Carlie Pearce says art changed her life, and now she’s sweetening ours with her whimsical donut paintings.
If you’re having a rough day, the work of painter Carlie Pearce will change all that. The donut-loving artist lives in Hamilton, Ontario (where her art is proudly displayed in the mayor’s office). Carlie describes art as medicine and freedom, and in a candid interview, the talented artist shared how art changed her life.
Could you tell us about your current focus with your paintings?
I’m working on a series of paintings that all include donuts in one way or another. I wanted to do something unique but not feel confined or pigeonholed to a certain style. Donuts make people happy, and they are often bright and colorful and little pieces of art themselves.
When did you get your start as a painter, and how did you develop your skills?
I’ve wanted to be an artist since I can remember. My first commission was when I was around 15 years old—it was a drawing of a dog. When I dropped it off at the person’s house, she said, “Make sure you sign the back so I have that when you’re famous”—I’ll always remember that (not quite famous yet, but working on it!).
After high school, I got accepted in the fine arts program at McMaster University along with only 24 others. Oddly enough, I really didn’t like art school and felt as though I had enough drive and determination to be successful on my own. I switched my degree to sociology, which I loved.
As soon as I finished my postsecondary degree, I decided to put all my energy into building my art career. I was overwhelmed at how to begin at first, so I decided to do a painting a day for a few months to get in the habit of creating without having much pressure as to what the outcome of each piece might be. My technique and style have grown over the years.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards of your work?
One of the greatest challenges for me as an artist is constantly questioning what direction to go in. You have to paint what you love painting—but when you’re a full-time artist, you also have to make money. Sometimes it’s hard to meet in the middle. You have to meet your passion and people’s wants in the middle. In the long run, the goal is to focus on branding and have enough dedicated followers, and then I can do less commission work and have more freedom.
How has art helped you through the hardest times in life?
There is a specific moment when I was lying in bed feeling horribly depressed. I really felt like I didn’t belong and wanted to disappear. I was crying and looked up at one of my paintings hanging on my wall—a ship in the harbor of my hometown—I thought, “Art has me, and I have art.” I feel like art will always be there for me, and I definitely do feel as though it has saved my life.
What message do you hope to share through your art?
The message I want to share first and foremost is to follow your dream. I want people to see my work and feel inspired to let their creativity flow—whether it’s painting or music or dancing, etc. I want people to feel happiness when they look at my art.
Aside from painting, what are your everyday inspirations?
Since becoming a full-time artist, I actually needed to find another creative outlet for when I needed breaks, so I started learning guitar and writing songs. My partner is an awesome musician, and we’re working on finishing a CD together—hoping to release this spring as Charmaine & Carlie. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s one truth you’ve learned as an artist?
Art will always be there for you. Creativity is something we all have and need to let out—it’s like breathing. Having it as a career takes a lot of learning on the business side—but at the core, it’s like having a 24/7 therapist and best friend by your side.