Carla McRae — Simple, emotive illustrations from the Melbourne-based creative
The art of minimalism is to strip down your story to its essentials, and translate these onto your canvas. Every line and dot has to be there for a reason. It’s very hard to do well, and, paradoxically, when done perfectly, the result often looks straightforward, simple even.
Melbourne-based Carla McRae masters an excellent minimalist style. With basic, almost childlike, line work she turns everyday sceneries into lovely compositions. There’s girls with hazy looks and mysterious smiles, daydreaming while doing the dishes. There’s a greenhouse stuffed to the rafter with plants, but instead of feeling messy or chaotic, the illustration looks perfectly in harmony.
“I’ve been working away at paring back, filtering down. The best challenge for me is to make an image that is simple but emotive,” Carla says. The artist’s work carries out a generous warmth, which is admirable, as minimalism’s bold lines and clean design easily becomes formal or cold. The sceneries and the cheerful color palette help, and the combination of geometric and organic shapes also add up to the atmosphere. The triangle-roof house and the perfect-round sun juxtaposed with the free-form shrubbery, create a peaceful balance. "I like to make work that is a bit ambiguous in narrative, that can be translated or accessed by anyone. Drawing about small, positive moments that I enjoy makes me happy, and I think it makes other people happy too,” she says.
“I love how aesthetically the country flops between super refined and sophisticated, to child-like and playful. Where else in the world do you have hot pink garbage trucks?!”
When Carla runs out of ideas, she turns to Japanese design. “I love how aesthetically the country flops between super refined and sophisticated, to child-like and playful. Where else in the world do you have hot pink garbage trucks?! Also, Japan has incredible book stores. It’s where I must exercise the most self-control.” When growing up, Carla was much into female cartoon characters. With their personalities and powers, they functioned like role models, and so her illustrations often feature young women. “They really helped me feel validated or understood," she says. "I’ve always drawn characters and, although they aren’t always ‘me,’ they are inevitably a little autobiographical.