Carla

McRae

My name is Carla McRae.

I make bright and cheerful illustrations and am not afraid of a strong colour palette. My work is all about satisfying combinations of colour and form, exploring the beauty that exists in the everyday, and positivity—always.

Flutterscopes, Aquarius

I am an illustrator because I just can't stop drawing (and hope I never will). What most interests me about drawing is that there really is no regression. As long as you keep practicing, moving forward and challenging yourself there is always growth and newness. It brings me so much joy.

The key to keeping work exciting is making time for play and experimentation. It’s really important to dedicate time to personal work because it is the driving force behind my commercial work. Taking time to play, explore ideas, and try new mediums is really important for my growth as a commercial artist.

Lately in my personal work I’ve been exploring texture and making sculpture and 3D forms. I’ve always wanted to work with a toy manufacturer. I think something like this would be super fun for kids (and adults)!

The best thing about working on commercial projects is working with people of different skills sets. I get so much out of the collaboration and feedback process; it really helps me to grow as an illustrator.

I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, where I studied graphic design and communication (and steadily incorporated drawing into all of my assignments until I graduated with what was basically an illustration portfolio). Studying taught me so many skills that helped me find the path to my illustration career. I now live in Melbourne, where I have found a beautiful like-minded community and loads of fun and challenging opportunities to make work.

Here’s a recent series of colourful banners I created for Big Top Market Fresh on the Sunshine Coast. I loved visiting Big Top as a kid in the 90s, and having the opportunity to create this work for the new and improved centre gave me the warm and fuzzies.

Not long ago I painted a mural at The Glen Shopping Centre. It makes me so happy to make work that can completely transform an environment, even a big old dark carpark. It also only took me one day to paint the whole thing—I can be pretty fast, but I think I broke my own records that day!

One of my favourite projects recently was the animation I worked on with Flutter Films for Park Social Soccer Club. The Pass-A-Ball project is an amazing initiative and was a good challenge to illustrate. I love being able to use my work to support and stand behind socially conscious companies that are making positive change in the world.

I’m a strong believer that we are capable of and on the cusp of massive social change. This country has many deep-seated issues with the way we treat Indigenous Australians, women and minority groups, LGBTQI+ folk, refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention and, of course, our environment. It’s important to me that I try to find ways to support, represent and amplify these issues through my work, and further this through direct action. We must keep fighting for what is right—volunteering, protesting and donating when possible to make change.

Volunteering and donating my skills is something I try to regularly make time for. Every few months I try to contribute to a pro-bono project or donate work to auctions for charity. Here is a recent piece I just finished up for the Women & Girls' Emergency Centre in Sydney, to help tell the story of how the shelter supports women in need.

I was lucky enough to create work for Free to Feed, a not-for-profit social enterprise championing the skills and stories of refugees. It felt good to use my skills to share an important story whilst supporting such an empowering organisation.

I really loved working on these editorial illustrations for Dumbo Feather. I'll always remember reading Dumbo Feather for years and hoping one day to be able to work with them—look at me now, mum!

Here’s another piece I’m really proud of. It was created for Sonos to launch the Sonos One in Melbourne.

One of the most rewarding jobs I've ever done was working with the children and early childhood teachers in the kindergarten program at the Royal Children's Hospital, to create the book Shapes Have Feelings Too. I was able to visit each week over a period of two months, engaging the kids in workshops that explored how we see and imagine shapes. Our play-based exercises all culminated in this book: a collection of the collages we made and discussions that were had while navigating the world of shapes! The book is now used as a free learning resource for families and patients at the RCH.

One of my all-time favourite projects was the set of murals I created for Remedy Kombucha's brewing and bottling warehouse. I had to get my Elevated Work Platform licence to operate a scissor lift, and spent a week and a half painting alongside the builders who were still constructing the site. It was a great challenge and they are my largest paintings to date—I am still very proud of the final works! I've been back recently to paint their new office spaces too!

People are often surprised to learn that a lot of my commercial work is created digitally with textured brushes. I enjoy that ambiguity.

Most of my work starts with lists and rough sketches, either digital or on paper. Next is a process of re-drawing and refining drafts until I’m happy with the forms and composition.

Then I move onto final artwork which will be created digitally or by hand using analogue mediums, depending on what is required for the project. All of my work usually involves a blend of analogue and digital processes.

I’m really excited to experiment more with the brushes in Procreate because they allow you to play in a way that feels endless. I also like to make digital sketches for ideas for artwork, so experimenting with digital mediums ends up leading me to new ways to use analogue mediums too. Here are some pages from my sketchbook. I love to save my unused rough sketches and explorations—they often form the basis for new future work.

My studio is currently in Collingwood, Melbourne, which I love because I can be right in the thick of it, with good mates and good times waiting for me right outside my door. My desk is always strewn with pencils and stacks or scraps of paper.

I would love to spend more time working in other cities in different parts of the world. Travel and visiting new places always pushes my practice in different directions. For example—my secret skill is next level purikura. On our trips to Tokyo, my boyfriend and I try to do purikura at least once per day. We have a couple of sippers whilst brainstorming ideas, gather our 100¥ coins, and get down to work at the arcades. We’ll stop at nothing to get The Shot—climbing on each other’s backs, legs everywhere or sneaking Family Mart soft serves in for props. Stakes are high with no re-takes and the (very short) imposed time limit for edits, not to mention the clunky software which we push to the limits. It’s one of my favourite things ever!

I think of myself as a professional observer who was put on this planet to look, listen, and then make things that bring myself and others happiness and pleasure. I spend a lot of time walking, because it's an amazing way to process thoughts, come up with new ideas and simply observe.

Here’s some clothing collaborations I’m really proud of:

ART FOOD FOOTWEAR FESTIVAL - Bared Footwear x Carla McRae

If you want to find out even more about me, here are some recent articles about my practice:

Orenda Magazine, We Present, It’s Nice That, Lost At E Minor, and Joana Partyka's blog.

That’s me! If you want more, check out my full folio and Instagram. Got a brief? Contact me and the good folks at Jacky Winter.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.