed something to keep my mind occupied. When I would get to a place to make a delivery, while I was waiting for that fork lift to come out, I would be looking at the big scrap pile in the backyard and playing mentally with the different pieces, how this goes together, and I think that's where a lot of the sculpture came from, to make found objects something different.
Ted Simons: You were in the navy for a while there and you were in your auto repair shop, as well. Even back when you were a kid, was there always an artistic bent or was it just --
Kevin Caron: Not at all.
Ted Simons: Then what happened? The meditation, the idea of looking at something and saying, that had to start somewhere, was there a moment, a flash?
Kevin Caron: I think it was just driving the truck, you know, and keeping myself occupied there. The leap to art came with that privacy screen and everybody was so excited about it and they were so excited with the fountain, I had more of that material left over, I had to do something with it and people were excited by that and a gentleman showed up one day with five $ bills in his hand and said can I have one?
Ted Simons: And you said yes.
Kevin Caron: I said time-out, paid?
Ted Simons: You are now a professional artist. You aren't driving trucks anymore.
Kevin Caron: Right.
Ted Simons: Is it what you thought it would be? We've heard of the poet who worked as an insurance agent and other people who did other things while they were creating art. Before you were full-time as an artist, did you find the creative process any different than it is now?
Kevin Caron: Wow, great question. Yes. When I still had a job, I still had a paycheck coming in on a regular basis, I could be a little bit more lax about the things I was making, I could be a little bit more creative. I could do something really, really wild because I had plenty of time but once I became a professional artist, this was my job, well now there are the bread and butter pieces that I have to make and there are the commissions that I work on that I dearly love, and then there are the speck pieces that I work on that I can put this one aside because I have a commission to make. And I can come back to that later.
Ted Simons: Does that make for pressure or does it just mean you get to do more?
Kevin Caron: I get to do more. I get to do plenty more. I'll have three to four pieces going at a time. And I'll work on this one for a little while and if this one has a time schedule on it I'll go back to this and this one will get set aside. Every now and again that one's been sitting there for a couple of months will raise its little hands and say how about me and I get a day to play with that and do something really wild.
Ted Simons: You are all over YouTube. You've got like a couple of hundred videos, a few million viewers, what's that all about?
Kevin Caron: That was a dear friend of ours back on the east coast saying you really got to try this. It's great for the numbers. It builds a great community. And it's just another way to get your name out, another way to be in front of people. What started out as just doing an art video, talking about this piece or how I make something quickly turned into a process video. How's the welding done, how's the shaping done? Where do the ideas come from? And I've got a whole community now, I've got people all over the world who e-mail in, ask questions and e-mail suggestions on new videos to make and it's great.
Ted Simons: That's a great way to work. Of course, you couldn't do that 10, 15 years ago because there was no YouTube or the way we know it now so with that, technology has to be a factor in your art?
Kevin Caron: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a great influence in my art really because now with the computer, with cad programs, computer-aided drawings, there's a lot of sculpting that gets done on the computer. When I am making a proposal for a public or private sculpture for a commission, I can design the piece in 3D, I can take a picture of the location that it's going to be placed in hopefully and put that image right into that photo so I can show it to the person so they can see this is exactly what it's going to look like.
Ted Simons: Another way for you to develop and continue your continued success. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Kevin Caron: It's been a pleasure, thank you.