Stepping inside Carla Llanos‘ studio, you’re met with all the makings of a swoon-worthy space.
It’s filled with warm textures, loads of plants and a carefully curated mood board with clippings of chic fashion accessories, Pantone swatches and ceramic vessels, making it abundantly clear that aesthetics are important to her on both a personal and practical level. Inspired by fashion, interiors, organic shapes, muted colors and powerful, confident women, her works are as authentic as they are visually pleasing. Here, Carla chats with us about the empowered women in her illustrations, her journey as an artist and how being a night owl fuels her creativity.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start as an artist? I read about your different creative outlets, stemming from childhood to knitting and sewing as an adult. Do you find any of these mediums influence your illustrations today?
I am a Chilean artist based in Nottingham, UK. One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was to make clothes for my Barbies, and I often think when I’m illustrating my girls that I am doing the exact same thing, but with a different medium. I spent most of my 20’s not having a clue I was a creative person until I took up knitting to release some stress, which I ended up turning into a business. I then moved on to sewing and painting my own fabrics which is what led me to designing on my iPad. My initial intention was to create designs digitally that I could then print on fabrics, but I fell in love with illustrating and I haven’t looked back since. While I was doing all this I used to paint abstracts with acrylics on canvas and paper, which was more of a hobby than anything, but now I try to integrate all those elements I love into what I do.
Your works are all so cohesive, from their color palettes to their overall aesthetic. How did you land on your signature style?
When I first started I made sure to practice, explore and have fun with it. I noticed after a while that the only paintings I didn’t like were the ones that didn’t have colors that resonated with me or subjects I was really interested in. When you are starting to paint, it is very easy to paint things you think people are gonna like rather than what pulls you, but I thought, rather than waste time, I would ask myself what are the things and colors I love most? The answer was powerful, independent, confident women, fashion, interior design, shapes and the colors you see in all my work.
And on the other hand, what are some ways you continue to push your practice and keep things fresh?
So far everything has developed naturally. If I feel an interest in something or an idea pops into my head, however small it feels. I sort of honor it by paying attention to it, exploring it and nurturing it, and if it doesn’t work I move on to the next thing that interests me.
You’re inspired in part by fashion and interiors. What are some of your favorite publications, brands, sites etc. to pull inspiration from, and how do you keep track of anything that stands out to you?
I would have to say Pinterest is my biggest source of inspiration. I love how easy it is to use and save images and also how after a while it knows what you like and it shows you more of it. I just scroll through it whenever I’m waiting or on a car ride. Then later when I’m drawing, if I’m feeling uninspired, I pull up the app to see the images I have saved.
Who are the people in your works, and what do you hope women who view your works feel when they see them?
As I mentioned before I am incredibly interested in women and I try my hardest to portray the women I wish myself to be: independent, humble yet confident, strong, calm and brave.
I couldn’t help but notice this work looks very familiar! Does your home or studio often serve as IRL inspiration? What can we expect to find hanging on your own walls?
A lot of the time it’s the other way around, actually. I might draw things I love which sometimes end up in my actual space. I feel that a lot of the things I own have been manifested through drawing, but saying that, I always have a mood board filled with images I love that help my work a lot. They are a reminder of how I feel inside and how I see the world. I have also recently filled one of my walls in the studio with my own work, which may seam a little narcissistic, but it is a great way to see how far I’ve come, how it all relates and where I want to go from there and I also believe it is really important to love and celebrate your own work.
Other than that I like to surround my space with pretty little things and plants. I am extremely visual and my space strongly affects my mood and the way I feel. My creative journey started when my husband and I lived in a studio apartment where our dinner table/desk was underneath our bed, right next to the kitchen on one side with a sofa on the other. I had to put all my art away every time we had to eat, so for me to have this space right now is something I could never take for granted.
Walk us through a typical day. When do you head to the studio, and when do you feel most inspired to create?
I rarely set an alarm to get up and I can’t do anything before coffee, breakfast and a shower. If I ever miss any of these three things I usually have a bad day. After that I check emails, maybe make an Instagram post if I have anything to share and reply to any customers’ enquires. A couple of days a week a will spend most of the day packing orders and shipping them, and the other I would go through my to-do list which may include a client project, personal project or generally going through ideas for future projects.
My best creative work is done at night time though, as much as I try to keep a consistent “normal hours” work flow, I feel most creative at night. It may have to do with the fact I worked in bars for many years and that’s why my body and mind feel more active at night, but you can sometimes find me wide awake drawing at 3 in morning, hence why I don’t set an alarm.
What’s the best experience you’ve had as an artist, whether it was a project you worked on or a reaction your work received?
I think in general for me to be able to say “look I made this thing” and have so many people react to it in a positive way is a feeling that has blown me away. I have been self-taught in everything I do and that can bring with it a huge amount of fear and insecurity as an artist, so the incredible support I receive is priceless.
Lastly, who are some of your favorite contemporary artists to follow?