Caitlyn creates elegant abstract pieces overflowing with beautiful light and texture.
Let's talk to her a little bit.
What’s your background? How did you get started painting?
I started painting before I went to kindergarten, and I was very passionate about my paints. I was not a typical toddler. I didn't just smear my hands on the paper; I was very focused and wanted to create beautiful work even though I was so little.
I didn't get serious about my art until high school. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room with my high school art teacher. She saw my passion and potential and took the time to guide me on an individual level. That was where I honed in on my portrait skills. She was so generous to give up her free time just for me.
After high school I went into a fine arts program in college for a year and a half. It exposed me to so many different mediums and techniques. I learned tons about color, but I didn’t touch portraiture at all.
Then I stepped away from art and quit art school halfway through the second year. I quit cold turkey. I was done
I think about this a lot. I think it had to do with putting a lot of pressure on my creative practice. I didn't have any other aspirations except to become an artist. Suddenly I felt like I had to force it to become my main source of income. It had become my entire identity.
When I got to art school, I saw how much pressure it would take to make my art practice into a full time income, and I panicked. I didn’t think I could be successful, and the fear took over. At that time there was no Instagram, I didn't have access to resources to learn how to run my own business, and I didn’t see any artists outside my own community.
“I didn't think I could be successful, and the fear took over.”
I saw two paths: gallery artist or minimum wage job with art on the side, and I didn’t like either of those paths. So I went back to school to be a nurse. I don’t regret it at all. I love taking care of people, and I think it was the right decision for me.
How did you start painting again?
After college, I got married and felt like I lost myself. I moved away from friends and family to be with him, and slowly lost my own life and became a part of his family and identity. I didn’t feel like myself anymore.
We divorced, and in that time period I became severely depressed. That’s when painting crept back into my life. I hadn't painted for six years, and I didn’t think I’d ever paint again. I was at rock bottom. That was when I learned watercolor and explored abstracts as a form of therapy. I started painting again, because it was the only thing that made me feel like myself. Then I fell in love with abstract and mixed media. I took the Laura Horn art classes online and got obsessed.
That’s when I decided art needs to stay a big part of my life forever. I took the leap, and the next year I officially registered my business!
Why do you paint now?
I had this epiphany: this is who I am and this is what I was put on this earth to do. It feels good to honor my true self. I’m still figuring out who I am, but what I know for sure is I am an artist.
Through my twenties I’ve struggled with my identity and belonging. Feeling like something’s missing caused me to travel a lot, but nothing satisfied my soul. Every time I came home, I was back at square one. I couldn’t figured it out. Since I started Caitlyn Mary Art, that void is gone. I feel like I finally figured out what makes me whole, and the beauty of it is I don’t have to cross oceans. I can walk in my art studio and feel complete.
The best part is my creative expression turns into something real and tangible that I can share with other people. Often people will share their feelings and memories with me, and it's a huge part of why I paint.
As an artist I feel like I can help people connect to things deeper in themselves, connect to a higher meaning beyond ourselves here on this earth as humans. It can reach things beyond our imagination. Any person can experience that when they look at a piece of art that speaks to them, and there’s nothing more rewarding or satisfying.
Endorphins and positive chemicals are released when we experience something new – new relationships, experiences, even a new coffee shop. When I step up to a fresh blank canvas, it’s refreshing and new. I can walk up to my easel and fall in love with life again and again. Painting is an adventure in itself. There are days I struggle with it and days where it comes easy and naturally flows, but no matter what I find satisfaction in the adventure of exploring art.
“I can walk up to my easel and fall in love with life again and again.”
How have your subjects changed over the years?
I grew up as a dancer and loved taking creative video and photos of my dancer friends. I voluntold them to model for me, I would take photos of them, and then turn them into paintings. I painted a lot of dancers and people would commission me to paint their portraits or their pets.
When I came back to art later on in life, I started exploring abstracts, because I needed to. I love portraits because there’s a plan. When I'm copying a photograph, it's more mindless for me. I can follow the plan, I'll know when it’s done, and I know what it’s going to look like. But I fell in love with abstracts. I never know what the final piece will look like, and it's so therapeutic because you go on this crazy journey with it and it has so many stages and you just have to have faith that it will end up in the right place.
I loved exploring abstracts when I was at rock bottom, but the good abstract art didn’t start flowing for me until I combined having a plan with the freedom to explore. That’s when I dug out my travel memories and was like: Okay. I’m gonna make abstract paintings but based off these photos. I used the colors, composition, lighting, and values as my basic map, and once I had that I could go to town and explore within my map. That’s where the abstract landscapes were born.
That’s how the Wild Places Collection was born. It was my first major mixed media collection. Played with flowers – I created another collection called Warmth of Winter and it's based off of winter scenery, but it's more abstract than wild places. Moving forward I think I’ve found my niche of semi-abstract nature-inspired paintings.
What’s coming up that you’re excited about?
Isla and I are creating a podcast! I am so passionate about connecting with people and helping people and I love chatting. The fact that I get to do that and connect with you and in turn help other artists out there is super exciting to me.
Then I have a semi-abstract wildflower collection called Growing Freely in the works. It's based off of wildflower photography I did last fall in a cottage with my family. I had severe burnout and I went and spent 5 or 6 hours in one little patch of wildflowers and photographed and filmed them all day. It was so therapeutic and exactly what I needed.
My print collection is coming on March 29th! I spent the last two years learning how to photograph and create accurate, beautiful giclee prints, and they are amazing. I'm very excited for that. I’ve been wanting to do prints for so long. When I look at them, I can’t believe I did that.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I want to share my favorite poem. I've always lived my life by it, and once I found it I was like – that’s me.
“She was afraid of heights but she was much more afraid of never flying.”