Local artist on finding a medium and inspiration
Originally from the little beach town of Manasquan, New Jersey, Wilmington artist and illustrator CARLEIGH SION continues to draw inspiration from the coastal lifestyle. “I was constantly at the beach growing up, and I learned to surf at thirteen,” she says.
From work for nonprofits to custom illustrations, Sion’s art adorns local and online platforms. Her local work includes a mural (pictured) and t-shirt designs for Sweetwater Surf Shop, where she’s worked since moving to Wilmington, and stickers for Boombalatti’s Artist Series Stickers.
It all started on the ‘Jersey Shore,’ she says, with a laugh. Her mother and aunt were talented role models who fueled Sion’s natural creativity. “Since I was little, I’ve always loved art, especially drawing and painting,” she says. High school brought electives like architecture, graphic design, and metal shop, and she’d take the train to Sunday classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With an associate degree in visual arts and graphic design, at age 24, Sion moved to Wilmington to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington. With the ocean once again nearby, life and art continued to inspire.
“I was doodling and drawing whenever possible,” she recalls, of those first years in Wilmington. “I’d illustrate the people around me or draw from my imagination.”
Eventually, sharing her work on Instagram became its own form of creativity: “It’s become an extraordinary tool for getting my art out there!”
As well, she draws inspiration from her current milieu. “I’m super thankful to Sweetwater for being so supportive of my art now and as it was evolving over the years. I’m also grateful for Wilmington as a community. It’s incredibly supportive of artists and small businesses!” she says.
With her main medium, Sion enjoys the immediacy of the art form. “Illustration is just so accessible,” she says. “Whether it’s digital or on a scrap piece of napkin, fancy paint, or a crayon that’s almost too small to fit in your fingers.”
To describe her style? Fun, silly, happy, comical, clever, bold, she offers. But most of all, changing. “I’m still learning about my own creativity. I am kind of a chameleon,” she muses, “and I can mimic different styles as I see fit, which I value, but I’m still finding my own style. When I do create from my own imagination, though, I feel it’s a good mix.”
Through her website, clients can choose from various paper sizes, and the artist goes from there. “I can usually create whatever anyone wants! If someone wants a family illustration, they’ll email photos—if they’re separate photos, I’ll merge them together, like a human photoshop,” she says, with a laugh.
Along with the salt, sand, and surfing, she turns to nature, animals, good food—subjects are everywhere. “I try to draw inspiration from everything. Everyday life, good and bad things, small and big things,” she shares. “I think that helps me feel like I’m connecting with people.”
From custom illustrations to imaginative designs, Sion’s artistic dreams keep growing.
“I feel like I have so many goals!” she enthuses. “I want to do more murals! I want to write and illustrate children’s books! Someday I would love to have a cartoon featured in the New Yorker!”
“A general goal,” she says, “is just to be able to create art for the rest of my life.”
To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.
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