Earlier this week I was thrilled to sit down with one of my all-time favorite artists. As a painter myself, I find so much inspiration in other female painters. Amongst the painters I admire, Southern California based Charmaine Olivia has been a major woman crush of mine for a long time. Charmaine's oil paintings bring to life a deep exploration of the human spirit, with vibrant Lisa Frank color and a mystical, psychedelic girl gaze. Her work evokes a hypnotic blend of impressionism and surrealism. At 28, she has acheived what so many young artists dream of– collaborating and working with clients ranging from Lady Gaga to Nylon Magazine, Burton and Vans. I got to learn more about the magical Charmaine and the ins and outs of what she is inspired by, how her career came to fruition, and her creative plans for the future.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
I was raised by hippie parents... grew up doing yoga and meditating...which I realize now isn’t totally normal. I’m grateful for the tools I was given when I was young: learning to follow my intuition, learning self-acceptance and practicing meditation. I started learning how to oil paint when I was little, and continued to explore it throughout my upbringing. After high school I became a yoga teacher, then a few years later the art I was doing just for fun started to grow and build momentum, so I began creating art full time, as I didn’t really have time for anything else!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Encinitas, a hippie surf town in Southern California.
Your paintings are so vibrant and raw. Where do you find your inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my own processing of emotions/life...I use painting as a type of self-exploration / therapy. Painting helps me get in touch with my inner world, helps me discover things about myself, and allows me to work through different thoughts, problems, patterns, ways of being...it’s like a mirror of your mind. And it’s addicting! I love creating worlds, combining elements and colors and shapes to create new dimensions...it’s like a form of traveling through time and space. So much fun!
"Honeydew" by Charmaine Olivia, 18 x 24 inch, oil painting on canvas
Many of your paintings feature images of women. Who are your muses?
My muses are my friends, models, people that inspire me, faces I see in my mind or make up as I go. I mostly paint women because the way I paint is a type of self-portraiture, a way for me to explore worlds and emotions. The female form is a theme I use as a sort of template for me to put myself in.
Who is a woman in your life who inspires you?
My mom! I’m inspired by her courage, resilience and unconditional loving nature.
How long have you been showing your work?
I’ve been sharing/showing my work for the past 10 years or so.
Charmaine Olivia x Burton Snowboard collaboration, Burton Lip-Stick Snowboard
How long have you been painting?
I’ve been oil painting since I was a little girl, but I started obsessively painting all the time when I was 17...that’s when I really started to fall in love with it and find my passion for it. I got hooked on the feeling of flow state... when you become one with what you are doing, all thoughts blend in to each other and there’s a sense of peace, confidence, acceptance and trust. The first time I felt that freedom, I knew it was something I was going to do for the rest of my life, whether or not it was ever my “job”.
Making the transition to being an artist full time can be really intimidating for people. How did you make this transition? Do you have any advice for artists out there who are dreaming of doing the same?
In my case my art career seemed to take on a life of its own life. It began with me sharing my work online, thank heavens for the internet! I was always really shy when I was young, so the internet was an interesting way for me to be able to be my completely introverted self, off in my own world alone, yet being able to share snapshots of my world and my work online. Half shy, yet half wanting to fearlessly express. It was strange, sharing such an intimate and private part of myself with random anonymous people all over the world. There’s a definite feeling of vulnerability that comes with sharing your art, but there’s also an exciting freedom in it.. of just being like “Fuck it. This is who I am."
With the internet, I love that everyone has the opportunity to express their own unique voice. I believe that everyone is unique and has different things to offer the world, with their own special skill sets, perspectives, motivations. The more people we have expressing their uniqueness loudly and proudly... I believe it serves the greater good. Whatever you’re doing in your life, I think it’s important to always trust and follow your inner voice, and follow your heart! Whenever you feel your heart light up and you get that excited feeling building up inside of you, pay attention! As you follow that feeling more and more, you will be consciously creating the life you want to be living, and choosing to feel joy, regardless of outer circumstances. You will start to discover the things that are important to you and what actually matters, and find what it is for you that gives you meaning and a sense of purpose in your life.
What is an average day like for you?
First thing after I wake up, I drink a big glass of water. I usually have very vivid strange dreams, which I like to write down. Then I’ll usually rub coconut oil on my face and body and brush my hair and teeth. Then I do some yoga to stretch and wake up my body. Then I’ll sit and meditate. Even if I can only do 10 minutes in the morning, I’m happy. Your mind is a valuable tool and I believe that it’s important to take care of it with practices like meditation and conscious awareness of your breath. I try to get in positive alignment early on in my day so I can start out feeling energized and clear. I then eat breakfast and write out my thoughts and everything that needs to get done that day. Some days consist of painting but there’s also so many other facets to life and being an artist. There’s a whole business side of it too, with ongoing projects and commitments, and sometimes it’s tricky to juggle everything, but I have so much amazing support around me and I am learning more and more how to be both an artist and a “grown up”– ha!
Outside of painting, what do you do to nurture your creative mind?
I like to read, meditate and write. I love long walks on the beach in the sunshine, going to the botanical gardens, watching movies, going to art museums. I love being barefoot outside and feeling connected to the earth.
What are your favorite books?
Harry Potter, Jitterbug Perfume, Be Here Now, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Ask and It Is Given
Where is your favorite place to travel?
Hawaii!! Such magical islands! Warm jungles, turquoise waters, volcanoes, rainbows everywhere.. pretty much my ultimate paradise. I dream of having a studio in the jungle one day!
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of projects and various things brewing right now.. so stay tuned!
To keep up with Charmaine's artwork, you can follow her on instagram @charmaineolivia, Facebook at Charmaine Olivia Art, and purchase prints and originals directly from her website CharmaineOlivia.com