Carla Llanos’ beautiful paintings evoke the langour and serenity of the eternal summer. We spoke to her about inspiration, iPads and printing her own fabric in Chile…
“I work primarily from photographs, and I am constantly looking for images that inspire me. I collect them obsessively and use Pinterest to organise my images by topic. I never just use one image, I’m always working from up to ten per painting. But there is usually one hero image that encapsulates the idea I am trying to convey.
“I don’t usually work on one painting at a time, I usually end up creating a series of paintings. I don’t set out intending to do so, but it’s what ends up happening if I can’t put everything that’s on my mind in one painting.
“I sketch or design all the paintings before I sit down to paint, working fast so I can keep hold of the sensations that inspired me. The reason I need to sketch what inspires me quickly, is because I am usually overwhelmed with different ideas and if I don’t put them down as they come, I sometimes loose the inspiration for that particular thing. It happened this summer just before I went on vacation. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to paint and when I came back to work it felt like it was gone, like I didn’t have access to it anymore.
“I sketch or design all the paintings before I sit down to paint, working fast so I can keep hold of the sensations that inspired me. The reason I need to sketch what inspires me quickly, is because I am usually overwhelmed with different ideas and if I don’t put them down as they come, I sometimes lose the inspiration for that particular thing. It happened this summer just before I went on vacation. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to paint and when I came back to work it felt like it was gone, like I didn’t have access to it anymore.
“Working on an iPad, I’ll make rough sketches – never less than six but sometimes as many as ten. I select all the colours before I start painting, so, when I sit down, I’ve already thought through all the hard parts. But the paintings I create on my iPad first never end up being the same on canvas. This is because there are certain things that can look great digitally but don’t really work with paint, and vice versa, some things look amazing on canvas but not digitally. I love having the main idea and colours ready but I leave some room for new things.
“I used to be a digital illustrator, so I got used to the iPad. When I moved to painting, I was scared of the canvas and didn’t want to ruin it, so I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I was doing. I get things down faster, and there is less wastage. But I also sit down to paint without a plan on a daily basis. For these I normally use oil pastels and paper and surprisingly the paintings that come out of those sessions often end up being my favourite ones. I think there’s a spontaneity and honesty to those pieces that offer something extra to me, which is why they hold a special place in my heart.
“The series are trying to explore an idea in many different ways. For my most recent collection, at first I was thinking of a European summer vibe, but I couldn’t encapsulate it in one painting. Every time I try to put everything into one painting it is never enough.
“My journey into painting was not a straight line. In my twenties, I was working a stressful job and I ended up deciding to leave and look for something that I actually loved. So, I started to explore creative ideas; making handmade objects and selling them online. However, when we moved to Chile, I realised I couldn’t find any fabrics. So, I decided to start designing my own. I bought blank fabric and began painting designs and playing around with abstract painting. Then we moved back to Bristol, but I didn’t have a studio. All I had was an iPad, which saved, me. I started designing on there and became a digital illustrator, but as soon as I had a studio I started painting again.
“Bristol I think is a very artistic place, the energy really inspires me. I love living here it always has my attention. I was thinking of moving to Majorca, I was there this summer and some of the current series were inspired by it. I would love to do a series exploring it further. For me painting has always been about capturing very simple things – I am inspired by simple, beautiful things in life. I love the quiet moments we don’t pay attention to. Mostly that is what my work is about, the mundane parts of life that we don’t appreciate.
“I think the sense of serenity in my work has to with the fact that I had to leave a stressful job where I would be more introverted and in control. The reason I paint peaceful scenes is because I spend so much time in the world of the painting, it’s escapism, I escape while painting it, because I am escaping through the painting, it ends up being something that someone else can escape through.”
You can see Carla’s work online and at our Clifton gallery at 30 The Mall. Why not sign up to our mailing list to be the first to find out about private views, first looks at new paintings and exclusive subscriber discounts.