Sunny Carvalho

Sunny Carvalho: An Interview with Sunny Carvalho


There is just something about Sunny Carvalho's artwork that resonates with me. Vibrant, moving, full of life, with just the right touch of darkness and morbid characteristics, Sunny's artwork transcends categorization. When looking at her artwork, one cannot help but think there is more than one story being told by them. Each part of Sunny's paintings seem to tell a story which contributes to an overall tale. A brilliant artist and a talented storyteller, some of Sunny's art contain magical and other-wordly characteristics to them which can be likened to story books or fairy tales. Just like her paintings, Sunny Carvalho's zest for life and refreshing enthusiasm has a magnetic way of pulling you right into her colourful and lively world. 

What inspires you?

I am inspired by SO many things! A woven placemat, a rock I found in my driveway, a child’s drawing, a pattern on the ceiling. Anything that happens to catch my attention can find its way into my art.

I always tell my students to not criticize their own work. The puzzle of artwork is made of many pieces and each time a person completes a project, it is a building block to the next step.

How and when did you first get started creating your artwork?

I have been an artist since I could hold a crayon but I became serious about it around 8 years ago. I was already a professional but in a completely different field than I am currently (porcelain). I attended Artfest (the event of Teesha and Tracy Moore that went on for many years and was the pinnacle and roots of many of the current retreats) and came home bursting with inspiration. Even though I didn’t really have my own style at that time, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community of mixed media artists. So I came home, got busy and applied to teach for the next year at Artfest. Amazingly, I was accepted and I’ve been teaching ever since.

What is the hardest part about creating your artwork?

Focus is absolutely the hardest part! I am so easily distracted by shiny objects! Sometimes I wander around for an hour just trying to decide what to do with the day. I don’t have a strict schedule so I often just walk in and see what catches my attention (which is both a blessing and a curse!). But once I get into something, I’m like a pitbull. I just can’t stop.

I love your bags! What inspired you to create them?

I think what inspired me to create my bags is just the simple fact that I have TOO many projects at all times and I’m constantly on the move so I need to carry stuff. So, rather than carry boring grocery bags, I started making all sorts of bags in varying sizes just to support my project habit.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I am always working on something new! Currently, I just finished designing some cool new large head stamps and an online class to compliment them (a collaboration with Kristen Powers of Rubbermoon Stamp Company, who is an amazing artist!).

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think one thing would be that as much as I seem to be an extrovert, I am also an introvert. I am capable of being alone for days at a time, just me, my dog and music.

Do you admire any artists?

I admire SO many artists, both people I know in person and those whom I have never met but whose work has influenced my own. I think my work has been heavily influenced by Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, Mark Ryden and Elisabetta Decontardi (just to name a few!).

Can you tell me a bit more about these creations, the process you took to make them, what inspired you to create them?

I will begin by saying that I love the idea of odd characters in odd situations! The girl with the umbrella and fish is a 4” x 4” painting created on a black Art Square using acrylic paint. I often just get started and see where things go. Sometimes I love the path to the finished piece and sometimes I struggle to find my way to the ending. But I’ve learned that ultimately, things will work out!

The little girl with monsters under the bed is an acrylic and ink painting on Gessobord. I started with the idea of the girl in her bed and the monsters happened along the way. I smiled at the thought of that little monster reaching out to pull her hair!

The third pic is of my ceramic skullies. I do a lot of hand sculpted ceramic work, from pendants to odd little dollies.

I made several “art carriers” out of old children’s book covers that I painted. The insides hold about 10 pieces of 5” x 7” watercolor paper on one side and pens or pencils on the other side. Hmmmm…I should make some of those again…!

Favourite or most inspirational place where you live?

That would easily be my studio, which is about 3 miles from my house…but right up there in inspiration is my local art supply store, Alabama Art Supply. When I walk through the door, I am greeted like family and I never leave without a giant bag of inspiration along with my supplies! The people who work there are amazing artists and always have the coolest things happening.

Best or most interesting complement you have ever received as an artist?

The best compliments I have ever gotten have come from students who have told me that both my art and my teaching have opened a new avenue of thought for them. The best COMMENT (or most humorous….and I wouldn’t call it a compliment!) I have ever gotten was when the mother of a friend of one of my children asked me what I do for a living and when I told her I am an artist, her response was, “Oh. I knew there was something off-kilter about you…”! Hahahaha! I literally cracked up right on the spot!

What does being an artist mean to you?

It means so many things! It is the freedom to direct my own path, it is the freedom to release the little people living inside my head into the world and it is the thing that makes me feel special…even if it is only to myself. That is the reason I always tell my students to not criticize their own work. The puzzle of artwork is made of many pieces and each time a person completes a project, it is a building block to the next step.

Hardest lesson you have ever had to learn as an artist?

When I was first trying to create a style of my own and had many questions about supplies and techniques, I ran into an artist who proclaimed that she had been an artist “for 30 years!” and asked to see my work. I happened to have a handful of atc-size paintings with me so I pulled them out. She glanced through them and then dismissively dropped them onto the counter with the comment, “Oh. Whimsical.” I felt that she had ripped out my heart and smacked it down right on the counter beside my work. I felt destroyed…but then I felt ANGRY! The lesson was that I would never again allow another person to affect how I felt about my own work. I began to paint for ME and what I found was that when I paint for me, it seems to have a soul that I could never find by trying to paint for other people. I feel blessed every single day that anyone likes or connects with my work. In that round about way, I do end up painting for other people!

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