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Artist Spotlight: Cara Olsen

Cara Olsen Princeton Brush

Cara Olsen would actually consider herself a writer first and watercolorist second, having spent the first 4 years of artistic pursuit immersed in a Contemporary YA novel. However, since the birth of her daughter in 2017, and given that she works in hour-long nap-bursts, during which interruptions are common, painting is the form of art most forgiving to her days.

When did you start painting and what inspired you start? 

I began painting roughly 7 years ago in the midst of a debilitating illness no specialists were able to figure out. Eventually, I was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases, and it was through watercolor that I found joy and purpose in my days. Art, quite literally, saved me.

What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?

Make mistakes. A LOT of them. Don’t be afraid to paint ugly or to take a painting as far as it would go, purely for the love of curiosity. And then practice the art of reservation, putting the brush down and allowing the art to “rest” before tinkering again. Mostly, know that it’s the process that is the art, not the end result, and getting familiar with who you are and what you want to say through your art will be the greatest gift you will give to yourself and the world.

What are your favorite Princeton brushes and why?

I am LOVING the Neptune series at the moment, they glide seamlessly! However, the Heritage brushes are a long time favorite too.

What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?

That is incredibly difficult, because I love each piece I create for the purpose it fulfilled. Even the messes are dear to my heart. However, I recently created a piece to feature my newest color guide, and it truly slipped out of my fingers, born of flow, the stuff of dreams and I’m sure something I couldn’t recreate if my life depended on it!

What’s one art tip that you can share with our audience?

I typically don’t use reference pictures unless I am trying to create something as close as possible to reality, for example my bridal bouquets. For all other pieces, I like to have a few pictures of inspiration, but I don’t use them as blueprints, merely a spark to ignite my own vision.

What artists influence your work most?

I am embarrassed to admit I don’t really have favorite artists. I tend to feel about art the way I do about music – I love it all! Obviously my love for floral anything is borderline obsession, so I do regularly find myself drawn to artists with similar passions. I appreciate their interpretations and gathering inspiration to transform it into something of my own.

What is your creative process like?

My process is a motley batch of styles, a cauldron of mixed ingredients that don’t always agree or compliment one another, but somehow we make it work. There are times when I am more prone to let go and just see where the brush takes me; other times I battle to control the flow, which is my least favorite, though I’ve learned to give myself grace as I move in and out of seasons. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all process, nor should it always look the same for an artist. I try to approach my work with a LOT of grace as well as a burning desire to grow.

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