profile: Carly Waito

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at first glance, Canadian artist Carly Waito's work appears to consist of beautifully-composed photographs of crystals and minerals. closer inspection, however, reveals that these are meticulous oil paintings – each hyperrealistically capturing the beauty of the specimen while at the same time adding another dimension of artistry in the tiny details that mark these out as lovingly hand painted works. we caught up with Carly to find out more about her incredible work and chat about our mutual love of minerals

 
 Amethyst by Carly Waito

Amethyst by Carly Waito

did growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario have any influence on your mineral work – any particular childhood memories that led to your later focus?
my childhood practice of collecting rocks and other little things from nature is definitely the root of this body of work. I have great memories of collecting amethyst at a mine near Thunder Bay (there are several amethyst mines in the region) which certainly stoked that interest

your paintings are so incredibly photorealistic – did it take a lot of practice to get to this stage?
I was pretty determined from a young age to learn to draw and paint realistically and it has always come somewhat naturally to me, although many years of practice have definitely helped

 
'Spessartine' by Carly Waito
'Spessartine' by Carly Waito

what was the process, did you start with pencil drawings, geometric forms, etc? Or begin by painting?
I mostly drew as a kid, and experimented with watercolours, then acrylics, and eventually oil paints. I remember borrowing a lot of "How to Draw..." books from the library as a kid, but I quickly grew impatient with the steps and ended up just copying the final illustrations by eye

how long does each piece take?
my paintings can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size and amount of detail

 
'Pyrite Asteroid' by Carly Waito
'Pyrite Asteroid' by Carly Waito

do you always have a real specimen in front of you to work from?
I work from photographs I take of the specimens in my collection using a macro lens and several lights and mirrors to get the reflections and shadows just right. I need to freeze that perfect moment as my reference, otherwise the specimen looks totally different if I change my viewing perspective even the slightest bit

what’s your collection like these days?
my collection has grown pretty big, although most of the specimens are tiny and fit in a walnut cabinet with shallow drawers that my dad made for me. I have no idea how many I have... a few hundred maybe? my favourites are always changing

 
'Dioptase' by Carly Waito
'Dioptase' by Carly Waito

I notice we’re both fans of Mineralia – where else do you find inspiration?
I went to Iceland for my honeymoon this past fall, which was very inspiring. it's paradise for a geology buff. I collected some pretty great specimens and took a million pictures

what do you think is it about crystals and minerals that holds such a magical pull over people?
for me, even with a basic understanding of the science of their origins, the fact that these crystals exist just feels like magic. I'm in awe that nature can produce such geometrically perfect and diverse forms. maybe this is part of the appeal for others too. with their beauty, depth, and transparency, crystals have a way of focusing a person's attention, which can be powerful experience. while I don't personally believe they have metaphysical powers, I can see how others would feel that way

 
'Fluorite' by Carly Waito
'Fluorite' by Carly Waito

do you have a single favourite mineral? Amethyst might be my sentimental favourite, given the connection to my hometown, and the fact that it's my birthstone. I also love pyrite – that it occurs in such a variety of forms

if money was no object, and you went to the world’s best mineral fair, what would you look for?
I dream of attending the huge mineral fair in Tucson, Arizona one day, but I wouldn't look for one thing in particular. the biggest thrill for me is a surprising new discovery

 
'Vesuvianite' by Carly Waito
'Vesuvianite' by Carly Waito

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see more of Carly's incredible work at www.carlywaito.com