By Amanda Nordqvist
Carla McRae is a 24 year old freelance illustrator/designer who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She uses color blocking and distinct shapes to create happy, hopeful illustrations, as well as being the Creative Director at Odd Pears, a company that creates equally happy socks.
So, Carla - how were you introduced to the arts?
For as long as I can remember I have been interested in the arts! I remember being about 5 and really loving drawing and anything visual. This carried through my childhood to now; I guess I never stopped drawing! I have always spent a lot of time researching, collecting and looking at images. I don’t really feel such a strong affinity with anything else!
How would you describe the art you create? Has your artistic style changed significantly over the years?
Difficult question. I’d say it’s bright, positive and verging on simple. It’s definitely changed in the last few years. I’ve been making conscious moves to pare back, create a world in a simple way, not be too ornate and focus on form, colour and line. I used to make quite busy work. One thing that’s never changed is drawing characters! I think as long as I keep drawing, my work will always change because I am always changing too. It’s something that grows with you.
Your main medium seems to be illustration, but you also appear to incorporate photography as a way of expression. Have you studied either art form?
I haven’t studied either of these things! I like to take photos of things, play with film and document my life for sure, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a photographer. I did go to university but I studied graphic design and communication. Being multidisciplinary in a way I think just comes back to being obsessed with different types of imagery. It’s the way I connect with and process the world around me, and I like to do things myself when I can. Whether it’s drawing a picture, taking photos or making a book, you don’t have to wait until you have a degree to allow yourself to play with different mediums - just do it!
Can you describe your creating process for me?
My process depends on what I’m working on, but generally I’ll just sit down with my sketchbook and start. I collect a lot of references that I revisit a lot and think about, read. That all swims around in my head and, along with my own experiences and what I’m interested in personally, spews out as my work in one form or another. Sometimes I have to draw the same thing a few times until I get it right, or refine a sketch by tracing with a lightbox. Or if it’s for a job, I’ll have to do some simple editing in photoshop. Mostly it’s just me, my pens and paper.
What or who is your biggest inspiration when creating?
I try not to think about other peoples’ work too much when I’m creating my own work - that can get really confusing and foggy. I try to just think about the feeling that I want the drawing to have and get stuck into that!
Sometimes I like to think “what would Dick Bruna do?” if I’m feeling intimidated about simplicity or paring back. Keeping things minimal can feel scary. Dick Bruna is the creator of Miffy and is very good at this.
What can you tell me about Odd Pears and what you do there?
Odd Pears is a sock company founded and owned by my friend Brock Sykes. I’m the Creative Director and pretty much take care of anything visual. So from online content to coordinating collaborations, creating our brand collateral and designing socks - that’s my job! We work from different states in Australia, so we just work together via the internet.
Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I have a solo show coming up in April, so I’ve been working away on that! It’s my first show, so it’s intimidating but also really fun. I’ve been really enjoying making the work and can’t wait to share it!