Studio Visit: Charmaine Olivia

November 12, 2012


From yoga instructor to artist, San Francisco-based Charmaine Olivia has continued to create amazing works of art that are playful, fun, and full of poetic passion. After seeing her work on instagram, I was immediately drawn to it. Charmaine’s paintings of beautiful women fused with otherworldly aspects ensure that each one is truly unique and memorable.

Over the years, her illustrations, photography and paintings have appeared in publications and galleries throughout the world. Some of Charmaine’s clients include Urban Outfitters, Lady Gaga, Hallmark, Volcom Stone, Element, Nylon Magazine, Inked Girls Magazine, Eyes on Walls, Threadless, Bolia, and Society6.

You can see more of Charmaine’s work at her upcoming gallery show at Shooting Gallery this February 2013. -James Pawlish



Can you tell me a little about your creative process?


Lately, I’m at this point where I do things that are fun. Its easier to torture yourself, especially with art. Like, if its not working you get really frustrated and then you mess it up. The second I get frustrated on a piece, I walk away, go read a book, or work on something else and then when I’m chilled out and excited again, I go back. What I’ve realized is time is kind of irreverent when it comes to making art, at least for me.


Sometimes my best work is done in three hours. The second I start a piece, I just go for for it, and the second I like it, its done. However, I do spend too much time on it at times and then have to go back and just wipe it off and start over again. For me, its definitely psychological; finding when its exciting, when you need to let it go, and when to start something new. I’m always finding the process.


Honestly, I make art for myself. I’m not doing it for anybody else. If I’m not enjoying myself, then whats the point. I don’t make art because someone told me do it. I just do it because I want to do it. However, its not always like that. Every month I’m learning something new and experimenting.



Do you have any formal training as an artist?


No, I started painting when I was seven. My aunt is an artist and my parents thought it would be a good idea for us to go paint together. At the time, I just wanted to paint mermaids and sea creatures. Thats how I learned to use oils and set up a pallet. If you know the basics on something, its not so scary or intimidating. People have this perception that oils are so challenging. If you just know the basics, you can go with it and figure it out on your own.


I think it comes down to just not being afraid. I like to do what I do, but I wasn’t always at this point. Its a developmental process. If anything, studying creativity is more important then what technique you use.


Are there any artists that you look toward for influence or inspiration?


Not a ton. I really admire Picasso a lot. I guess something that always bothered me when I started out about my work is that it was always changing. I looked to other artists and saw their work was consistent and matched, but my work wasn’t like that. I would learn something new and change it up. Thats something that I really enjoy about Picasso's work. It was always changing and he was comfortable with that.


A lot of your characters look like self-portraits, is that the case?


Sometimes. I have models I work with, but when I don’t have anyone then I’ll just use myself because I don’t want to stop. Its usually just out of connivence. I have very few pieces that are intended self-portraits. I maybe have one that I can say is honestly a self-portrait. I’ll use my form for the base of the painting if anything. Its the female form I use.


What is it like to go on instagram and see all these other people who are super inspired by you as an artist?


Its very sweet. I wish I could respond to all of them and thank them, but I just don’t have time. However, I really do appreciate all my fans. I mean getting tattoos of my work that are inspired by my paintings is really humbling. When people do these recreations of my paintings, I’m just flattered. Its really fun too watch.


Do you find that the internet has helped you as an artist get your voice out there?


Absolutely! I’m more of a shy type of person. Its not really my way to walk into a gallery and say “here’s my work”. I’m not pushy with my work. I’ve done zero out reach my entire career. I’ve just put everything up and people have the choice to look at it or not. I’m just going to do my thing and see what happens. I mean, I guess I’ve just had some lucky breaks. I’ve always had a web presence and a site.


Do feel like you’ll do more sculptural work or installations?


Yeah, I think its inevitable. Painting is what I’m into right now, but I’m sure I’ll do sculptures. I just feel like I’m young and have the rest of my life to play with stuff.


What are you currently working on?


Right now, I’m just working some paintings for my next show at Shooting Gallery in February.