Untitled 3 by alumna Christie Macdonald, shown in her 2019 solo exhibition Encoded, Stored and Retrieved at the art house SomoS in Berlin.

profile / alumni / illustration
March 04, 2020
Writer: Solvej Schou
Images: Courtesy of Christie Macdonald

Illustration alumna Christie Macdonald creates abstract paintings driven by emotion and intuition

Los Angeles-based and French-born abstract painter and printmaker Christie Macdonald (BFA 18 Illustration) has a simple piece of advice for ArtCenter students and recent alumni diving into the 21st-century world of professional art.

“Always keep making work, and be very patient,” she says.

Macdonald has followed her own words of wisdom. She’s steadily and passionately created pieces that bridge traditional painting and digital art, and are saturated with dynamic patterns, bright hues, textures and shapes. “Driven by emotion and intuition, I’m looking for the right balance between colors and forms,” she says.

Christie Macdonald
Portrait of alumna Christie Macdonald (BFA 18 Illustration).

Always keep making work, and be very patient.

Christie Macdonald (BFA 18 Illustration)
Untitled 4 by alumna Christie Macdonald, shown in her 2019 solo exhibition Encoded, Stored and Retrieved at the art house SomoS in Berlin.

Born in Biarritz, a surf town in the south of France, Macdonald grew up with creative parents—an interior designer mother and an architect father—and was immersed in art and culture from a young age. Not fitting in at school, she says, propelled her to dream big. “I struggled a lot, being very dyslexic,” she says. “After high school, my first wish was to leave France and study art. I was hooked immediately.”

After studying art in London, she applied and was accepted into ArtCenter’s Illustration program. “At ArtCenter, I became more comfortable with my skills, and had freedom to experiment,” says Macdonald, who enjoyed taking multiple classes taught by Illustration Associate Professor Esther Pearl Watson (BFA 95 Illustration). In the foundation course Color Theory taught by Integrated Studies Associate Professor Adam Ross, Macdonald explored being conceptual and self-reflective in her works.

She loved the Transdisciplinary Studio (TDS) course Wet Paint, taught by Fine Art Associate Professor Allison Miller and Illustration Associate Chair Aaron Smith (BFA 88 Illustration). It explored contemporary approaches to the art of painting locally, nationally and globally. “I decided in that class that I wanted to go deeper into the fine art and gallery world,” Macdonald says.

After graduating from ArtCenter in 2018, Macdonald moved to Berlin and became an artist-in-residence at the art house SomoS, which culminated in her April 2019 solo exhibition Encoded, Stored and Retrieved about processing memory. Her acrylic paintings for the series, such as Untitled 3, feature bold blocks of color and stark patterns, and were influenced by a visual diary she kept while traveling in Southeast Asia, documenting colors, composition and random details. She digitally transformed and layered photos from the trip on her computer, and then used the digital compositions as a basis for the paintings and prints.

“Some directions I took at ArtCenter led me to this merging of painting and digital art,” she says. “I was also interested in graphic design, and loved using digital software to create images. Technology was another tool to be applied to the creation of a painting. They’re now a key element of my process.”

Moving back to Los Angeles in September 2019 and working as an artist assistant, Macdonald has been busy working on a new body of work.

“My aesthetic has morphed naturally,” she says. “The more I’ve created, the more I’ve developed my techniques and my voice.”