A visit to Carolina Coto’s website is a mind-blowing experience. Almost everything you can imagine from clothing, prints, and original art to fabric, wallpaper, duvet covers, clocks, tote bags, mugs, pillows and I-phone cases are covered with her art. Working with several companies that produce items adorned with her designs allows her to offer a wide variety of goods. The items are too plentiful to list, so a visit to carolinacotoart.com is a must.
The Kill Devil Hills artist is prolific in creating colorful imagery that delights the eye and the spirit. It’s happy art, in a word, and suitable for an uplift for all ages. Imagine a multicolored wave covering your bed, or quirky, fantasy houses with clothing swaying on the line as a print adorning your wall. Small stylized fish paintings are in the mix as well as silver plated bracelets featuring mini Coto prints of sea stars, flowers and vivid scenes. Choose from an array of silkscreened clothing — T-shirts, hoodies, skirts, leggings, tank tops, or purchase fabric to create your own. Sometimes her work is more realistic than stylized, and fantasy-like. It also can mix realism with a more graphic style. But her color is always very personal featuring signature shades of bright orange, purple, yellow, green, blue and purple. It’s like viewing sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and all things celebratory, almost as if Coto has a festive party going on that she channels into art.
There was a time when Coto was into more serious art. She refers to her younger days as being a teen with an artistic personality. She dressed in black, grey and olive colored clothing. She created art coming from a deep psychological place while attending the University of Costa Rica where she attained a fine art degree with an emphasis on painting.
“Now I paint for pleasure says the 38-year-old woman wearing a rainbow-colored skirt of her own silkscreen design. “As I grew up, everything seemed less deep in a good way and more enjoyable,” she says. And her move to wearing more colorful clothing: “Kind of a reflection of how I felt.”
Her current art style feels comfortable.
“It comes naturally, and I don’t have to think,” she says about her delightful imagery that pours out in an intuitive way. Inspired by travel around the world, waves — she spends time watching her husband Brian surf — and houses from the poor areas of Costa Rica that she’d see driving to work, designs pour out using a wide variety of materials including watercolors, acrylics, inks, gauche, markers, colored pencils and even digital painting.
“It’s like Christmas every time I get my new supplies, she says. She uses her materials to create various shapes and designs in her art such as circles, spirals, dots and other symbols that, in part, represent hope, positivity and dreams. It adds an intimate, graphic touch to what could be a more impressionistic work.
Coto stays busy creating and attending markets and festivals on the Outer Banks, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg. Her work is also featured in eight Outer Banks galleries, which are listed on her website. Her art stays fresh as she’s always taking a new class and experiments with new ways to showcase her designs.
She even offers grab bags filled with tiny art from her experiments that could include pins, magnets, a keychain, or small, original works of art.
Coto’s art ranges from the size of a quarter to full blown original paintings on canvas that command a wall — in a gentle, colorful way.
“I think I enjoy the more little things,” she says. “It’s more intimate.”
Her prices are fairly chosen, she says, considering her time and materials. You can have an original from $25 to $850. She prices her market and festival work the same as her gallery prices so as not to undercut or compete with those markets.
“This is my full-time job,” says Coto. “I couldn’t be happier. This is really my dream life.”
Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.