She can juggle, make pigs out of marshmallows, do magic tricks and in her spare time is Scarlettcat, the wonderful illustrator whose works are best described as being 'quirky'. It's fair to say that she is interesting.
Q. Scarlettcat, we've exhibited together, done coffee and cake, attempted to get a collaboration off the ground and now I think it's time to interview you for 'interesting or not so interesting'. Are you up for it? Which category do you think you fall into - interesting or not so interesting? Reasons?
A. I’ll start positive and go for ‘interesting’. Why?
1. I can juggle.
2. I can perform two jaw-dropping magic tricks (I’m a big hit at children’s birthday parties).
3. I cut my own hair.
4. I frequently sleep in my hammock out in the garden. I love staring at the stars and listening to possums crash through the trees.
5. I adore sharks. The bigger, the better.
6. I recently made a pig out of a marshmallow. It’s going to be part of a set.
7. I have a mildly retarded cat called Audrey – she constantly wobbles her head and sits with her head in the corner – plus a Siamese fighting fish called ‘Jet Li’. (I also have another cat, but she’s not interesting at all).
8. In primary school I perfected a technique for catching wild pigeons with my bare hands. I’d do it in the playground at lunchtime. It was actually pretty impressive.
9. I love dirty jokes.
10. I’m the only person I know who’s passionately opposed to the idea of flying cars and willing to enter a heated debate on the matter (ask my boyfriend).
Q. Which illustrators works do you admire most?
A. It’s a long, long list. But the top five are:
1. Mark Ryden - Ryden was my introduction to lowbrow art and has been a massive influence. He’s the king of painstaking detail. If you start to look at the background, you can get quite lost in his paintings.
2. Joe Sorren - Nobody can manipulate the light in a painting like Joe Sorren can. And he’s created several pieces that I’ve become utterly besotted with. I had to buy one of his prints because I couldn’t stop thinking about it!
3. Audrey Kawasaki - She creates the sexiest, most languid looking women. And she’s not a fan of busy backgrounds – a woman after me own heart!
4. Grey ‘Crayola’ Simkins - Looking at his work is like watching cartoons on acid. I love the way he recreates textures – fur, beaks, slimy skin! And he has a wild imagination.
5. Del Kathryn Barton - An Aussie artist who uses amazing colour combinations and often has billions of tiny dots making up her backgrounds. I went to her exhibition early this year and the scale of her work is breathtaking.
Q. Inspiration, where do you source yours from?
A. Fashion magazines, children’s books, nature. I’m a pack rat when it comes to collecting images. I hoard postcards, magazine tear sheets, scraps of material, toy animals and colour swatches - like a squirrel storing acorns for the winter!
Then when I want to draw, I spread it all out across the floor and see what catches my eye. From there it’s a matter of finding the right composition and putting pencil to paper.
Q. You always seem to be trying either a new technique or medium, what are your major sources for information when taking them on?
A. Most of the time, I just buy materials and experiment. I don’t like asking for help! I just like to play. Toying with materials and making mistakes (and I make plenty!) helps me develop my own techniques.
For example, with coloured pencils the general rule is not to press too hard because they go shiny. But I’ve found that if I do it carefully, I can get the colours to ‘melt’ into one another. It gives me this rich, saturated look that I adore. If I’d gone to art school I’d never have discovered it.
I’m also extremely lucky to be surrounded by arty types. I work in advertising (I’m a copywriter) and the art directors often give me advice. Also my boyfriend, Bill, worked as a restorative painter for 15 years, so if I screw something up he’ll explain where I went wrong!
Q. Is there a medium or technique that you are just dying to explore and attempt? Which ones are the good old favorites you just love to use?
A. I’d really like to try collage techniques in my work. I want to sew and glue cut-out pieces together and experiment with layering different images. I have so many beads and sequins and bits of fabric and scraps of beautiful paper in my studio – and I never use them. I think 2009 will be the Year of the Collage for me.
My favorite medium is pencil. I have absolutely no patience and hate waiting! Pencil lets me finish a piece immediately instead of waiting for paint to dry.
I used to adore watercolour too, because it has a life of its own. You can control it to a point, but there’s always an unexpected element with watercolour. It does its own thing. In fact, I may start using them again next year. They were lots of fun!
Q. Sometimes as artists we get constructive feedback and some times not so constructive feedback. How do you best deal with the latter when it's negative?
A. To be honest, I haven’t had any purely nasty feedback. Not to my face, at least (have you heard something I haven’t?!).
Like anyone, I get constructive negative feedback and to be honest, I really appreciate that.
Positive comments are nice, and very important for building confidence, but they don’t really help you progress.
As long as you take it with a pinch of salt, negative feedback can really help you improve your art and your business.
It also helps to have worked 10 years in advertising where nobody pulls punches while critiquing your work! You learn to develop very thick skin.
Q. What's the one thing you've learnt along the way that you wish you were told when you started creating, selling and exhibiting your illustrations?
A. I wish I’d been told that most people in the art industry are really friendly, down-to-earth people.
I was so incredibly intimidated by everyone when I started out - it took a very long time before I was willing to approach galleries or talk to other artists. In fact, until early this year I hadn’t actually met another artist!
Up until then I’d been working totally in isolation. I may as well have been painting on a desert island. It’s much better to be part of an art community – more opportunities, more fun!
Q. You’re in an exhibition with the talented My Charlie Girl at 696 in early 2009, is there anything else exciting planned for the near future?
A. I have a couple of shows and competitions lined up next year and I’m planning to expand the range of items I offer in my Etsy shop. I’ve just started designing and selling shoes through www.zazzle.com. So I’ll be creating more footwear designs next year. After struggling to find gift wrap I really love I’m quite desperate to make some of my own. So that may be on the cards for next year.
And I want to start a jewellery range featuring my girls. I’ve been toying with the idea of making pendant necklaces for a long, long time, so 2009 will be the Year of the Necklace, as well as the Year of the Collage. Hmmm, I guess I’ll be rather busy.
Q. Where online can people go to check out more of your lovely illustrations and stay up to date with your going ons?
A. Pop into www.scarlettcat.blogspot.com I usually post new work here before it goes into my Etsy shop and there are freebies available (desktop wallpapers and downloadable gift wrap). All my shop links are here too – and I may be adding some more next year.
Q. Scarlettcat, just want to say thank you and I hope you've enjoyed answering these few questions?
A. Thanks for having me!