interview: charmaine olivia. modern history.

ophelia. 40" x 40" oil & ink on birch panel.

Last week I was honored to interview the talented Charmaine Olivia. We had a great talk about the genesis of her passion for creating art, and the depth behind her unique hand.

Taught by her aunt as a cute, seven year old girl, Charmaine began her life's journey as an artist. She grew up on the coastal town of San Diego and the sea breeze is a fundamental part of her work. Even now that she has moved from SD, you can see the impression it has left on her work. Huge ships, anchors, pirate hats. Please don't make the mistake of overlooking her artwork from its nautical themes. These paintings and drawings have a deep dish full of mystic and poetry.

These tattoo covered, beautiful women stem from the fantastic dreams of Charmaine Olivia. They have been woven out of elaborate stories and tales of adventures unseen. These ladies each play a part of the artist's life, and wait patiently in line to be blended together in paint. After Charmaine began to name them, her attachment to each lady grew all the more.

When I first looked over her online porfolio, I was enamored by her large wood panels. They are vibrant in color, laid across rich wood grain and grab you. However, after talking to Charmaine, I find myself enraptured by her silhouette drawings. She describes these portraits as a "non-traditional spin on something very traditional". A modern retelling of history and renewed details of an ancient story. Laden with Charmaine's tattoos and an almost sensual pose, these ladies challenge the school of thought from the previous centuries. One hundred years ago there would never have been silhouette portraits depicting young, dignified women with lace and tattoos. Presently, that happenstance is considerably more likely to happen. The depiction of this change in culture and the release of Puritan values makes for a very beautiful canvas of reflection.

Another thing you may notice about Charmaine Olivia's artwork is the multiple eyes some of her lady friends have. She explained that they just happen, without her understanding, and that the pieces are never complete without them. When she told me this, my heart leaped! I have heard this amongst several artists and find it to be a very healthy and necessary wonder for artists to be able to grow and develop their talents. I call it an Artist's Open Window. "An action performed, stroke painted, person embodied, symbol included, in repetition with no current understanding to the reason behind their actions. It belongs in the piece, incomplete without it, intertwined in the elaborate fairytale of the artwork. The mystic enchantment and union of artists." Charmaine's eyes are a place where she can insert her own wonderment and curiosity in her work.


Please visit Charmaine Olivia's site for more examples of her work, updates on projects she's currently working on, and her commercial work. Charmaine Olivia is an artist and illustrator currently living in San Francisco, California. Her spirit animal is a mermaid.

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