Carly Chaikin is an actress, writer and artist, most notable for her roles as ‘Darlene’ on USA’s critically acclaimed “Mr. Robot” and as ‘Dalia Royce’ on ABC’s hit show “Suburgatory”. For her work on “Suburgatory”, Chaikin was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Teen Choice Award.
Carly had her debut solo show “Noun” in 2018 which was featured in the New York Times amongst many other outlets. Her work has also been featured by Marie Claire, Women’s Wear Daily, Nylon magazine and on both the “Rachael Ray” show and Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show, “Harry”.
For her debut release Carly joins us with a look at a self portrait, Say Maybe, which is available in two extremely limited sizes. Read on as Carly Chaikin talks about her debut release, influences and advice for any aspiring artist to keep in mind...
Moonlight: Tell us a little bit about this piece, was it part of an exhibition or series that you had?
Carly Chaikin: This piece is called Say Maybe and it was originally oil on canvas. I started it in 2017 when I was in New York. I used to live in New York part time when I was shooting Mr. Robot, and I had a tiny little nook in my apartment that I painted in. So I started it there and shipped it back out to Los Angeles and finished it as part of my art show that I had a few years ago called Noun.
The whole concept was that every painting is inherently a noun because it's a thing, but if I changed the form of speech that it was, would it change the way that you viewed it? So for example, this painting specifically I labeled a verb, (and a verb for those of us who forget) is a word expressing an action or a state of being, it describes what a person or thing does, or what happens. So I also give example words for each piece, and the example words that I gave for this piece, specifically, were stop, live and should.
For the title “Say Maybe” I left it pretty ambiguous so people can have their own interpretation of what it means, or what the intention is. But for me, I labeled it a verb, which interestingly enough, allows the painting to feel more alive and more of an action than it is just a stagnant piece. So that was the concept for my show, and this one of my favorites.
ML: Did you encounter any issues while creating this piece?
Chaikin: It is my mouth, so I think when you're doing something, especially something that's literally so close to you, it's very important for it to be accurate. So I didn't have that much freedom to kind of make it however I wanted, because I wanted it to specifically be me.
ML: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
Chaikin: As of right now, this is the only piece I've ever done that is of myself in any way. I had this idea for this image of lips really close up, and instead of having someone else do it or finding a random image to go off of, I thought it would be the most special to do it myself and to do it with my mouth. So this is what I have.
ML: How long have you been making art? What is your current favorite medium?
Chaikin: I have been doing art and painting my whole life, my mom had put me into art classes starting as a little kid and the first time I ever oil painted, my art teacher, when I was in middle school, put me in the high school painting class. I actually have the first painting I ever did right here. This is after Salvador Dali’s Rose, who has always been one of my favorite artists. So this was my first oil painting experience.
I've always done oil, I think oil is so much easier than acrylic. And it's just my favorite medium because it is so rich and yummy and easy. So much easier to control and work with. And I just think the colors are more vibrant, and velvety and juicy. And I just love it so much.
ML: What was your childhood home like when it came to creating art?
Chaikin: In my house growing up, when I was a teenager, I decided to, without permission, turn the third floor of my dad's house into an art studio. I completely trashed the walls, the rug and everything and him being supportive of what I did, decided to actually make it into a studio for me so he tore up the floor and put vinyl flooring and he actually made the walls into a chalkboard wall and gave me that space to create. My mom always had a space too, where I was able to do art. It's always been the biggest part of my life. I've been painting longer than I've been acting.
My mom is who really got me into arts starting from a very young age. She always put me in art class, whether it was drawing, painting, any form of art. I grew up going to the Brentwood Art Center in Los Angeles, and my first painting I did at school. After that I did their workshop, painting class where everybody works on their own thing, and the teacher goes around and helps you. That is my only kind of formal training. Most of it has just been trial and error. Throughout the years, a lot of YouTube videos, a lot of messing up and seeing how I can fix it. I think one of the coolest things for me is to be able to see my progress. I have a couple paintings that I started or did when I was, you know, 18/19 even 23, that I picked back up recently and redid and the difference between the two is pretty astonishing.
On my art Instagram, which is @CarlyChaikenArt, I post a lot of progress pictures throughout the process of each painting. So there's a few of those that I've been talking about that are on there that I show from when they looked absolutely horrible, and then just changed into something completely different. It's really cool to have kind of documented images of my progress throughout my painting life. But I would say the biggest way that I learned was really through trial and error and a lot of frustration, and a lot of YouTube.
Moonlight: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Chaikin: My favorite artists are Picasso and Dali. I think their work is just absolutely spectacular and one of a kind, and the talent that both of them have is just astonishing. I'm also a very big fan of Keith Haring, I recently went to his exhibit at the Broad, and was just blown away. But Picasso is my absolute favorite. I just think his stuff is so beyond, beyond, beyond anything.
Moonlight: Any artists that influenced you early on or influence you currently?
Chaikin: I don't feel like I'm actually influenced as much by other artists, I think I kind of have my own style that really actually varies greatly. Everything from abstract to portraits, to landscapes to stuff like this. I kind of do it all and like to explore different things, just depending on what I'm in the mood for.
Recently, in the past 10 months, my work has gotten a lot more abstract, I think. For me, it's the best way to express emotion, and really having that outlet to kind of take what I'm feeling and go, what does this look like on canvas? Being able to have that for myself is one of the greatest gifts in life.
Moonlight: How does your “moonlighting” fit into your main occupation and vice versa?
Chaikin: I am an actress so I'm lucky enough to have my main occupation fall into the same category as painting and the arts, which is something that I love to do. I have been lucky enough to incorporate my art with my acting. For Mr. Robot, the show I was on, I was able to do a painting of our F society mask that they printed on backpacks, shirts, socks, notebooks, etc. That was a really exciting release that we did and an amazing way to blend my two passions.
Everybody asks which one (would I choose) if I had to pick, and I could not live without one. Every place that I live now it is a requirement for me to have a place to paint. We are currently in my studio right now in Los Angeles, California. When I would live in New York shooting Mr. Robot, there obviously is not as much space there. So at one point, I just had a tiny little nook that was pretty much the size of me, and that's actually where I started this painting, in my little nook in New York, and eventually shipped it back out to LA and finished it here.
Moonlight: Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, what?
Chaikin: I cannot paint without listening to music. What I listened to kind of depends on what mood I'm in.
It's either the Beatles, Taylor Swift, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan (who I'm the biggest fan of you can see my Bob Dylan painting in the corner) Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Tom Petty, and then some Drake and Lil Wayne. I have a very big, wide variety of what I like, which is very similar to the variety of things that I paint, but I don't think I'd be capable of painting in silence.
ML: If you had any advice for other artists what would it be?
Chaikin: I teach art to adults, through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and one of the biggest things that I teach, or that I could hope to give to any other artist, is really the ability to paint without fear. Most people go into a project being scared to mess up, not wanting to do it wrong, or make it look bad. I sometimes have a tendency to do the same thing too. I have noticed and learned that that is when you do make something that is not as good. When you're able to go in with the freedom and confidence to just say whatever this turns into is fine. I always tell my students if you don't like it, paint over it in white and start over. I think the best thing that you can do as an artist is to let go of any expectations, let go of the end result, and really get into the flow state. Turn the left side of your brain off and go with it. I think that is what creates the best art.
I think art has really given me the ability to see in a different way, especially color. Color is something that I've always been beyond fascinated with, color mixing and just being able to see how color affects itself based on what it's next to. I feel like I will be trying to figure it out for the rest of my life. But to me, that is probably one of the most fascinating things with painting.
I also think just the ability to take an image that you have in your head or something that you see and put it onto canvas in your own style or form and have it hopefully say something or have some sort of effect on the viewer.
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