Meet the Artist: Carissa Weber

by Katy Beloof

To celebrate the creative aspect of developing software, Smartsheet commissions artwork for each of our product releases. We took some time today to catch up with Carissa Weber, one of the artists who creates exclusive paintings for many of our releases. Here are some of her thoughts on creating art for Smartsheet, managing the creative process, and where she gets her inspiration.

What’s your process for creating a release painting for Smartsheet?

First, the Smartsheet engineering team gives me the title of the release. Once I have the release title name, it’s time to do some research. For example, with the Neuron release, I googled “neuron” and studied scientific diagrams and other images of neurons. Once I run the search, I consume as many images as I can. Sometimes this is to familiarize myself with what is out there in terms of the concept, other times it’s to get a lot of images in my head to work from.

Artwork from Neuron Release, Weber, C. (2017)

Once I’ve done my research, I think about what would be the most striking image to represent that idea. I have a loose plan of what I want to create and then firm it up on the canvass as I’m painting. Sometimes I’ll sketch out what I want to paint if I think it will be more complicated, but usually I’m more spontaneous and experiment with each one.

The challenge is how to make a painting based on a word I’ve been handed cool, appealing, and fun. I love colors - and I like to go a little crazy, but not too crazy, if you know what I mean.

What would “too crazy” look like?

Well, for the release paintings in particular, I want them to be recognizable as a name, so people know what it is when they’re looking at it. They can tell that “Sequoia” is a bunch of trees or that “Neuron” is a neuron. But I also recognize that this isn’t about a photographic representation. There’s a lot of room for artistic interpretation.

Essentially, I put a lot of thought into what I’m going to create, then I just jump in and have fun with it!

Where you get your inspiration?

I don’t worry too much about inspiration. As long as I’m creating, some good things will pop out of it. As for where those good things come from, I don’t feel like they come from anywhere in particular. But an important part of my process is to turn inward and clear away the outside world. I know that the ideas will come - I just have to make room.

When I have images and ideas swirling around in my head, I write them down. I think it’s important to acknowledge and explore my ideas as the come. It takes effort to cultivate ideas, and if I don’t take that time to indulge my thoughts and ideas, they may not come as readily.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why?

Oh… probably my iPhone. Which is boring. I’m sure that’s what everybody says. But what I love about my iPhone is that it gives me instant access to information. I can look something up right away if I need to know something or if I want to explore something. It gives me access to people and information. In a way, the real world is in the phone. It’s amazing how disorienting it is when you don’t have it. 

What advice would you give to people looking to better manage their work?

For me, spontaneity and not being organized can be a strength when creating. Sometimes giving yourself permission to be all over the place with different ideas, and even structure time - a day, a half-day, and hour - to give yourself space to think and room to create.

Let go of the plan you have for your day every once in a while and don’t let expectations limit you. You never know - maybe you’ll have a strike of inspiration that’s better than what you initially had planned. Lots of different things are possible, but we can’t always see the possibilities. So give those possibilities space to show up and present themselves.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with people about your art?

It makes me really happy to share my art with people. I hope that seeing my artwork inspires people to listen to their own creative ideas and see themselves as creative beings and share themselves with the world in whatever way they can. 

I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t create because they don’t think they’re good enough. I just want to remind them that if I had done that, I wouldn’t be doing this.

Want to meet Carissa in person and get your very own limited edition print of Smartsheet release paintings? We’ll have a booth at the Bellevue Arts Fair Friday through Sunday this weekend, and Carissa will be giving out limited edition prints of the Smartsheet release paintings to the community.