I’m excited to introduce artist Carrie Alyson! You can follow Carrie on Instagram @carrie_alyson and Twitter, and buy her wonderful work on Redbubble!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?
I’m just an artist approaching her 40s with a lot of wanderlust and a rekindled desire to return to making art into play. I have a creative job (that I love—senior graphic designer for my local Girl Scout Council) so I spend a lot of time looking at art as work. Work that I genuinely enjoy, but work nonetheless, and it bears the sometimes tiring and stressful mindset of “this is something I have to do to be an adult and pay the bills.“
I missed doing art for fun. I had kind of forgotten how to do art for fun. Before my current design job, I did a lot of freelance design and illustration while working other full-time jobs. If I was doing art, it was saddled with the baggage of needing to make money on it. I never really made art just for myself anymore, I was always creating for the client or for what I thought my audience wanted. And while I had once thrived in this mindset, it just wasn’t working for me anymore.
Happily, things changed. I was able to trade up to an in-house design position, with the luxury of a 9-5 schedule and an income that I can modestly live on. I suddenly had free time! To do my own art! But I didn’t, at least not right away, because it still felt like work. I’ve been spending the past couple years figuring out how to experience creativity and art as play again. Learning how to get away from the idea that my art has to make money, or be for someone else to enjoy. I’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s still a constant battle to keep myself out of the “work” mindset.
What does your creative thought process look like to create your work? What are your favorite materials to work with?
As part of my current creative journey, I’ve been discovering more about what I like to paint, and what kind of processes and techniques are actually fun for me. I love to play with color palettes and form, so bright flowers and beautiful landscapes have been a great source of inspiration, and I look for scenes with distinctive shapes and colors. I start my paintings very loosely and create large areas of color to map out my composition. I start light and work darker as I start to fill in smaller shapes and define details. And as the final step, I add line work in ink, watercolor, or white gouache. I use the forms as a guide, but I also let my lines travel with the flow of the paint. I love doing detail work and intricate lines, and this method lets me enjoy the process of mark making rather than worrying about where the lines go. It’s as ok to line outside of the colors as it is to color outside of the lines.
Watercolor is my favorite medium because it lends itself so well to creating both big lush, organic strokes and delicate, intricate lines. The portability and easy clean up are also a plus, and I like to carry a little watercolor kit with me in case inspiration strikes.
What has been one of your favorite creative projects or works of art that you’ve made and why?
“Sitka Tidepool” – it is one of the first paintings that I did in this style, and I was really pleased with how it came together. I love the deep, vibrant color palette and the variety of shapes and textures that I got to paint. As a younger artist I was frequently basing the success of a piece on how photo realistic it was, or how closely it matched my reference material. That perfectionism really held me back as an artist, it made me afraid to experiment, I’d get frustrated if I couldn’t meet the impossible expectations I was placing on myself. With this painting, I consciously gave myself permission to just play and have fun with it, and not care if I messed it up. I used my photo reference as inspiration rather than limitation, and as a result, I was really able to lose myself in the joy of painting and creating it. When I look at it, besides enjoying it visually and aesthetically, I remember the experience of painting it.
Do you listen to music while you create? What are your current favorites?
I’m almost always listening to music, or lately audiobooks and podcasts, while I paint. Some artists that are currently in heavy rotation in my playlists are BOY, Miner, Sara Hartman, Dessa, Mike Doughty, and the Decemberists. I’m a Spotify addict because I listen to everything from the 60s and 70s rock that my parents introduced to me to indie/alternative folk to contemporary pop. I usually like something a little more upbeat when I’m painting, something that makes me feel energized.