Carla Raads is an abstract sea and landscape artist who uses intense and dark life experiences to channel the power of nature from her hands directly onto canvas. 

Revelling in an “idyllic beach-feral” childhood on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa, Carla spent every possible moment drawn to “the crackle of the sand, the primal rise of the tide, and the thunderous, crashing waves”, an elemental partnership which underlies and inspires every finger stroke she commits to canvas.

Eliminating all barriers between inspiration, emotions, physicality, committal, materials and canvas, Carla imbues each work with original energy by drawing the paint directly onto the canvas with her hands; using her whole body’s weight, form and kinetic energy to capture the elements of undertow-darkened crashing waves and cloud-scudded skies. 

Carla’s work embodies immediacy, creating initial texture and temperament without the polite pause and measured-out dance of brush and load. Like the beguiling pull of the ocean, each piece flows from beginning to end, created in one movement and intrinsically linked to mood and emotion. “Like the quixotic majesty of the ocean: inviting one moment and ferociously dangerous the next, I couldn’t return to the canvas in a different mood and expect to complete the work honestly,” says Carla.

Harnessing the depth and luminosity of oil paint using her hands, pieces are finished with rag and brushwork, while some compositions remain pure finger, palm and bodywork. Varying from the specific to the abstract, Carla invites experimentation with further materials including spray paints to bring the tang of saltwater or gilding of the sun vividly to the viewer.

Trained in fine art, Carla went on to study design and interiors at Manchester Metropolitan University, finding inspiration under the late Phillippe Aird, at the Pheonix galleries in Hulme. Himself mentored by LS Lowry, Carla credits Aird with empowering her to allow the paint to move organically across free-ranging large scale abstracts.

Following a 12-year hiatus pursuing a successful career in modelling, in the darkest night of postnatal depression, Carla was seized with a desire to plunge her hands directly into paint, capturing the emotion on a long-forgotten piece of canvas. Thus began both her recovery and re-emergence into an intense dedication to melding nature and emotion through art, through powerful skies and seas heavy with latent energy.

Grateful for the time to taste life away from the canvas and create her own treasured family, Carla continues to speak of dynamism and empowerment through her work, and values her platform inspiring women to discover their own path to power.

From her coastal studio with doors open to the elements at Lytham St. Annes, each piece is personally titled and signed with Raads’ signature handprint. Sought-after by elemental collectors, her work is featured in interesting galleries across the UK.


Follow her journey on Instagram @Carla_Raads