An Interview with Charmaine Olivia
Artist, Charmaine Olivia has been painting since she was seven years old. She fell in love with painting at 17 when she felt a magical feeling she calls flow and realized she needed to keep painting, “for always”. Now 29 years old, she’s putting on solo and group exhibitions showcasing her creations, and enjoying wild success. She was recently part of a group exhibition called “No Filter” with Alec DeMarco and C/Greed at a private studio in San Clemente, unofficially named Studio 1315. Her exhibition was a Retrospective Collection featuring some pieces she had never shown anyone before.
An interview with Charmaine Olivia, by Contributing Writer, Lindsay Linegar:
When you’re creating a piece and you think you aren’t going to show anyone, is that fear? Or is it just about wanting to do it for yourself? It’s both. I had just finished doing a big solo show I spent months preparing for, when I created “This is Mine”. After the show, to create something without a specific purpose felt good. I don’t even know why I kept painting. I just can’t stop sometimes. I have a day off and just keep making more art. But it was cleansing in a way, and freeing. There are stages of painting where the piece looks weird and it can be vulnerable to show my work to people when it’s not done. Sometimes it’s better to be alone and to be able to completely let go and not worry about what it’s going to look like because that’s not really the point. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people will think of the work, but at the end of the day, that’s not why I paint. I do it because I love it. It’s healing for me and I get to know myself through it.
Do you think the idea of getting joy from the freedom of creating is a universal thing? For all creatives, for people in general, doing something for yourself is important. Mostly I do things I’m stoked about, but with a show for example, I pick a theme and sort of put myself in a box. Sometimes I think, what if I don’t want to be in a box? What if I don’t want to stick with that theme? I’m such a rebellious person even to myself. There’s a constant inner dialogue about trying to keep that freedom.
About This is Mine, you said, “Sometimes I write notes to myself.” You had freedom in knowing the piece was for you and it didn’t have to be for anybody else. Can you expand on this idea? The paintings kind of come alive to me. I love painting faces. They’re almost like real people and I feel them. There’s a point where I kind of fall in love with them. With This is Mine, initially, it was physical, like, this painting is mine; I’m keeping it. I started with the face and the flowers and it started coming to life and I was like, “Oh! Mine. Don’t forget, this is mine.” The more I sat with it, I realized it was deeper than wanting to keep the physical piece. If something happens to it – or if it goes to a new home, that doesn’t change how I feel. The freedom and the creative expression of it – that is something I can hold onto and remember. It’s easy to forget that feeling. I just have to remind myself I have that power. We can shift the way we feel if we just pay attention. Sometimes I cover up what I write, but not with this one.
The person, is she real? This one is based on a model. She sent me photos saying she loved my art, and if I was ever inspired, I could paint her. This was a beautiful photograph. Once I start painting, it always becomes its own thing. I don’t like to be too stuck to anything. I will generally map out certain elements and then they take on their own life. They become their own creatures. I can’t control it. I try to usher it in certain directions, but it will generally do what it wants.
How would you, and you don’t have to, but how would you label your style? I guess it’s expressionistic. I didn’t study art or go to art school, and I don’t really have art history knowledge or knowledge about types of art. I like expressionism. To me it makes sense, there’s expression in it. There’s emotion. My work is very emotion-based, so I guess you could call it that. And portraiture, and some surrealism. Some of my work is very precise and rendered and other times it feels good to let the colors go wild.
What is it with the double eye thing? I like the fact that it kind of messes with your head a little bit. I like pairing things that are beautiful and weird. It’s like, wow that’s a really pretty painting but it kind of makes me unsettled. I like that combination – she’s beautiful but is she an alien? What’s going on with her?
I’ve noticed a theme in your work. Do you solely paint women? Pretty much. I think I’ve painted two or three men. The goddess has always been my muse and inspiration. I was raised kind of as a Hindu. My parents taught me yoga and meditation when I was young. The Indian goddesses are always a source of inspiration for me. I love mythology and goddesses.
The Goddess… The Goddess archetype. She is something all women can relate to. What does that archetype mean in our lives? She’s someone who’s strong, and empowered and loving and kind and just. She has all the positives traits you want to embody. When I’m painting these women, it’s almost like a self-portrait. Like I’m there – like I’m putting myself in each of these worlds and letting my imagination create these otherworldly realms that I want to play in. I also wish there were fairies and mermaids around here, so instead, I just paint them and play with them there. I love fantasy and science fiction and magic.
What else inspires you to keep painting? It’s bigger than painting. It’s almost like a philosophy and a way of life. It’s about being in that space where you’re empowered and not operating from fear and insecurity. If everybody in the world was doing what they loved and empowering other people to do what they love, it would be so much cooler on this planet. It’s so simple. Why do we always have to be fighting each other, or be in competition with each other? It would be amazing if we all worked together. A lot of what I want to do with my art is speaking to that inner light that we all have. We all are from the same spark. We’re so connected.
Learn more about the artist at CharmaineOlivia.com, on Instagram @charmaineolivia or find her on Facebook.