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Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Artist Profile: Trevor Carlton

-Tiera Tanner, WDW Radio Team

Steamboat Willie – Trevor Carlton, Permission Provided by Artist

Trevor Carlton headlines the World Showcase Plaza stage at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts where he transforms painting into a performance.

The unique opportunity to experience artists working at their easels remains a highlight during the festival, but Carlton and his performances on stage take painting to the next level. These energetic shows were born from Carlton’s two passions – painting and acting. 

Born in Washington, Carlton pursued art and acting with scholarships at Skagit Valley College and the Art Institute of Seattle. After college, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, while building an art portfolio as well.

“Amidst auditions, I started working at a furniture manufacturer, where I was creating custom finishes,” Carlton shared. “Shabby chic, rustic pine and farm house were some of the styles I specialized in.”

He continued: “This is where I started to develop my vintage style with my artwork. Turning new furniture or paintings into rustic antiques. The distressed look or vintage style landed me in several galleries in LA. I became busy with commissions and stopped auditioning for acting roles. I never imagined I would be a real working artist – a dream come true. A few years later, I met my publishers at the Disney Fine Art team, at Collectors Editions in 2002. I started creating Disney artwork and my life changed forever.” 

American Classic, Vintage Classics Edition – Trevor Carlton, Permission Provided by Artist

Paint-washed wood grain backgrounds and offset wood plank paintings remain signature to Carlton’s work. American Classic is a limited-edition piece featured on the Disney Store and Disney Fine Art websites, part of Carlton’s Vintage Classics collection, and also found in galleries across the Disney Parks. In this artwork, a wood plank substrate builds the background for Oswald, featured in a warm yellow circle at the center of the piece. A blue horizontal band frames the top of the work, a red band is washed across the bottom and serving as the “white” to finish out the Americana theme is a thick section of wood grain in the middle of the work. Although Oswald is a two-dimensional character, Carlton adds areas of highlights to enliven the smiling rabbit. The texture of the wood grain adds a warmth to the character and the accompanying text surrounding him. The piece features Carlton’s signature name plaque attached on top of the wood in the bottom right corner. According to DisneyFineArt.com, the “natural characteristics of the reclaimed wood, such as knots, grain patterns and surface textures make each [art piece] one hundred percent unique.”

These defining features found in Carlton’s work also set him apart from others during the festival, such as in his Photo Booth series.

Photo Booth Kiss – Trevor Carlton, Permission Provided by Artist

“I’m really excited about the Photo Booth series,” he shared. “Last year, we debuted Photo Booth Kiss – the black and white with Mickey and Minnie. The progression of kisses is adorable, with a big laugh at the end. This year, I created three more pieces in this series – the Donald and Daisy Photo Booth Chaos, Stitch’s Leave Me In Stitches and Blinded By The Light with Goofy – what a great format to tell a story. [I] always had a blast with friends being as silly as we could possibly be in the photo booth pictures. [I] can’t wait to explore more situations with our favorite characters.” 

Carlton also expressed his enthusiasm to see fellow artists’ new artworks at the festival.

“Each year of the festival always brings excitement,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the other artists have come up with. We’ve all gotten to be great friends and look forward to catching up and seeing where our inspiration led us with our new works for the festival.”  

Carlton has participated in the Festival of the Arts dating back to its beginnings as the “Festival of the Masters” at Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney.

“Painting live performances has kept me busy over the last 23 years,” he said. “I look forward every year to the Festival of the Arts. In fact, I spend all year getting ready for the next year’s event – creating new works and designs for performances and editions for prints, etc..”

This year, Carlton performed for crowds twice daily during select weekends of the festival. At the end of January, I had the privilege to watch him paint Steamboat Willie

At the World Showcase Plaza, a stage was set with a large, square canvas and containers of vibrant paint. The canvas was prepped with a blue to red gradient – a teaser for the crowd to guess which character would emerge. As Carlton arrived, he greeted the audience, cued the music, and began to bring Steamboat Willie to life. While dancing and interacting with the crowd, Carlton made large, sweeping brush strokes of red, purple, and blue – not the traditional black and white palette familiar to Steamboat Willie. A winking Mickey grips the helm of his boat as Carlton added his finishing touches of paint splatter and bowed to the crowd – all within less than twenty minutes in the Florida sun.

Carlton shared that he missed performing and acting so he started speed painting to get back on stage again – “marrying my two passions, painting and performing.”

The festival also provides a source of inspiration and joy to Carlton – from being immersed in performances, speaking to collectors, and making new friends to getting feedback from other artists and guests.

“[It’s] so inspiring to be a part of the festival and meet young, talented people starting their own art adventures,” he said. “I love to look at their sketch books and iPads to see their designs and artwork. I’m always amazed at the diversity of talent and what one does with paint and a canvas, or pencil and paper, or chalk and a sidewalk.”

Carlton also provided advice for young, emerging artists.

“I always say, have fun,” he said. “Creating is a process – have fun during your process! Start that as a habit [and] work on your creativity every day, for a few hours, or for a few minutes. Staying engaged leads to new ideas. Make mistakes. It’s going to happen anyway, so just trust your process. Ideas and experience comes from making mistakes. Take the knowledge you learned to the next piece. Always build in that way – let the current piece be a step towards the next one. Create a place for people to view and buy your work (like Instagram, Etsy, or a website). People need to see what you’re working on, a portfolio. Selling your work leads to more supplies for the next new pieces.”

Carlton undoubtedly brought the fun to this year’s festival. Guests have a final opportunity to meet the artist during the last weekend of the festival, February 15-19. To learn more about Carlton, visit www.trevorcarltonart.com and www.disneyfineart.com.