Since her first solo show in San Francisco at Gallery Six, Charmaine Olivia has captured the attention of art enthusiasts both locally and nationally. I’ve watched her experiment with different concepts, materials and techniques although never got the low down straight form the source. That is until now!
Gallery Hijinks: Tell me about the source of inspiration for your Tattooed women works.
Charmaine Olivia: The inspiration came from my own desire of having tattoos. As most of my paintings are some sort of reflection of me, this is me living vicariously through them. This is my way of getting tattoos without having to commit to it just yet. Sort of experimenting until I figure out exactly what I want. It’s also a fun way for me to combine both my worlds of painting and drawing, to make a portrait more than just skin and hair, but to tell a story. I was also very inspired by a book I once read, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, only his tattoos moved and told stories on their own, mind don’t do that (yet).
GH: I love “NAUTICA,” and read that the quote tattooed on her ribs says “fair winds and following seas.” Do you have personal connections to the nautical world?
CO: The sea it has always been a source of inspiration and comfort to me, knowing it’s the one place I can look and not see houses or cars. I’m a bit of a dreamer, so I’ve definitely spent a decent amount of my time pretending to be a mermaid when playing in the waves. Something about the feeling of being underwater is very magical, there’s nothing quite like it. Sometimes I wish I had gills.
GH: On your blog you said one could consider your [painting] technique more like “finger painting.” Can you describe this process to me?
CO: I like to go for a more realistic effect when I paint skin and I find that the best way for me to eliminate brush strokes it to blend the color with my finger. I don’t always do this, but sometimes it works really well. Plus, I like getting my hands dirty.
GH: How do you feel technological advancements in the art world have helped/hindered your processes of creation?
CO: For me, I think it has helped. I didn’t always use photoshop for conceptualizing, but I have found it to the best way to really get my ideas out before they flit away. With digital sketching I find it’s much easier to make changes, play with colors, themes, images, without having to really commit to anything. Even with a pencil sketch, if you erase a line, there’s always remnants. Whereas digitally, I’m not afraid to make a mistake or afraid to try anything drastic, I can always click “undo” or erase it. Once I’m happy with the sketch, then I start on the piece. I do like my final image to be done traditionally, as I love the rawness of real paint and ink, and that is where I allow myself to make mistakes, that’s what I count on.
GH: What are some of your favorite artists, right now, or in the past? Are there any that you consider to influence your works?
CO: Dr. Lakra and Brian Viveros, for sure. Although I didn’t really discover them until very recently, after I started doing my tattooed ladies. Viveros and I seem to share the same love of sleepy-eyed ladies with black hair. I’m in such awe of his talent, it’s what keeps me going.
GH: What kinds of projects would you like to do in the future? Is there any direction you would like to see yourself moving in?
CO: I do have plans in the future to release a book of my drawings. I have one too many projects I’m working on right now, but when I get some downtime I really want to get that going. I’ve also been dying to finish my 50 States collection, but I had to put that on hold for the summer.
Olivia first learned to oil paints as a child when her aunt would take her plein-air painting by the ocean. More recently she’s ditched the landscapes and canvases and prefers to paint in a less-traditional fashion while still respecting the old ways of the masters. Look how cute she was back then!