Miss E interviews Michael Camarra
Today I'm chatting with Michael Camarra, whose work I recently discovered and have totally become obsessed with! After getting a print of his for Christmas, my fandom solidified and am absolutely honoured that he now owns a print of mine too. I'm very excited to share this chat with you folks, please show him some love and support - I can attest to the quality of his prints and highly recommend getting one for your collection! One day I'd love to own an original artwork of his. Anyway, enjoy this chat and let me know what you think of this interview format.
1. What's an average day in the life of Michael look like? How do you start your day, what's your mindset like, what do you get done?
Most days start with my wife unleashing our 8 month old, Matilda, on me to wake me up. I work as a freelancer, if I've got a gig, I go off to that for the day. After that I get home, help put Matilda down, get some dinner with my wife and a quick episode of something funny to clean my palate. After all that, I get in the studio, by which I mean the room in my apartment that most resembles a dark cave that has all my art supplies books and a desk. I always have something playing in my studio in the background: either music or in the case of most weekends I'll have Star Wars or Conan the Barbarian or something that I know by heart and I don't need to pay attention to. I generally crank through the night til the early morning, clean up, and crash.
Miss E: Haha I know what you mean about not wanting to put a new tv-show or movie on because it can get so distracting! I love having The Simpsons, The Office or Daria on in the background for the same reason. Sounds like you've definitely got your hands full between family, work and art.
2. How long have you been creating professionally for, and how did you get started?
I originally studied illustration once upon a time, but art school is notoriously expensive here in the State. So I knew I'd have to get into something else to pay those bills, I felt design & art direction was at least something I could do using art degree. So I started out working as an art director and moonlighting as an illustrator for a couple years. It was great but then I got tired of having clients tell me what to do all day, then coming home and having clients tell me what to do on my side work. I took a little time off, then about 2 years ago I really decided to dedicate my creative energies into painting and doing work for myself.
Miss E: Wow yeah I really relate with not liking other people telling me what to do constantly! Perhaps that's why we are more drawn to making our own art and calling the shots ourselves. Although I do think there's a lot to be learnt from others, ultimately we have to follow our creative intuition also.
3. Are you a full-time artist? Do you have multiple streams of income to support your art?
I'm a freelance designer & art director. It's great right now because it keeps my mind going creatively, and it's really flexible. I love the downtime between gigs where I can just really focus on my art or other creative, yet often misguided, projects. My hope is I can start doing some other projects in the mix with some illustration along with selling some prints and slowly start phasing out my design and art direction work.
Miss E: Funnily enough I studied art direction at University and then worked as an Art Director for a few years myself! Funny how us creative types are directed into a more monetised industry before eventually we are brought back to art!
4. If you had to describe your artwork to someone who's never seen it before, what would you say?
Woof. Thats a tough one. Topline, I would say it's very figuratively driven with some touches of mystical symbolism and a focus on color. I think of it as a post apocalyptic Garden of Eden type where theres all these whacky rituals. I've always been drawn to the theme of connection to nature in some way, so that's another theme I try to bring into my work too with various different plants & herbs.
5. What part of the creative process makes you most uncomfortable and why? How do you overcome it?
I would say that with every painting, there's always a hiccup. But at that point you sort of have to give into it and go with the flow and just see where it all nets out. You might be surprised or you might have to start over. But every time that hiccup happens it's a fork in the road. Do I roll with it? Do I scrap it? Do I light it on fire and take up carpentry instead? That's always a hard thing to figure out, and it's always hard because sometimes I'm like "nope I don't want to see where this goes, I want it to be the way I want it to be."
Miss E: Haha yes absolutely relate, I think it's easy to look at another artists work and think that just because it looks amazing, it was an easy journey. Sometimes the best paintings are the ones that had the most challenging creation process.
6. What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn as an artist?
That it's not all about the art. The people who I think have the most success are the ones who hustle the most and try to get their name out there and diversify what they're making. And when I say putting their name out there, I don't mean like Instagram-famous, I mean really hitting the pavement and knocking on as many doors as possible.
Miss E: Isn't it funny that we all have this misconception that being an artist would only involve creating art? We really do have to be a jack-of-all-trades in terms of marketing ourselves, networking, accounting etc.
7. What advice would you offer another artist?
It's so damn cliché, but be true to who you are as an artist. Don't obsess over the technical aspect of the art because you want to paint like someone else, when instead you should look at what interests you. Find what you're interested in and marry that with what your strengths are and play to those two things. If you're obsessed with trying to paint photo-realistically you might get there, but is it something that's 100% unique to you?
Miss E: This is great advice, sometimes I look at other artists who are not 'technically' very impressive to me, but they seem to be wildly successful just doing their own thing. It's really easy to get caught up in just honing your technique and then end up with very lack-lustre art.
"Find what you're interested in and marry that with what your strengths are - play to those two things."
8. What does success mean to you?
I think success is having a market for your work, and work you're proud of. If you can 100% sustain yourself on that, that's even better.
9. How do you practise self-care and ensure that you live a happy and balanced life?
Hmmm. That's a work in progress. Having had a baby really blows up your schedule. But time with my wife and my daughter are a huge recharge time for me and I put a premium on that for the weekends. But it's all new so I've got the work and family bit figured out, but I don't even remember what my local gym looks like.
Miss E: It's amazing how our priorities change and grow over time, and we all struggle to fit certain things in! I think figuring out what sustains you and is essential rather than what the luxury/non-essentials are is super important.
10. What's your favourite colour or colour combination to paint with currently?
That's tough. I was really into purple & mint green for a bit, then neon pink & violet blue. Pink & chartreuse is also another one, but I've moved away from that.
11. What's the most challenging thing you force yourself to do regularly?
Sketching in my sketchbook. I usually just doodle, and it's not anything that's even related to my art, but it's kind of nice to change gears upstairs and not take it seriously. Inktober was good for that.
Miss E: I almost never sketch anymore! It's something I would really like to spend more time doing as I think it is good for the ol' brain cogs.
12. Who's your favourite established artist and who's an up-and-coming artist we should follow?
I love Soey Milk – just absolutely stellar. She does an amazing balance between sloppy smears of drippy paint, and delicately rendered figures, that are all working off of patterns. It's a real orchestra of just gorgeousness. I follow so many different people it's hard to pinpoint one, but Kate Wadsworth is someone who's up-and-coming that's worth taking a peek at. Her work is really playful and bright and graphic. Juan Sanabria is another artist too. I love the simplicity of it from a graphic perspective, but there's a really interesting way that he breaks up something fully rendered so that it feels more like an abstraction.
You can find Michael here:
Thanks so much for the chat Michael! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to share some insights about your art life with us all. I hope you've enjoyed this blog posts folks, I'm planning on alternatin my own article with interviews to really help get some different perspectives on being an artist to share with you all. Plus, fostering a sense of community seems to be something I'm always drawn back to, and connecting with like-minded folk seems to bring me a lot of joy! If you'd like to nominate an artist for me to interview, please let me know! Or if you'd like to continue the conversation with me please send me an email.