Artist Interview: Carolyn O’Neill

Artist Carolyn O'Neill

Artist Carolyn O’Neill

Today’s interview is with Carolyn O’Neill, a painter and mixed media artist currently living in Whyalla, South Australia.  Her main medium is oil on canvas on which she creates paintings that inspire rest, contemplation and  interpretation. 

With each work Carolyn paints, she forms a link between how  each object connects to another. The timeless designs of the mid century modernist aesthetic subconsciously guide her work; not the latest trends.

What type of work do you normally do?

I paint in oils on canvas in an abstract expressionist style and also work in mixed media on paper and sometimes collage.

How do you work? The process, the tools, the ideas, etc.

My process is intuitive, it evolves layer by layer, mark by mark, drip by drip and the color palette is mixed on the go. I use oil paint mixed with either fat or lean medium with large hardware pain brushes. The ideas are subconscious and somehow find their way into my work. It is kind of like post analysis.

What got you into do this?

It was after seeing a mural at my son’s kindergarten that was painted by some of the parents that inspired me to enquire about local art classes and I have been painting ever since.

When did you start making your art?

In 2003 after seeing the mural.

Why do you make what you do?

Because I feel driven to create. It is like a fire in my belly; a yearning for self expression and freedom.

Do you care to tell me about your most recent project, or what you’re currently working on?

I am preparing to exhibit at The Other Art Fair Melbourne in August and have also beed entering art prizes. Lately due to space restrictions in my current studio/garage space I have been reworking unsold paintings which are a bit to bright and bold for my liking. It has been like a metamorphisis where I feel a strong urge to tone the down and provide only snippets of colour. They feel more mature with a focus on tonality rather than a reliance on strong colours.

Carolyn O'Neill's "Bridging the Gap"

Carolyn O’Neill’s “Bridging the Gap”

What is your proudest accomplishment or most signature piece?

My proudest accomplishment was being selected to exhibit in The South West Survey at Bunbury Regional Gallery in 2010 whist studying visual art.

Who are your biggest influences?

The early abstract expressionist painters such as De Kooning, Motherwell, Frankenthaller and Kline (to name a few) that paved the way in non representational art. Also modernism and the mid century modernist aesthetic. My home is filled with midcentury modern homewares.

Do you have a favorite artwork?

No, I can’t say I do. They all seem to be favourites once they are finally completed.

What art do you most identify with?

Abstract expressionism for it’s emotional impact and my respect for the pioneers of this genre.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Lean medium for dripping.

Carolyn O'Neill's "Resonate"

Carolyn O’Neill’s “Resonate”

Why art?

We are created to create. Art is everywhere, especially in nature.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be precious and witholding with your work because it will become contrived and lack authenticity. Allow the mistakes, they are part of the process.

Finally, what’s an important lesson you have learned while making your art that you’d like to pass along to others?

Focus on developing your own unique style and build on that. Develop a consistent body of work. Try other mediums. Don’t be tempted to copy other artist’s work or compare your self with others. Believe in yourself and try not to take criticism to heart.

To learn more about Carolyn, or see more of her work, you can visit her site by going to

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