Q&A with Carly Kuhn

Q&A with Carly Kuhn

Q&A with Carly Kuhn, the artist behind Brightland's Holiday DUO labels


A native New Yorker and former producer on the Chelsea Lately Show, Carly Kuhn, The Cartorialist, is a serious artist who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her work is often lighthearted and minimal, turning the subtle and ordinary into the alluring and evocative. Carly’s work encourages us to look differently at what’s around us and to take notice. It’s a style and sensibility that marries the realness of New York with the ease of California, an aesthetic that informs her life and everything she touches. Carly has collaborated with brands including Dior, Oscar De La Renta, Capitol Records, Prada, Glossier, and Elle.


Brightland: Tell us a little bit about how you entered the art world:

Carly: The way I entered the art world was completely by accident. I was working for Chelsea Handler's company for a few years but always explored creative hobbies on the side. I had been drawing for fun, and a friend suggested I start an Instagram account. After doodling made-up characters from my mind at first, I shifted my illustrations to people and places I saw on Instagram. After a few big reposts from influencers and celebrities, the power of Instagram took over, and the rest kind of - as they say - is history.


Brightland: Your art is so minimalist and powerful, we would love to hear a little about your inspiration and method:

Carly: I am inspired by the world around me. Whether it's an old advertisement from the 60's, a unique characteristic on a model's face or simply a few surfers on a beach, I will see something, and not to sound too cheesy, feel inspired and immediately need to translate that into a drawing or a painting. The minimalistic nature of my work was not intentional, but I think a response to the noise and chaos of the world around us. I like using fine lines and a lot of white space, as a way for the viewer to breath.


Brightland: What was the process like for creating AWAKE + ALIVE’s holiday labels? How did you create it?

Carly: When I am creating something not on paper or canvas, I like to look at the object as its own unique canvas. Rather than creating a design in a vacuum, I creating the design with the shape and form of the bottle in mind. To me, it's all one art piece. I wanted to create a version of my faces that felt unique and inspired by the energy that is AWAKE and ALIVE. And I used the colors of the flavors and brand to create an organic feel to the art.


Brightland: How did your move from New York to Los Angeles influence your art? Is your art heavily inspired by your location or your inner thoughts/mood?

Carly: I moved from New York to LA right after college, before I was even exploring the art world. Of course, living in Los Angeles influences my work- probably had something to do with the creation of one of my most popular pieces "Tiny Surfers" - but in general, as I am able to consume things visually from all over the world, by way of Instagram and Pinterest for example, my art really is inspired from all over the world.


Brightland: What does living in a golden state mean to you?

Carly: One of the aspects that do influence my work and state of mind, is light. I need good light in order to work, and living in California, specifically Los Angeles, there is no shortage of good light. I also love being able to be outdoors year-round. If I'm in a creative rut, being able to step outside and go on a walk is extremely important for my workflow and process.


Instagram has been such an incredible tool for your career, how do you balance your social media presence with your art? I try not to overthink and over strategize too much. I have never really planned my posts too in advance, as my work is in response to my mood or what is going on in the world - Or even on a smaller level, what's going on that week/day. I think that keeps me in the present and also keeps the people who follow me engaged. The work and process are very organic.