“I think that getting to know the artist behind his creations is very interesting and enriches the work, makes it more personal.”
In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.
My name is Norma Andreu, but I’m known as Cara Carmina, which is the name of my design brand. I’m a visual artist, illustrator, designer, entrepreneur, and a happy Mexican girl living in Montreal. I like to create, share my inspirations and my path and work hard to make my dreams come true. My practice is mostly illustration but I do photography, editing, modeling my own clothes, marketing and communications and so much more!
How does where you live affect your work?
My home is my studio so where I live affects my work very much. I need to have a clean and organized place because I spend there so much time. I can’t work in a mess. I need visual stimulation, pretty things and images, lots of books, and my favorite - colors! I love open spaces and a lot of natural light. And if I can have cats around, then it's just perfect.
Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?
Yes, I've been very proudly supporting myself from my practice for the last 3 years.
If you were to share one piece of advice with those who aspire to do what you do, what would it be?
Becoming a professional artist is not easy and it requires a lot of hard work and time - to find your style, create your body of work, sell your work, build your brand and find your audience who’s willing to support you and your work. The last one is probably the most important thing you need to grow and to keep your practice going when the times are tough, which can happen often at the beginning.
When did you start your practice?
I started my brand as Cara Carmina in 2008 but I've been drawing and painting since I can remember, from a very young age.
How do you start your process?
I don't really have any rules for my process. It is very improvised and it always starts in my head first. When I make dolls, I visualize the colors, patterns, shapes. Then I pick the materials, gather a bunch of fabrics, paper flowers, threads, photos. I make a mood board and then I start creating. It’s the same with illustrations - sometimes I think about the idea for a drawing or diorama for days or even months. But when I start creating, it gets frantic, I just can't stop.
Don't forget to breathe and have fun! Sometimes I forget both...oh, and eating is pretty important as well.
What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?
Money is the biggest challenge at the moment. I need it to invest in my business so I can thrive as an artist. I've grown a lot in the last 2 years but I'm a one woman show, I do everything on my own: from creating, through accounting, to shipping. And I'm running out of hands and hours of the day to do everything I want to do. So money and time are high priorities right now.
What (or who) inspires you?
So many people, artists, books, paintings and stories; nature, other cultures, cities, toys, crafts, fashion, cinema, opera, languages and sounds, architecture, vintage photographs. Of course everyone who knows my work knows that Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists and she inspires me as a woman. I constantly look for inspiration and cherish it. I think it is our duty as artists to keep getting inspired and to be curious. And it’s important to stay relevant too.
What is the most useful tip or advice you’ve ever been given?
Don't forget to breath and have fun! Sometimes I forget both. Oh, and eating is pretty important as well. Fun and being healthy and balanced are in my priorities now. I do Kundalini yoga in the mornings, take naps, go out to dance and the movies as much as I can. For a while I was working non stop and it just wasn’t good for me. Work hard, play harder - that's what best describes my approach.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I once watched this video of an opera singer performing outside Trafalgar Square in London, all dressed up in a lovely 40's dress and singing for money... I thought to myself how I would've loved to be in her shoes. So yeah - opera singer ;) or maybe a writer or a publisher of children books! That would be so cool!
What makes your work unique?
I have different series of works: my Fridas, dioramas and dolls - each of them is full of me and my love for different things.
I have two very distinct styles when it comes to illustration. One of them has what my friend called once "the bicycle eyes”. It all came to me when I was making a doll. I was playing with the black thread looking for shapes and came up with certain features I liked. I repeated it, perfected it and then I took it to the paper. That's how Frida appeared. I used similar features but added the unibrow. I loved how it came out. This year I started collaging these faces with vintage photos and turning them into my street art paste ups. I love to experiment with them. They are very unique, very Cara Carmina.
For my dioramas I use completely different characters - they are very simple, black and white, with only two dots as eyes. One day after drawing a few of them, I cut them out and started making small 3D scenes. That's how I got into creating my paper dioramas. Later I used these images for my very first book and my stationery line.
How would your audience describe you?
That's such a hard question. For the many comments and messages I’ve received over the years, I think I've felt most touched by people describing me as honest and inspiring. Every time someone tells me they find me inspiring I feel like crying of happiness and I feel very humbled and grateful. I'm happy that people see me as an honest person and artist, because I really try to be. Through my work and my social media I share what I love, what makes me happy or sad, my path, my struggles, my successes and my failures, because I feel we all could inspire each other with our stories.
Are you comfortable sharing all aspects of your process? if not, why?
I am very comfortable with sharing and if you see my social media you’ll understand what I'm talking about. I even have a hashtag I like to use a lot #sharingiscaring. I like to share my process as well as my personal path. I think that getting to know the artist behind his creations is very interesting and enriches the work, makes it more personal. Still I do like to keep certain parts to myself, because of the privacy, protection of copyrights and for my own sanity. But I'm always happy to help and to answer any questions. I believe in transparency.
How has your practice changed over time?
It has changed so much. Everything started when I decided to try selling my artwork through Etsy. Little did I know that 7 years later I would make enough money to pay for my rent and feed myself and my cats. Now all my work sells all over the world through Etsy, my line of greeting cards sells all over Canada, I’ve pasted my street art in Rome and Montreal, I have a fashion and decorative line, I have one children book published and the second on the way and I've been given inspirational conferences and workshops in Canada, Mexico, Austria and Rome. Can you imagine how that feels? I'm very grateful and I feel very fortunate. So many people have helped me and have believed in me. I also feel proud because this is something I made happen, it's my dream and I created it.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I'm finishing illustrating my second children book which is a dream come true. It’s a book about Frida Kahlo with the beautiful text of Sophie Faucher, published by Edito / Gallimard in Montreal. I'm also illustrating the EP album of my friend Marc Andre Labonte and his musical project Prince Mychkine to make a calendar inspired by twelve songs in his last album. I'm also about to start making a new line of diorama greeting cards and of course I'm thinking of christmas, so...as I always say, I'm a busy señorita !