Carla McRae is a Melbourne-based artist who left the Sunshine Coast for the more artsy, city culture down south.
The 25-year-old’s distinctive illustrations have created narratives through geometric shapes, characters and a simplistic, clean-cut style which derives from a background in design.
With a website named The Paper Beast, it’s fair to say that Carla is indeed something of a beast when it comes to illustrations. Her work has been picked up by Urban Outfitters, NY Mag and Apple.
Carla is taking the artistic world by storm, but between creating wall murals, freelancing and being the designer of sock company, Odd Pears, the Melbourne-based artist somehow had time to fit us into her day.
Your work has blown up recently – can you give us a bit of a debrief of your career? Any big breaks or turning points which you think got you to where you are now?
“Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, I never imagined I could have a career in illustration. But I would draw all the time as I really enjoyed it, and I could create my own little worlds that I could dive into and lose myself in.
“After studying graphic design, I decided to move to Melbourne as the bigger city provided more opportunities, and there were loads of people there that I admired. So I took the leap.”
“In the background of my freelance work, I took a part-time role as a Creative Director of Odd Pears and learnt some invaluable lessons that have informed my practice now. And ever since wrapping up there and having my freelance work become my full-time gig, I’ve slowly expanded my practice.
“The project to date that I’m most proud of is painting the giant walls of the new Remedy Kombucha factory. I had to go way out of my comfort zone and get my lift operating ticket and be within a space that’s still heavily under construction.
“I don’t think I’ve ever painted that fast in my life because I was so impatient to see how these giant walls would look. But I was proud of the final results.”
You mentioned you headed to Melbourne because of your influences. Who are some of the creative inspirations that have helped shape your own artistic aesthetic over the years?
“I can remember the first time I discovered Björk as a teenager. She completely changed my idea of what an artist or musician could be.
“I would sit for hours trying to replicate the typefaces on her album covers!
“Since then, visually, I’ve been inspired by a slew of artists: Dick Bruna, Tove Jansson, Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Seiichi Hayashi, Bruno Munari … I could go on.
“I also find heaps of inspiration in lots of wacky 80’s architecture and interior design and vintage kids paraphernalia.”
What influence/impact does music play in your creative process? Do you typically listen to music through the course of a day?
“Music plays a HUGE role in my day – it sets the tone for the practice I’m delving into.
“The start of a project requires a lot of conceptual thinking and playing around with ideas, so I’ll put on quieter, more ambient music.”
“Once the hard yards are done with the ideas and I need to dive into drawing up the final piece, I’ll need to be in a more energetic mode to power through it.
“I’ll put on something more upbeat like pop, RnB or some weird disco or synth stuff that I’ve dug up online.”
Sonos mural images by Carla McRae. Photos by Shannyn Higgins.