Isabel Costa Macedo’s free spirit and love for life transpire in her soulful paintings

Today, we’re talking to artist Isabel Costa Macedo, who is all about transferring unfiltered emotion (and lots of beautiful acrylic paint!) onto every blank canvas that comes her way. 

After years away from her artwork, Isabel has gotten her groove back and creates incredible acrylic and mixed-medium pieces meant to spark the best within us. And luckily, we can all get a taste of the magic.

Read the full interview below, and check out more of her work on her Instagram profile: @isabel_costa_macedo_artist

Tell us about yourself and your work

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Raw (A4). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

My name is Isabel, and I love many things in life, and among those many
things is painting!

I was born in Portugal and grew up by the sea in a town called Parede. When I was 21, I left home to see what would it be like to live abroad without a plan or expectations.

Almost 11 years later, I came back to Portugal — again, without a plan. I struggled a lot to feel at home; to feel like myself. This year, 2023, things finally started to fall into place, and I’m feeling more connected now. I have a greater sense of belonging.

And as much as I feel more at home now, my heart remains open to all other wild and exciting opportunities. I love being alive and am very much moved by curiosity.

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One thought (A5). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

As for my paintings, I consider my work to be very intuitive and eclectic. I like to explore explosive contrasting colors as well as more minimal, simpler art pieces.

I adore color, but for now, I don’t have a single color palette I stick to. I enjoy pops of bright colors as well as more muted nudes and pastels.

Essentially, I paint how I feel, and sometimes or most of the time, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” What I mean by this is that I paint from my feelings, emotions, and thoughts freely, without anything specific in mind… Therefore, the results are always kind of a surprise.

In a way, I see painting as a form of lovemaking, in which all senses are switched on. I am in the flow state. I am present, immersed in every sensation as I move my paintbrush or spatula on paper or canvas.

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Summer on paper (A3). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

I can also share that I hope to one day be able to create abstract city art to embellish random walls that look sad — I would love to splash some shapes and
colors here and there!

Also, I would love to do big commission pieces for hotels, conference buildings, etc. It makes my heart sink when I see poor-quality art or just a random print as “art” on facility walls.

I also feel this way about hospitals, prisons, and recreation centers for the elderly. In addition, I enjoy knowing that each painting I create is for someone’s home, whether here or somewhere else in the world.

Tell us about your workshop 

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Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

My atelier is stunning! Bright and airy; big windows. I get plenty of sunlight, and I love to see the different shadows that are created by the sun.

I have many different plants, a Sonos sound system, all of my art supplies organized in a beautiful wooden cabinet, and a lovely large wooden table.

I usually paint at my craft table or on the floor. I also have a big wall where I can pin paper or lean canvases. I also have my beloved kettle and mug to pour myself different herbal drinks throughout the day.

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Deploying thoughts (A3). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

I also have a small working desk for my computer as well as a comfy sofa for my power naps and reading sessions. This atelier lives as a vision for now, but I’m so looking forward to enjoying it fully one day.

For the time being, I try not to stain the walls or floors with paint in the room that I rent!

What is your favorite material or tool to work with, and why?

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Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

My go-to medium is acrylic, as it’s so versatile.

I also like incorporating modeling paste and other textured mediums to add body and expression to my work.

How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you, or where did you learn?

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Oh beautiful grief (A3). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

I think there’s an artist in all of us, and like most children, I explored the first years of my life with crayons, pencils, markers, paint, clay, etc. I definitely have early memories of enjoying color at a very young age.

I also had an art teacher in high school who had a huge impact on my life, Mr. Brock. However, years later, I got into theater and “forgot” about painting.

Then, at the age of 31, my best friend tragically died, and through grief, I began to reconnect with the artist within me again.

What is the most challenging aspect of your craft or business?

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Corner. Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

I think it’s my lack of business savvy and understanding, including how to actually sell my art. I much rather stick to creating and the fun part!

Any advice for beginners to your craft?

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Swirling in me (A2). Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

Let go of the idea of “good or bad” art. Make mistakes, as these will be precious and personal teachers.

Be bold and be boring (allow yourself moments of rest and stillness). Try things out — become a color scientist! If you see a color, a shape, an image, or a texture that ignites excitement or awe in you, use that as inspiration.

Don’t copy but rather expand what you take in to create your own unique piece because, yes, everything we do will always be unique.

Who/what inspires you? Any shoutouts to fellow makers?

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Veil. Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

I’m not sure I can really say what inspires me; I guess we’re all inspired by something or someone on a subconscious level… We’re walking sponges!

Anything from a tree trunk to a wall of an abandoned house. From a painting to a sunset. From the color of the ocean to the colors of a desert I saw while traveling.

Music also gets me going. The energy of a song can ignite my inspiration. I do think I have some level of synesthesia, and I freaking love it. I can often taste the sky and feel colors and textures without actually touching anything. It’s weird and wonderful.

Also, I just remembered that around the time I began painting intuitively, a friend
shared this short doc with me called “I Needed Color” with Jim Carrey. It had a profound impact on me and moved me to tears since I resonated with it so much.

Anything else you’d like to share?

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The nuances. Acrylic and modeling paste. Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

“The act of creation is an attempt to enter a mysterious realm. A longing to
transcend. What we create allows us to share glimpses of an inner landscape, one that is beyond our understanding. Art is our portal to the unseen world.”

― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

This quote is so gorgeous, and so are most of Rick Rubin’s quotes about creativity and art.

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That one feeling. Acrylic. Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

Here’s another one to prove my point:

“A river of material flows through us. When we share our works and our ideas, they are replenished. If we block the flow by holding them all inside, the river cannot run, and new ideas are slow to appear.

In the abundant mindset, the river never runs dry. Ideas are always coming through. And an artist is free to release them with the faith that more will arrive. If we live in a mindset of scarcity, we hoard great ideas.”

― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Where can people find your work?

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In the clouds. Photo via Isabel Costa Macedo

My Instagram is where I mostly post my work: @isabel_costa_macedo_artist.

Also, I set a new goal for myself a few days ago: saving up to create a website in 2024!

I’m also currently working on a collaboration to get some of my work sold as high-quality prints!

Check out more of Isabel’s work on her Instagram profile: @isabel_costa_macedo_artist

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