This week I had the privilege to interview the charming Caitlin Shearer, an astonishingly talented and prolific young illustrator from Australia. She’s freshly 22 and has already shown her work all over Australia, as well as in Spain and the Netherlands. She has been featured in dozens of publications including fashion giants like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and several fashion designers as well (edit: I had previously written that she was commissioned by these publications but that was incorrect, a textile design that she created for Karla Spetic was featured in these magazines). Caitlin’s work is playful, coquettish, powerful, and an all around treat to view. I’d like to thank Caitlin again for taking the time to chat with me, I hope you all enjoy the interview.
Well first of all Caitlin, how are you today?
I’m pretty good thanks. Really dying to eat a hamburger actually! The sun is out, and my head is full of romance so i guess i’m pretty happy.
Your work gained widespread recognition when you were still quite young. How would you describe the evolution of your work over the years?
It’s strange to think that people liked my earlier work because for me, it’s a very cringe-worthy thing. It’s like allowing everyone to see into my embarrassing teenage diary. My technical skills and subject matter were not refined, so it’s interesting that people could appreciate the naive things that i was making when i was still figuring everything out. I think my work evolved as i matured and as my obsessions and personality also shifted and solidified (and that’s still happening). Really i’m just looking forward to the day when i’ve got fifty years of experience under my belt and i can hopefully create things that i’m 100 percent content with.
You were among the first wave of young artists to gain a sort of online celebrity using social networking forums and early art sharing sites like DeviantArt. Given that you had a large global audience from early on, would you say this in any way shaped your creative journey? And how do you think the age of instant communication is changing the way we create and share art?
I became obsessed with deviantart in the middle of highschool because it was a place where i could be in contact with kids my age who were also obsessed with drawing and painting… and living in a secluded beachside area, that was something i was seriously lacking. It really helped my self esteem and allowed me to discover many weird and wonderful things about the world. Helped me to emerge from my shell.
Without the internet and it’s vast reach i don’t think it would be nearly as possible for me to work as an illustrator, and I’d say it’s also been extremely helpful for quite a large hunk of young creative types who are perhaps not socially connected or who live in the middle of nowhere. My bedroom is my workspace and the internet is the stage upon which i can present these outbursts. That seems incredible to me because if i was doing this kind of thing even 20 years ago all of my paintings would be hidden under my bed (or maybe hung up around the house by my mother) and i’d probably be working as a teacher or something.
What was your first public showing of your work, and what was that experience like for you?
The first time i showed was at the local regional gallery, as part of a highschool art exhibition. They were these four canvas squares painted and collaged with long necked girls and teeth and skeleton jumpers, and i was completely over the moon! I remember feeling really special, really lucky, really blessed and also happy to see my parents proud. I remember that i wore a black dress with golden buttons down the front and i was extremely nervous and probably kept reminding myself to ‘stand up straight!’ the entire time at the opening.
Your work often has a strong 50’s or 60’s feel to it, what is it that draws you to that time period?
I think i’m so drawn to the aesthetics of that time period because it’s a form of escapism and theres something nice about holding onto and re-creating the past so that it doesn’t become lost.
As a kid alot of the 90’s movies i watched were heavily inspired by that very kitschy 50’s style and i think it must have seeped into my brain. (clueless, to wong foo, jawbreaker, etc…)
What kind of environment do you need to surround yourself with to produce your illustrations?
I need sunlight and peace and a desk space. That’s pretty much it.
Where does the inspiration for your work come from? Is it spontaneous or do you find yourself consistently inspired by specific things?
I become easily obsessed with certain things and these pop up in my work all the time simply because i’m madly in love and need to make homage to these interests. Mostly I am inspired by the things that are happening in my life (or the lack of things/longing). Lately i’ve been stuck because three months ago i moved to the city and finally started ‘living’ and now there’s too much in my brain to comprehend. I want to draw but i don’t know where to begin.
The women you draw are often intensely feminine and also intensely powerful. Would you ever consider yourself a feminist artist? How do you think the women you create communicate with the women of our world today?
I am obsessed with women, the female figure, biographies about important females throughout time… and i suppose i’ve never really thought about attaching a label such as feminist to my work, because it’s more of an introspective outpouring of emotion rather than a broader statement about the world.
I think the girls in my work are relatable because of their longing and romantic notions and sometimes sadness. I guess it’s like playing with paper dolls, kind of voyeuristic.
What do you consider to be your greatest artistic achievement? And what goals do you have for yourself now?
Everything is an achievement really. I laugh to myself every day because i cannot believe that i can paint pictures for a living. That’s too good to be true.
Goals are to fall into some kind of deep maddening romance, sew some black dresses, make a couple of books and find an apartment with lots of sunlight.
What advice would you give to young aspiring artists?
If you love it, then just do it! Don’t give up your dreams just because working in a bank could make you more money. Happiness is key. The universe will deliver what you need, and only when you are ready to accept it. Oh, and drink lots of water and always be polite. 🙂
Many thanks again to Caitlin. Keep an eye out for more upcoming artist interviews.
Kick your shoes off and have a lovely evening everyone.