Caitlin Gardiner has made a fabulous image for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion that works the whole way across a double page. She tells us more about life as a graduate and her upcoming exhibition…
You recently graduated from the University of Lincoln, how has Cygnet INK helped you get your work seen professionally?
Cygnet Ink has been great! When trying to raise funds in order to take us to New Designers they organised stalls at craft fairs and printed postcards with all of our work on which raise a tonne of money. At these fairs we also had raffles or auctions for framed pieces of our work and they were instrumental in organising the printing of our graduate book ‘Twenty Fifteen’. Each person on our course was assigned an era of history to illustrate which then came together for the book. This was my first experience really of the professional illustration world, and I loved it. I designed our cover and and all the ‘Twenty Fifteen’ graphics as well as my page so it was great to have the experience of going back and forth with Cygnet INK for feedback. They then sold our book and sent it to prospective clients and agents to advertise our students. Since then they have run a number of exhibitions and fairs to promote the students of Lincoln. I contributed to both parts 1 & 2 of the ‘Twisted Tales’ exhibitions held in Lincoln and Nottingham and now to ‘The Wild Wood’ exhibition.
Since your return home how have you found jobs, and what have been the most fun things you have worked on?
So I’m back in sleepy Bedfordshire and it turns out that illustration isn’t the easiest profession to get into… who knew?! Throughout the summer I was mainly working up a decent portfolio an developing a good working practice without being a student. That being said I’ve had some real fun jobs come my way. An exciting one I have at the moment is for the theatre review blog, ‘Scatter of Opinion’, involving some fun characters and patterns. The blog is written by one of my oldest friends and she’s given me real freedom to have fun and go mad with it so that’s been great. Unfortunately, I live in the sticks where there isn’t a huge art scene so I am going to have to start relying more now on travelling and an increased internet presence to get my work out there – but at least the environment provides great inspiration for my work.
What kind of graphic design work supplements your illustration?
Recently I’ve been doing small bits of graphic design work alongside my illustration practice. I’ve done a few invites, table plans etc for parties. My favourite was a Sports Personality of the Year themed party where everything looked like it was painted on grass. It’s been great to learn a completely new skill but tedious when you realise, for example, that you can simply make your own hand drawn fonts in seconds online just after you’ve individually lettered 200 or so names on Photoshop to get the ‘handwritten look’!
What inspired your colouring book image of fishes trapped, and escaping, from a net?
I knew for this colouring brief that I wanted to create a complex image and had been sorting out and backing up some old work at the time. I discovered a gouache painting I had done at university and just started doodling some similar fish and realised I could make something new and more narrative from the drawings. I wanted to explore the idea of freedom but keep it fun and fresh by using the comical looking fish. It was as simple as that: I loved designing and creating the image and thought that it would be great fun to colour!
How did you create your image?
I used Photoshop as I am trying to keep improving and developing my digital skills as I have always worked in traditional medias. I’ve really enjoyed mixing traditional and digital mediums together to create new pieces. In every piece of digital work I create I will include scanned papers, textures drawings and all sorts. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist so I’ve been trying to quicken my design process to loosen up my style somewhat and I think this been quite successful. I drew hundreds of fish individually and complied them together in Photoshop using a design I had already roughly worked up. For the left hand side I used Photoshop to colour each fish individually and the boat and background and then layered this on top of a sugar paper texture background.
What kind of studio environment suits you best when you are working?
Once I get into a piece I will be completely focused and have been known to work until 6 in the morning as I don’t realise the time! However, often I find I am very easily distracted at the start of a project. Our studio at university had a designated working space for the third years so when there weren’t taught sessions this was ideal, there was a quiet place to just stick your head down and draw all those ideas that popped into my brain. On the other hand I love to be able to watch television or listen to an audiobook as I work; I’ve found that if I listen to music I can just wander off and I haven’t really missed anything, but if there is a story going on then I can’t miss any of it as then the whole plot will get confused. I generally only watch TV shows or films I’ve seen before as then I’m just listening to it really rather than having my eyes glued to screen, I probably know ‘Friends’ off by heart now! I think this is why my current home studio (a desk in my bedroom) is working pretty well, I can go and get a cuppa when I want but also have ‘The Office’ (US) playing out loud keeping me in my chair!
How do you inject an element of fun into your drawings?
I really enjoy including hidden jokes or items in many pieces of my work – there are a few of these in my colouring page, I thought this would be extra fun for the reader to find them when colouring in. If the illustration I am working on allows for it I usually like to add a little something to make you giggle if you look closer, whether it be an ironic t-shirt slogan, a little bird pooping or even just an expression on a character’s face.
What have you produced for the upcoming Wild Wood exhibition?
My work has recently become increasingly inspired by nature and more specifically the British countryside. I have just finished a piece for ‘The Wild Wood’ at Gallery at St. Martins in Lincoln run by Cygnet INK. For this piece I was inspired by the seasons and decided to explore what one branch or tree could look like throughout an entire year. I aimed to make it look like one image at first glance then upon looking closer, you can see the four seasons represented evenly.
Can you tell us more about your plans to sell products?
At the moment I’m working on a range of products to sell online and at craft markets. I’m printing some stuff professionally but I’m most excited about the handprinted bags, materials and wrapping paper that I have planned. I’ve made some hand carved stamps stamps that I’ve handprinted and collaged a handful of cat cards to start my shop (CaitlinGardiner on Etsy) off whilst I get other products printed and designed. I’m very excited about this and have loads of ideas buzzing around just waiting to be made and sold to some lovely customers!
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