When we happily let Charlotte-Rose smother one of our jewellery samples in paint and throw herself at the canvas on the set of our AW’20 campaign, we realised we were witnessing something extraordinary. A model and painter, the Londoner who paints using her naked body as her brush, was very much born into creativity; raised by an artist mother with creative grandparents that bred a free-thinking, expressive space from an early age. So how does someone who was destined to be creative find her unique voice – and what does she do when the ideas just aren’t coming, no matter the skill? We sat down with her to find out…
Missoma: why do you think creativity is so important?
Charlotte-Rose: I think it fills a gap in the reality of everyday life, where you might not be able to express yourself. It’s like articulating what’s inside your mind and sharing it with other people, it’s like a release of an emotion that you might have.
M: where does your creative side come from?
CR: My mum’s a painter and her parents, my grandparents, are artists as well. I was always really encouraged to paint and make a mess. At home I have my mum’s paintings all over the walls, so I’ve always really marvelled at them. She paints acrylic on canvas as well, like me, and she does really beautiful botanical paintings. I always remember getting birthday cards as a child, which my grandparents had hand-drawn for me, really intricate designs – art is definitely something that runs in my family.
M: how did you start body painting?
CR: I’ve always painted, ever since I was a little girl it’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed but it was only really during lockdown that I really honed in on what I wanted to do. I love the fact lots of cave paintings were made by finger painting. It feels so natural and so untainted by technology – I can step away from my phone and use my body to paint on a canvas and feel so far away from all that.
M: where are you when you have an idea?
CR: I get ideas from walking the street, sitting in a cafe overhearing conversations, the way someone interacts with another person, it comes from a lot of places. I think I’m massively inspired by colour as well – it’s the way I articulate emotion. If I’m feeling sad I might use a darker colour, a blue or even a red, but a lot of my paintings recently have been quite colourful and cheerful and bright, that kind of just says what mind space I’m in right now.
M: what was painting in lockdown like for you?
CR: It was almost like a diary entry; it was a distraction. I covered myself in paint, I was almost like a child again, just completely messy; it was a massive stress reliever I think.
M: did creativity help you navigate lockdown?
CR: I definitely found creativity brought a sense of community, I felt a lot less alone because as soon as I started releasing my art a lot of people commented saying, “I can relate to this too”. I threw what was going on in my mind at the canvas, and in the middle of the painting there was this box that said ‘lonesome’ that lots of people reacted to as I think we all felt that at the time.
M: describe your creative process…
CR: It starts with a massive canvas. I buy it by the meter and don’t really cut very straight as I don’t have much patience for it, then I nail it into the wall – much to my boyfriend’s dismay. Usually I’m actually in my pants, because everything I own is covered in paint. Then I start mixing the paints to my favourite music (something high energy) and I think the colours are the most important part – that’s where it can be a really amazing painting or it can go terribly, terribly wrong! It takes a lot of time to do the background as I build layers of acrylic paint, or use fabric, or I’m using some sort of texture in there. I’ll often spray paint over the top of it to create texture as well – it’s like I’m creating a set. My boyfriend’s a photographer and I’m always around these beautiful sets that he’s managed to create with a set designer, and I think watching that process is very inspiring to me. Finally, I’ll paint my body and usually my boyfriend’s playing Call of Duty in the same room as me while I’m body printing…! It’s all very relaxed.
M: what would you say to someone looking to explore their creative side, who might not know where to start?
CR: I think picking up a pencil is the best way to begin. You’ll start sketching and maybe you’ll feel unsatisfied, so you’ll pick up a paint brush and you’ll start painting, and you like the texture you can build with paint but maybe 2D isn’t enough, so you’ll start building with clay. You might be satisfied with just that pencil or you might find what it lacks, and it might lead you to the medium that you’ll most enjoy.
M: do you ever get creative ‘blocks’? if so, how do you find your way out of them?
CR: Everyone gets creative blocks. The best way to get yourself out of that mindset is to put yourself into a challenging position; whether that be leaving the flat when you feel really anxious or travelling for a few days on your own, I think that really resets your mind and makes you way more grateful. To realise ok, I’m lucky, I’m here, let’s create something beautiful.
M: do you feel that your creativity has evolved over time?
CR: Like with anything the more that you do something, the better you become. I can see from the very beginning of my paint journey, the first paintings that I made weren’t as good as the ones I’ve done recently, and I think the ones I’ll do in a year will be far superior to the ones I’m doing now. I’m constantly growing, coming up with new ideas and techniques.