We had the good fortune of connecting with Charla Pettingill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charla, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’ve always been innately compelled to draw and to “make things.” As a toddler, I started drawing very early on, and would draw on any paper I could find around my parents’ and grandparents’ homes. I also had a fondness for modeling clay and Play-Doh. I would often come up with little stories and illustrate them on ruled paper stapled into “books.” When I started kindergarten, I could usually be found tempera painting during any free time. Throughout my K-12 years, drawing and painting were a constant, and I always took art classes when they were available and expressed myself through art. When I learned that art colleges existed, there just seemed to be no other alternative route for me. I received a course catalog for the Savannah College of Art and Design in the mail during the fall of my senior year of high school, and the description for the Illustration program/major captivated me. I was accepted a few months later and began my undergraduate education there in 2004.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I graduated into the Great Recession in 2008/2009, and finding freelance work and a full-time job was a challenge. After a few months of searching after graduating with my master’s degree, I was fortunate enough to land a full-time position as an in-house illustrator and designer for a kids and family marketing company. Persistence was key in making this happen, as I was relentless with my job search. I spent nearly four years there, learning about print and production before moving on to a company in the stationery industry, which was the industry I had hoped to work in since college. There, I designed gift wrap and greeting cards and learned a tremendous amount about different printing and production techniques. I then had an opportunity to work in the flooring industry due to similar manufacturing methods being used for gift wrap and vinyl flooring. This was an industry I never imaged myself working in, but I’ve been in it for nearly four years and I enjoy it very much. I love seeing how these products impact human well-being and facilitate learning, healing, and play. I also find great enjoyment in creating repeat patterns and studying color. As for my personal work, I have a focus on repeat patterns and illustration. I also enjoy figure drawing and painting. I would describe my illustrations and patterns as playful and colorful, and they’re often inspired by childhood memories or travel experiences. My typical subject matter consists of nature, animals, and sweets. Since graduating from college, I am most proud of the portfolio I’ve built and the range of products I’ve designed. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. The lessons I’ve learned are to be persistent, to be flexible, to help others and share your knowledge (be kind!), to be patient and thorough, and to draw every day. If I can do it, you can, too!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’d take a visiting friend to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the High Museum of Art, the Carlos Museum at Emory, and the Georgia Aquarium. We’d take a day trip to Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, and explore downtown Blue Ridge for an afternoon. Back in Marietta, we’d take a hike at Sope Creek Trail and go for a walk around Marietta Square, We’d grab coffee at Marietta Coffee Company and have a late lunch at Douceur de France or Flying Biscuit Cafe. Dinner spots would include La Carretta (amazing Colombian food) and Mezza Luna (best Italian food in the area).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I think of who encouraged me to draw early on, I’ll always think of my grandmother teaching me to draw owls, my parents praising my Ninja Turtle drawings at age five, and all the teachers who insisted that I keep drawing year after year. I also had some incredible professors at SCAD who I can still count on for encouragement and career advice to this day. You know who you are!
©2020 Charla Pettingill