I am so excited to be interviewing Sunny Carvalho today! I first heard about Sunny through my friend Nicci who met Sunny at Artfest. Sunny was teaching there and Nicci was raving about her class as well as what a fabulous person Sunny was! So I am so happy to be sharing an interview with the whimsical and talented Sunny!
Sunny demonstrating her painting technique
Could you please tell my readers a bit about yourself and your background – how did you arrive at being the artist you are today?
I feel as if I have lived 2 separate artistic lives. I made porcelain dolls for about 15 years before beginning the artistic life that I have today. 6 years ago, I had reached the end of my inspiration with the “normal” dolls and became interested in doing something different. I wasn’t sure what that would be but I attended my first Artfest and came home bursting with joy. As I walked through my garage upon my return, I spotted a piece of plywood in my garage and I suddenly knew that I would paint on wood. I still have the original 2 paintings that I did in that frenzy of “finding myself”. They hang in my bedroom and remind me of where I came from artistically.
Have you always been artistic?
I have considered myself an artist since I was a child, even when I had no focus or skills! I just knew I was an artist and that someday I would do that for a living. I first had to get my children to a stage where they were more independent and when that happened, I truly pursued learning the techniques that I use today. I am still learning. Experimentation keeps me from being bored and no 2 paintings have the exact same techniques.
Sunny’s popular Mermiees
Do you ever experience any creative blocks and if so how do you move through them?
I do struggle from time to time with creative blocks. That is probably why I do so many different things. When I don’t feel the inspiration to paint, I sculpt or sew. The creativity and inspiration will come back around if I just focus on something else. Occasionally, I do have to push through it and just keep moving forward. The inspiration will eventually find me, usually with loud music!
I love your original whimsical style – how did that style emerge? Recently on your blog you spoke about finding your style and being original. Could you say a bit about that as I’m sure many of my readers are worried about not being able to find their style.
Honestly, I feel that I have only found my true style in the last year. Prior to that, I was painting what I call “Pretty Girls” with beautiful faces and perfect eyes. The first time I painted an “Ugly Girl” and I laughed out loud, I knew that my path had changed. I think finding your own style comes in many forms. If you are struggling with that issue, first look at what it is that really inspires you. Is it a beautiful quote, a song lyric, a lovely face that speaks to you? Look at the art of artists whose work attracts you. It’s not that you want to copy their work, it’s more “how can my own work speak to me in that way?” For me, it’s humor. I love odd little people in strange situations.
How do you feel about surrounding yourself with folks who believe in you and your art? Do you think it’s important?
That’s a tricky question. I think you need people who believe in you and your art but they may not be in your own family! My husband is very supportive but he is not even remotely interested in art and my own mother has actually asked me, “why can’t you just paint a landscape?”!! I find the support that I need in 2 ways: the internet and retreats. FaceBook has become a lifeline for me to connect with people I admire and people who are interested in seeing what I do. I also think retreats are so important. Whether you are teaching or attending as a student, it is a place to connect with others who are interested in the same things that you are, picking up new techniques and finding inspiration. I know it’s often expensive but I feel that it’s cheaper than art school and way more free creatively! Honestly, I found at my very first Artfest that I am not a very good student. I tend to do my own thing so I started teaching simply so I could attend!
Sunny’s Display table
How did you get into teaching? You taught at Artfest – was that a wonderful experience for you? It sounded like a great time!
Artfest was more than just a wonderful experience for me. It truly changed my life. Not just artistically but in every way. As I told you earlier, I returned from that very first Artfest bursting but without focus. I remember that I was already making art but I truly can’t remember what I was doing at that time. I know I was given the opportunity to vend that first year even though I was a student but for the life of me, looking back I have no idea what I sold!!! Even so, apparently Teesha and Tracy Moore saw something in me and invited me to apply to teach for the next year. Not only did I not know how to teach…I didn’t even know how to actually paint! I had one month to put together a class to submit (that ended up being those 2 paintings that I mentioned earlier). I was completely shocked to be accepted! I have never been so nervous in my whole life as I was that first year teaching at Artfest.
What I found though, was the most supportive, accepting group of people I have ever known. People who were willing to tell you their artistic “secrets” and lift each other up without thinking about “competition”. This was very important to me coming from the doll and miniature industry where I felt that people protected their secrets rather than sharing. I ended up teaching at Artfest for 5 years. I’ve often joked with Tracy Moore that one day they would discover that I’m actually an imposter who doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing!
Legions of Ceramic characters
Tim Burton is one of your biggest influences I see. What about his style appeals to you and how does his influence show up in your work?
Tim Burton and Mark Ryden are probably my 2 biggest influences. Tim Burton’s characters speak to me because they are mostly ugly, with jangly teeth and stitches but there is an underlying sweetness in most of them. That juxtaposition is what fascinates me. It’s not actually his movies that I love so much as his line drawings and stop-motion characters. I love Mark Ryden because of the absolute beauty in the faces of his girls…and the strange situations he puts them in! Again, the contrast pulls me in.
Your art can be found in many magazines – How did this come about – did you pitch the magazines or did they find you?
I’ve been turned down WAY more than accepted! I emailed picture after picture to the magazines only to get responses of “we don’t know where your art fits in-but thanks, anyway”. Finally, I just boxed up 3 dolls, 3 paintings, 3 bags and a few other things and just sent the box! I expected to wait, maybe about a year but I heard almost immediately. I was so surprised! I was recently turned down on my pendants so I boxed up a bunch of them and sent them last week! We’ll see now if they are interested! Hahaha! The point is to not give up. I do think you should know where you are artistically before you send anything in simply because you have a better chance of getting accepted if you have found your own path. But don’t give up if you have been turned down, keep trying.
mixed media painting (ceramic body)
I hear you are developing an online class! How exciting! Could you please tell our readers a bit more about it and when it will be available?
I am truly struggling with that. I have filmed the entire class but have barely begun to edit it. I think I am struggling mostly because I want to make sure that I give people something valuable for their money and I have NO idea how to arrange an online class! I’m much more comfortable in person. I know I have to get past that insecurity but it sure is hard! I will know within myself when it’s time. I’m thinking this fall sometime I will really get busy with the editing and see if I think it will be worth while for people. For me, it’s not about the money. It’s about giving people something of value.
Sketch – before……
Mixed media painting – after!
What materials do you like to use in your mixed media paintings?
Ooooh…supplies (rubbing hands together)! As I mentioned earlier, I paint mostly on wood but technically, I paint either on bookboard or paper adhered to wood. If I’m working on bookboard (this is the brown board that is like the back of a cereal box), I paint directly onto the board (already adhered to wood with Gel Medium). Otherwise, I draw on regular paper and then size the drawing on the copier, cut it out and adhere it with liquid Matte Medium (NOT Gel Medium). That’s why it looks like some of my paintings are raised. As for paint, I typically use a little of everything: fluid acrylics, Liquitex Ink, Dr. PH Martin’s Radiant Watercolor. I love to use paper napkins, old text and small antique digital art, as well.
You are quite a versatile artist – you create mixed media paintings, make purses, pendants and dolls! What do you like creating best of all?
Absolutely the pendants (and then the paintings). I’ve only been making the pendants since the beginning of this year. I just wondered how they would work out and started playing around with some designs. I’ve had to learn (sometimes the HARD way) what can be done and what can’t. I’ve been firing for about 18 years but these require different techniques (that there aren’t actually any instructions for since I am flying by the seat of my pants!) and I love the challenge of working out all the details. I’ve got it pretty well figured out now but I still get surprised from time to time. I will say this though: there is absolutely nothing like opening that kiln after a fire and seeing all that color and how things mixed and mingled!! I would love to do a book on this subject at some point.
Do you keep an art journal? Where do you capture your ideas?
Of utmost importance to me is keeping what I call an “Idea Journal”. I’ve spoken about that several times on my blog. I tried to do the beautiful art journaling that everyone is so into and found that just wasn’t for me. I started to do really simple line drawings of absolutely ANYTHING that popped into my head. I draw very quickly and I draw in pen, so no erasing. I’ve found that if I don’t quickly draw a thought or idea, it’s gone forever! I can’t tell you how often I find a drawing in my journal that I don’t even remember drawing. These little drawings become the fodder of my paintings.
Sunny’s lovely boho skirt
Is there anything else you’d like to say to artists starting out?
The main thing I’d like to say to new artists is this: “never criticize your own art”. Every painting that you finish will build on the last one that you finished. I literally learn something new with every single painting but it took me a while to feel like I knew what I was doing. If you criticize your art, you will discourage yourself from continuing. Be proud of each step that you take.
Bootsy mixed media painting
Is there anything new and exciting happening in your world right now that you’d like to share?
I have several new things going on. Since the ending of Artfest, I have signed on to teach at Art Is…You, Petaluma and Benecia in September 2012 and a couple of retreats being discussed for 2013. I also have a licensing trip on the horizon although I have no idea what that could mean! I am simply excited to wake up each day and see what the world has to offer and what I can offer the world. Life is wonderful.
Where can we find you: blog, Facebook, Etsy, Twitter?
my blog at : Sunny Carvalho
my Etsy shop
The absolute best place to find me, however is on FaceBook - I always post a link there when I put new things into the shop and I post all new work there before anywhere else.
Thanks so much for taking the time to be interviewed Sunny!
Love Violette xo