Conversation with Artist Carrie SchmittPosted October 27 2015
In 2009 when a severe allergy to heat left artist Carrie Schmitt confined to the indoors, a voice inside her heart said, “Now that your life is over, you might as well do what you want and paint.” This surprised her because at the time, she didn’t even know she wanted to paint. But the next day, Schmitt began painting and slowly a dormant part of herself awoke and she discovered her deepest passion: art.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in anything that visually catches my eye. This includes the organic shapes found in nature and gardens, as well as in textiles, jewelry, floral bouquets and designs found in magazines. One of my favorite practices is to tear out imagery in magazines that I am attracted to and incorporate these elements in my floral art, even though they are not flowers. This might be an interesting pattern on a rug or a quirky-shaped lamp. I find this helps me create flower compositions that are unique and unexpected.
I also find inspiration from living an artistic life that nurtures my mind, body and spirit in joyful ways. This means practicing the art of following my bliss so when I approach the canvas I am ready to create from this fulfilled place. For me, this has meant allowing parts of myself from when I was younger that I loved but somehow lost track of in my adult life re-emerge, such as swimming and wearing clothes that express my unique self. Welcoming my wild side back into my life has allowed me to express this wild in my creative process.
Is art a “spiritual” experience for you?
YES! Art is a deeply spiritual experience for me and has transformed my life in pretty intense ways. I believe the act of creating is a spiritual process where you connect to the sacred within you and outside of you. The intuitive painting process, which is the way I paint, parallels life in deeply powerful ways. The process is about freeing the creativity within us and based on the belief that we are all creative beings capable of creating art. That itself is a spiritual statement.
What happens on the canvas seems to bleed into life and what happens in life seems to find expression on the canvas. Practices such as taking risks, having faith, letting go, listening to one’s intuition, feeling connected to something larger than oneself are all experienced in both and intertwined. Personally, creating has required that I tend to my mind, body and spirit, which has also been a sacred, revealing and rewarding journey.
Did you go to art school? How did it prepare you for a life as an artist? How did it not prepare you?
I am not a formally trained artist, but I have taken in person and online classes from artists I admire and have immersed myself in an artistic lifestyle by studying not only what other artists create but the life they create for themselves as well.
When did you decide to make a career of it / become a full-time artist?
When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I did not paint for an entire year because of all the transitions that comes with moving. After that, I decided that to pursue my art I was going to have to take it seriously as a career and make that commitment. Hobbies are just too easy to slip away when life gets busy.
How long did it take you before you felt like you could call yourself an artist? Was that a long and hard transition to make or was it a quick one? Do you think it's important for artists to call themselves artists?It took me awhile to call myself an artist, which really has to do with feelings of self-worth, right? I bought into the idea that only certain gifted people were artists, usually eccentric bohemians living in Paris. However, when the creative process and the creative lifestyle became more important than what I actually produced, it became easy to call myself an artist. The art is a byproduct of something much more fulfilling to me. So it didn’t seem to matter as much any more whether I called myself an artist or not. I was living an artistic life—who cares what my art looked like? That was a huge transformation and took time for me to get to this place.
Earlier in your life, before becoming a full-time artist, how did you find the time to paint? Was that a struggle? How did you balance “life” and “art”?
For me personally there is no balance. I see my life more as a flowing current with unexpected twists and turns. I just surrender to this reality, adapt to the ever-changing flow, and let go of comparisons or judgment. If I try to achieve balance, I am usually not measuring up and then feel like a failure. By just using a different visual, I am able to take an approach that is more open and accepting to my life. I DO make an effort to make room for my greatest passions and consciously choose activities that nurture my mind, body and spirit. If there is something that accomplishes all three at once, I make that a priority in my life, such as painting and yoga.
How did you approach learning to paint? Was it self-instructed? How did you use teachers, art videos and books to direct your learning process?
I devoured anything I could come across to learn more about the technical aspects of painting, to find inspiration from other artists, and to learn new tricks, tips and techniques. Videos, book, online and in person workshops are incredibly helpful in moving my art in new exciting directions. Learning is never wasted so I try to absorb as much as I can as often as possible. And then, I take that into the studio and spend hours experimenting and learning. There is no substitute for that, especially with intuitive painting.
Do you work on more than one painting at a time? Describe your process.
I work on several paintings at once so that I can move back and forth between them as they dry or as I need a break. Sometimes I will finish a painting quickly in one or a few sessions, but other times it might take months for one to emerge. When this happens, I just set it aside. In my experience, the painting is waiting for me to develop my style or uncover something new before continuing. I like to think each painting was meant to be born, and I don’t rush the process.
How do you know when to quit (a painting)?
This is a great question! This is a challenge for me because I tend to over-paint, trying to make everything too tidy and neat. I try to resist this urge constantly, but it is still a struggle for me. I am working to leave the wildness in my art because I am drawn to that. I often take pictures of a painting in process. Sometimes I look back and wish I had stopped earlier. This is a good way to learn. I heard a great story that Picasso was asked by a buyer why he was paying him so much for such a simple painting. Picasso’s response was, “You are paying me for restraint.” I love that because it can be really hard to practice restraint and know when to stop while painting!
How can less experienced artists find their style?
I think this comes with lots of time spent painting. I address this in more detail in my videos and book because this caused me a lot of stress and self doubt when I first started. I worried I would never develop my own style. One way I learned to do this was by incorporating design elements into my art that I found in nature, textiles and other art that I was attracted to. For example, instead of becoming frustrated and envious when I look at another artist’s work, I asked myself, “What specifically do I like about this piece? Is it the color? The use of contrast? The lines?” Then I would incorporate that into my art without copying the artist’s style. By taking this approach you are revealing your unique style because you are making choices that appeal to your personal aesthetic.
How important do you think it is to have a particular style as an artist? How does it play in the marketability of your work?
I think this developing a particular style will happen naturally—you already have it in you just waiting to come out! I don’t worry about the marketability of my work because I believe in this great big world there is a market out there for anything.
How do you market your art?
Galleries, Etsy, Website, Facebook, other social media platforms?
I use social media A LOT to market my work. It is an amazing tool for artists to get their work out there to a large audience without leaving your studio. My favorites are Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. If you are not on those and want to sell your art, I highly recommend doing this.
Do you teach?
Yes, I teach an online yoga inspired art e-course, as well as painting workshops across the country.
Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years? Any hopes and dreams?
I would like to continue to find ways to unleash my innermost expression on canvas. I’m convinced there is so much inside of us lying dormant and just waiting to be released. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea that there are treasures inside us just hoping we have the courage to bring them forth. She says,
“One of the oldest and most generous tricks that the universe plays on human beings is to bury strange jewels within us all, and then stand back and see if we can ever find them.”
What helps me to do this is giving myself opportunities and meaningful encounters with kindred spirits for this unique expression to come out. And, for tending to my mind, body and spirit in a loving and respectful way.
On the business side, I’d like to host more art retreats, have my art on textiles and other products and publish a children’s book.
In closing, what one or two pieces of advice would you like to give to newer artists?
Don’t be too hard on yourself! There is a comforting quote I wrote on one of my paintings, “Find the river of your life…and surrender to its current,” by M. Woodman. Your path is uniquely yours so honor that.
Enjoy the creative process. Let it bleed into your life in ways that make you gasp in awe and find wonder, in ways that bring you to tears, in ways that make you question everything, break barriers and live more fully.
Painting is fun! Enjoy it and focus on the joy.
Make time for what you love. In art, sometimes we have to let go of what we like on the canvas to move forward and to make space for what we love. The same applies to life. Simplify and weed out what you don't love to make more room in your life for your passions. Hold onto and reclaim parts of yourself that you love but might have let go of or not tended to over the years.
Celebrate the wildness within in you until you come alive in a way that feels like fierce living.
In summary, be persistent, live an artistic lifestyle, don’t give up!
Carrie Schmitt’s first childhood memory is standing behind her mother’s leg while apologizing to her neighbor for picking all the flowers from her garden. Today, she has found a more honest way to enjoy flowers—she paints them as part of her mission to create beauty every day.
Carrie began painting in 2009 after developing a life-threatening allergy to heat. No longer able to spend time in her beloved garden, she began painting flowers instead of planting them. In 2010, she moved to the Seattle area to enjoy its temperate climate and now paints daily in her mountain studio.
Today, Carrie’s artwork is licensed with several companies for stationery and home decor, including Hallmark, teNeues, Dianoche Designs, and Woodmansterne. Her art technique book, Painted Blossoms: Creating Expressive Flower Art with Mixed Media, shares her passion for painting and living an artistic life. She also sells art videos, offers an online yoga inspired art e-course and teaches workshops around the country.
For more information, visit Carrie’s website at www.carrieschmittdesign.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.