Published on February 10th, 2023

Christina Romeo

Ask yourself: Does art matter if no one is around to see it? Christina Romeo, the featured artist in this month’s PureHoney, thinks so. While living in a remote small town in Canada’s Selkirk Mountains, Romeo found herself painting as a way to keep busy. After time, the joy and pride she felt in the work she was making, even without an audience, was enough to keep her going. “This was in the early ’90s,” she elaborates in an interview, “so no internet to share images, just me, myself, and I enjoying the process and results of practicing.”

Oregon-based Romeo has come a long way since her mountain isolation. She now has two Instagram accounts — a way to keep the illustrations separated from her more intuitive contemporary art — and a website where she sells large and small scale paintings, drawings, textile collages and ceramic work. Her output is impressive — new pieces land a few times a week on her Instagrams — especially considering she has a day job in healthcare.

Always beginning with faces, Romeo adds touches of color and other flourishes to communicate states of mind. “I am trying to allow my emotions to present in the faces I draw,” she explains, describing faces almost as portals — to beliefs, opinions and feelings that are readable in expressions “even without words attached.” Never just a simple portrait, Romeo’s illustrative faces burst beyond seas of watercolors and lightly drift through abstract shapes.

When asked to describe her work, Romeo chooses her adjectives carefully: “I think I would describe my aesthetic as a little creepy, dark, moody, emotive and ‘otherworldly.’ A mix between a fantasy world and dark gothic.” She notes famous artists like Edward Gorey, Andrew Wyeth and Egon Schiele as inspiration for her own practice. Through aesthetic and subject matter Romeo manages to capture a bit of each one of these artists in her own work — the strong illustrative and gothic aspects of Gorey as well as the contemplative and emotive subjects in the paintings of Wyeth and Schiele.

Sorrow & Joy

What Romeo doesn’t mention about her own work, which we happily will, is her wonderful use of color, incorporated into all of the mixed media she has mastered. Unlike Wyeth, a realist painter whose muted colors portray the vast open landscape of New England, Romeo’s use of color takes her portraits from reality to fantasy; they are creepy, joyful, funny and ornate all at once. And if the work induces both happiness and a shiver in audiences, all to the good. “Art has always been an outlet for me to work through emotions,” she says. “I allow the images to ‘come out’ of me instead of trying to emulate another artist. I hope to encourage the viewer to feel something.”

After years devoted primarily to painting and textile work, Romeo recently got hooked on making ceramics after taking a two-week workshop. Ceramics allow Romeo’s work to breathe and live in a third dimension: Her otherworldly characters are now transformed into items such as art plates, bowls, ornaments, sculptures, vases and vessels. Each piece is hand built, fired and glazed by Romeo and features her unique designs. Even with their pouty faces and large heads, there is something extraordinarily whimsical about Romeo’s tiny sculptures. They go from Edward Gorey to Tim Burton with a change of dimension and exist in their new, tiny, magical worlds.

Romeo is a rarity in her ability to migrate her distinctive style from one medium to another. It’s not easy to create something you love only to then recreate it in another material or context. But this isn’t something Romeo shys away from. On top of her current artwork production and aforementioned day job, she also hopes to publish children’s books in the near future. For the moment, she is limiting her gallery exhibition commitments in order to focus more on writing and her ceramics. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she says she doesn’t love the rain but knows it helps inspire her work.

Find Christina Romeo’s work at and on Instagram at @cromeola and @cromeola.illustrations ~ Veronica Inberg