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Exclusive interview with artist, Arizona Carr!

Today we're speaking with Arizona Carr, a Birmingham-based artist who has quickly built up a loyal following since she started painting nudes following a Sophie Tea Instagram tutorial in 2020. We discuss the ways in which she's carving out her own style, the point at which her work became more than just a hobby, and how she's helping to bring out people's 'inner Beyoncé'!

Abstract artist, Arizona Carr, and her dog Chilli posing alongside her nude body positivity artwork

Britain Uncovered: Hi Arizona! Through your impressive portfolio of body positivity artwork, you’ve quickly built up a strong and loyal following – amassing some 3,000 Instagram followers in little over three months (not to mention the accompanying sales!) Are we right in thinking that this all came about thanks to Sophie Tea’s tutorial drawing class that took place last November?

Arizona: Hello! Haha, yes it has been a bit of a crazy ride over the last couple of months, I can’t believe how fast my page has grown, it’s been amazing!

Yes, that’s absolutely right! I’ve followed Sophie Tea for a long time – she actually went to the same university as me (in the year above), although our paths never crossed, so a mutual friend introduced me to her work back when she was just starting out with her animal paintings! I’ve literally watched her progress in awe over the last few years (her abstract era with the pour art was my absolute favourite to date!) The way she experiments with colours and techniques is what I love so much, from the brush strokes to the splats and the drips. She’s always got the perfect balance of chaos and detail, I love it.

Usually I’d just watch her videos and think, ‘How on earth does she do it?!’ So when she held the tutorial, I thought, this is my chance to find out! It was perfect as well – she held the tutorial on the day before my birthday, and with being stuck in lockdown with zero actual birthday plans, it provided the perfect way to celebrate! So I ordered all the stuff on her list and convinced my boyfriend to do the class with me on our little dining table in the kitchen! Before doing the tutorial, I didn’t really know I had it in me! I’d done art before – I studied it at A-Level, and done the odd painting here and there with my Dad who is also an artist (@davidcarrartist) – but had the stars not aligned that day, I may never have even given nudes a go!

Abstract artist, Arizona Carr, painting nude body positivity artwork in her studio

Britain Uncovered: With Sophie’s tutorial providing some newfound inspiration, you set about creating some of your own artwork that seeks to provide the viewer with a similar sense of empowerment and positivity. When you first started, did you have any inkling that your paintings would be so well received, and at what point did you realise that this could potentially become more than just a hobby?

Arizona: No, I had no idea at all! It wasn’t until a complete stranger messaged me out of the blue asking to buy one of my paintings! I had complete imposter syndrome; I genuinely couldn’t believe someone had stumbled across my page and wanted to give me money for one of my paintings.

Up until that point, I’d literally been giving them away free to people as gifts (mostly to my Mam – she is my biggest fan and she has about nine of my paintings up in her house!!) And then I did a giveaway in December to celebrate hitting 100 followers, and that’s when the interest really started to ramp up, so I thought, maybe I can make something of this! Seeing complete strangers entering my little competition was just the most bizarre feeling in the world. I really got quite emotional that day!

Britian Uncovered: Despite being a self-confessed Sophie Tea “fan girl” and noting her as one of your main inspirations alongside your art, there’s still been a little criticism from people who think that you are stealing her work or even breaking the law due to the likenesses! You addressed this in a fairly lengthy Instagram story and made the decision to phase out certain ‘boob and bum’ poses as a result – but how difficult was it to deal with these types of comments, and did it deter you from carrying on with the work you were doing?

Arizona: I take criticism in any form to heart. Even when it’s with love, like when my boyfriend points out that I’ve painted a nipple in the wrong place! So yes, when it comes in the form of a nasty comment or message, it hits particularly hard. I always try to laugh it off, but it definitely will eat away at me for the rest of the day.

I think what hurts the most with these comments is being tarred with the same brush as other artists out there who do shamelessly copy her work and don't give any credit. I 100% agree that that’s wrong, which is why I’ve always been as transparent as possible in referencing when poses or colours are inspired by hers, because of the respect I have for her as an artist. I think people just stumble across the page and assume I’m another copy cat, and to be fair to them, I know they’re doing it out of loyalty to Sophie – just sometimes their execution isn’t the friendliest!

A body positivity commission piece painted by abstract artist, Arizona Carr

I think addressing one particular message in my Instagram story (which I’ve saved on my page under my 'Be Kind' highlight reel) was my way of dealing with it, and I did feel a lot better after having addressed them so publicly. The decision to phase out certain poses was actually made before I received any criticism, rather than it being in response to the criticism – as soon as people started buying my work, I wanted it to be all mine that I was selling.

In terms of deterring me, I would say it hasn’t, but what it has done is put more urgency on finding ways to differentiate my work, so that moving forward it isn’t even a thought that crosses people’s minds when they come across my page!

Britain Uncovered: Now that you’ve decided to phase out these types of poses, how do you set about finding your own style, and how important do you think this is? With nude body positivity art rampant across Instagram at present, we can imagine it’s difficult to differentiate from a lot of the other artwork that’s already out there. How do go about standing out from the crowd, and what do you think people are relating to and finding powerful in your own brand of art?

Arizona: This is a question I ask myself literally every day! I definitely agree that it’s important to find my own style, and I think I’m gradually starting to see that evolve in my work (I hope others can agree!), but I’m always trying to think of ways to differentiate myself, whether that’s through colour palettes, new poses and experimenting with new techniques. There’s so many great artists out there doing nudes in their own styles, and you’re right – it’s incredibly difficult to stand out from the crowd! I wish I had a better answer, but it’s definitely a work in progress!

I think with mine, people are really responding to the confidence in the poses which are coming out! I’ve been approached by so many women who are nervous at first to send pictures, or who are wanting to do this to help them with their own body confidence, but then I’ve been blown away with the poses they’ve sent me!! I feel like I am bringing out their inner Beyoncé, and that’s a great feeling!

Abstract artist, Arizona Carr, holding up one of her nude body positivity paintings

Britain Uncovered: Empowering body art can often be slanted more towards females, but people of all genders can suffer from body confidence issues – so we were interested to see that, in addition to the ladies you’ve painted, you also paint nude males every once in a while. Is painting and celebrating bodies of all genders a conscious decision, and do you feel these pieces can be impactful and empowering to male-identifying individuals too?

Arizona: I absolutely want to celebrate and empower bodies of all genders, and I definitely agree that these paintings can empower men too. There are two reasons why my page is predominantly female: firstly and honestly, I’m rubbish at painting men!! I’ve tried – and even the one which I did paint, I was not as happy with the result as I have been with other commissions. I just find them more challenging to do!

And then that is reinforced by lack of practice, because to date the vast majority of my commission requests have been females. My following is 75% female, so that’s unsurprising! I do have a male coming up soon on my commission list though, so we’ll see how that goes and if my technique improves! It’s definitely something I want to do more of in the future.

Britain Uncovered: How has your own body confidence journey evolved since embarking on this creative venture, and – now that you’re the artist, as opposed to just the viewer – what have you learned about yourself that perhaps you wouldn’t have had you not decided to pick up a brush?

Arizona: I would say I definitely feel more comfortable in my own skin now than I did before embarking on this creative venture, as you describe it! Last year, I went through a period of feeling so upset and hung up on the fact that I’d let my figure go and put on “lockdown weight” (who hasn’t, right?!) - to the point where I’d look at myself routinely in the mirror every night before bed in dismay and go to bed upset, sometimes in tears.

But this year my mindset does seem to have changed although I hadn’t really picked up on it until now, and maybe that is as a direct result of the work I’m producing. I definitely feel like the confidence I’ve been seeing in some of the poses I’ve been sent by incredible women is contagious!! A friend of mine actually asked me if I needed any poses and volunteered to send me some pictures - the following day she sent me 39 photos!!! I was like, WOW you go girl!! I wish I had half that confidence!

A body positive painting of the nude female form by abstract artist, Arizona Carr

Britain Uncovered: When launching the Britain Uncovered website, one of our primary aims was to examine the link between nudity and body confidence – as it’s our belief that social nudity experiences and accepting your body naked can make a huge difference to your overall outlook and confidence levels. Is this a theory you tend to subscribe to?

Arizona: I definitely agree that if you can accept yourself naked (or even semi-naked!) – whether that’s publicly or even just to one other person in a more intimate setting – this can massively impact how you feel about yourself as a person and what you’re capable of.

I may sound hypocritical, but personally I’m not quite there yet. I still feel incredibly uncomfortable in a bikini in public, and even the thought of wearing a wedding dress with my arms out next year is filling me with dread a little bit! I still very much have that ‘must get back to the gym before then’ mindset. But saying that, I did actually take a couple of nudey snaps of myself the other day to see how’d I’d feel in my customer’s shoes (so to speak!)… whether I’ll paint them and post them on my page is a whole other question though!!

Britain Uncovered: It’s been great to see that you’re already offering your own tutorial videos on your Instagram channel, and who knows, maybe you’re already inspiring others to follow in your footsteps! Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, what can fans and followers of your work expect next, and how do you see your portfolio expanding in the coming months?

Arizona: Thank you! I’d love to think so, I’ve had a few artists ask me for tips which blows my mind, because I still very much feel like a ‘newbie’ myself! And learning ‘how to Instagram’ is a minefield of it’s own (which is why you won’t find any fancy reels or TikToks on my page… I don’t know how!)

This year I’m going to really try and focus on how to make my work stand out from the crowd. I think nudes are here to stay for a while, but where I take them I’m not sure yet. I definitely want to bring more diversity to my collection, so you can expect to see more variety in body types moving forward!

- To keep tabs on Arizona's work and the pieces currently available for sale, along with details on upcoming giveaways, be sure to follow @artby.arizonablue over on Instagram.

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