Carla Tak was certain, from a very early age, that she would be an artist. She was even sure of exactly the kind of art she wanted to create.
She just didn’t think it would take almost four decades to get there.
“I was destined to be a Picasso after doing a book report at age 12,” she told the Straight by phone. “When I did that book report, I just knew what I was going to be: big paintings, abstracts.”
Tak said that family trauma—including her parents’ divorce and her dropping out of school at 14—was a hallmark of her early life in West Vancouver.
“I needed therapy then; I really did,” she said of that time.
She ended up moving to California as a young teen, then worked in real estate before returning to Vancouver at age 34.
But she still wasn’t ready to follow her artistic muse. She continued selling properties while indulging her interest in art to the point of even planning to get into the art business (but not as a practitioner).
“I was continuing my therapeutic process, and my daughter had moved to New York…and I had always collected art,” she explained of her slow-motion impulse to change direction in life.
Then one day, someone she trusted told her to fish or cut bait.
“My therapist told me, ’You need to paint. You have homework.’
“That weekend I bought some oil paints and I loved it,” she said. “I’d looked at enough art, and I knew it was good.
“I started at 50, and now I’m 68.”
She moved into Parker Street Studios—“It was hard to get in here, but with a real-estate background, you never give up”—and everything clicked. “I’ve been in the building for 18 years, and now I have a beautiful 1,100-square-foot studio.
“I did a Culture Crawl soon after moving in,” she recalled of her first year in the century-old former mattress factory, “and this will be my 18th.”
She loves the Crawl, explaining that the Vancouver Art Gallery picked her up for its art rental and sales program after that first exposure.
“Every year, it gets better and better,” she said of the East Van tradition. “It’s such a beautiful exchange.”
She said the inspiration for her large abstracts is a bit mysterious—“I would say it’s very unconscious; I don’t even understand my process”—but she is a big fan of postwar artists from the late 1940s and ’50s like Jackson Pollock, Grace Hartigan, and Joan Mitchell, “that whole era back then”.
And she wants to keep her potential inspiration cryptic, or at least at arm’s length: “As soon as I started painting, I stopped going to galleries, because I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone.”