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  • Artist Spotlight

Sunny Carvalho

Say “Hello” to Sunny Carvalho of Pinson, Alabama! Painter, sculpter, teacher: She’s the whole package!

Preferred Medium: Acrylic for paintings/Ceramic

What would you call your ‘style’? I call my style “Ugly Girls” simply to differentiate from my earlier style which I called “Pretty Girls”!

What are you currently working on? 1,000 things at any given time! I have a series of large paintings going right now (36” x 24”), a series of small paintings (3” x 5”), lots of ceramic pendants and dolls, freehand sewn pieces. I tend to work on whatever inspires me on any given day so I often hop from one thing to the next.

What is a favorite piece of art you created and why? I have worked rather small for several years so I am really enjoying the series of large paintings. There is a freedom that exists in painting large that I don’t find in the small paintings. I tend to love tiny details in my small paintings and although the large paintings are filled with little details, I love the joy of the large surface.

Who are your art heros? Mark Ryden for the beauty of the faces of his girls and the strange situations that he puts them in, Tim Burton for the joyful monsters and misunderstood characters that he creates and Edward Gorey for the super-fine detailed pen and ink. The thing that ties them all together is that element of something being just slightly odd and interesting.

Do you sketch or keep an idea journal? I tried so hard to do the beautiful art journaling that so many are doing currently. I found that it wasn’t for me. I keep an “idea journal” and it is absolutely crucial to my work. I draw literally every thought, phrase, giggle and idea that comes into my head. It is a fast pen drawing with no pressure for perfection, no erasing. I often think to myself the next day, “oh, I drew something” and go back to look. And then I realize that if I had not drawn it at that moment, it would have been gone forever. When I need an idea, I go back and look at those little drawings and they become my inspiration, both for paintings and ceramic creations.

What qualities make your art distinctively you? I think the element of humor in my work is what makes it distinctly mine. I never add the words until the very end of the painting process because the addition of the words often completely changes the meaning of the painting. If I can make myself laugh out loud, I know I’ve found the meaning of the painting

Where do you create? In my home studio (I always say “I am a woman in the basement!!) but I am currently in the final stages of purchasing a house that will become my new studio. I am only a couple of weeks away from closing if all continues to go well!

When do you create? I typically work from 9 am to about 6:30 pm with a break for lunch and a quick 30 minute NAP!! On Friday nights, I usually paint until 10-11. That’s when I typically work on my large paintings and do lots of drippy, messy stuff.

What do you do when you hit a creative block? I don’t really have a problem with creative blocks. It might be because I do so many different things. I have found that if I feel a bit stuck, I just pick up a pen or a paint brush and just lay down some color and see what happens. Music helps. I am a music junkie. Certain beats and certain songs will get me going every time!

Do you have any special techniques you would like to share? Because I do so many things, I’m not sure what to share so I will instead tell you what surfaces are my favorites. I love the birch panels for my large paintings. I don’t gesso or do anything special to get started, just jump in. By the end there are so many layers that I don’t miss the gesso and I love the way the wood acts with the paint. For small paintings, I love the Gessobord from Ampersand. My dear friend Mindy Lacefield introduced me to it during a visit last summer and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. It has an amazing, smooth surface and since it’s a board underneath, you can use it with any medium.

Do you teach? I began teaching at Artfest, on an island west of Seattle several years ago. Initially I felt that I needed to “be with people”, but quickly found that I am NOT a good student. I tend to nod along and then just do my own thing! So to “be with people”, I need to teach! I have been with Art-Is-You Retreats for several years now and I love them so much. Great venues, great management, great students. I find inspiration in what my students create. I try to teach people that copying me is not the goal. The goal is finding your OWN style. I tend to learn something in every class and I love the enthusiasm and joy of the people who come to take the classes. I will be teaching next at Art Unraveled in Phoenix at the beginning of August. I’m SO excited about this event! My first time with this retreat and first time in Arizona! I also have several classes at Donna Downey Studios in North Carolina in November. I have heard so many amazing things about Donna and Bill and their studio!\

What do you listen to when you create? Again… music JUNKIE!!! I like current music. Presently I love The 1975, Lorde, OneRepublic, Fun.,Ed Sheeran and my longtime love Jason Mraz. The music starts at 9am (precisely!) and goes until the evening.

What other things do you like to do creatively?  I would love to say that I adore cooking…or writing….or anything else…! But I just don’t. I DO love to eat! I find great joy in food and travel but those aren’t my passions. I am a very good cook but I don’t enjoy it. I prefer to wait until the very LAST minute and then whip up something just to get finished and get back to ART!

Tell us about any commercial art endeavors: Not yet although I do have several lines of rubber stamps and greeting cards.

What are your passions outside of art? My family. I have been married for almost 24 years. 4 kids and 4 grandkids. I just glow in my heart with their achievements.

Preferred Tools:  My very favorite brushes are the Princeton Snap series. I promote them every time I teach! I use the Golden Taklon brushes on my small paintings and the White Taklons on my large paintings. I also love the Catalyst Wedges and use them in every large painting that I have done. I just have to say this now: I honestly have NOTHING to do with this company and I was so happy when I realized that I truly USE these products and can happily promote them. The quality is fantastic and the price makes me buy many more than I should! Hahaaa!

To find out more about Sunny and her work, visit her blog

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