Let’s not sugarcoat it. Breakups are shit. But as Taylor Swift and Adele will tunefully tell you, there’s nothing like floods of tears to get your creative juices flowing. Such was the case for Brisbane artist Carina Kaercher, whose talent first emerged from heartbreak. “I hit rock bottom as I was fighting to keep an already-broken relationship together,” says the German-born creative. “I picked up the brush because I couldn’t describe the hate, anger and disappointment I felt in words; I was only able to describe them in pictures on paper and canvas.”
Five years earlier, she’d farewelled the snowmen and mountain hikes of her childhood for a three-month adventure in Australia, where she promptly fell for an Aussie. The pair lived together in Germany for three years, returning to Brisbane for a couple more until their story came to a painful end in January of 2015.
“One night, I woke up and tried to reach over to my partner saying, ‘Babe, I had a nightmare. I dreamed we broke up,’ but he wasn’t there and it hit me like a wall, again and again and again. I was in bed staring at my hand reaching into nowhere. I wasn’t able to go back to sleep and I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil that was next to my bed and started drawing a sketch of my hand.”
So started a six-month stint of painting every night, sometimes until four in the morning. “I cried, laughed, was angry – and once the painting was completed I had a smile on my face, to my own surprise. The pain was still there, but, for the first time, I managed to get my mind off things.”
She didn’t have a scrap of formal art training – teaching herself with countless hours of you-tubing, reading and experimenting. “I felt like my life had a reason again and I had finally found a way to express myself. I got excited as I started to realise that I could do this for a living, and also help others in a similar place,” says Carina, who donates between 10-20 per cent of each sale to the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service.
Family and friends were the first to see her work (“they couldn’t believe that I had painted them”) and then came her Instagram account, Sarah CK Art, using her middle name and first and last initials. “I was embarrassed at how unwell I was, and didn’t want any of my ex-partners friends or family to know how I was processing it all,” she says, but was brave enough to show her first collection, ‘Paint the hate out of it’, at RAW Brisbane 2015 – where almost all of her pieces were snapped up. “I couldn’t believe it. My family was live on Skype and I would let them know every time I sold a print or painting and they would cheer for me,” she says. She has since grown her business through social media and networking at art galleries.
Carina plans to eventually be a full-time artist (she currently works at Mercedes-Benz Australia and runs her own e-business with beauty company Arbonne) and exhibit across the globe. “I would also love to start my own charity foundation program for abused women and a wildlife protection foundation,” she adds – and would love to see her work printed on phone cases, yoga mats, gym gear… “Dream big, right?”
These days she’s feeling better than ever (certainly if last year’s collection, ‘Paint the love out of it’, is anything to go by) and is still brushing away into the wee hours. “It relaxes me and I feel like I can process all my thoughts I had during the day while being creative,” she says. “I think creativity is definitely a ways to heal.”
Carina advises others in a tough spot to “look ahead, not be ashamed of feeling depressed, get professional help, write down what you’re grateful for every day, and read lots of self-development books. Be kind to yourself and don’t blame yourself for the situation you’re in. There is healing, happiness and wholeness coming your way, and you will feel better than ever before.”
Anyone requiring domestic violence assistance in Australia can access 24-hour assistance by calling the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT (that’s 1800 737 732).