Challenge 25: One of my favorite things— Traveling
During the holiday season, I usually have several Christmases with multiple family members and groups of friends, and often some require a trip on an airplane or mini-road trip. Even the quick jaunt across town to see my parents is a bit of traveling that I treasure about this time of year. I love feeling connected to everyone, and getting to see my second, third and even fourth homes again with each Christmas.
Interview with Caitlin Alexander
Last, but certainly not least is Square Carousel’s interview with the talented Caitlin Alexander. Caitlin’s work reflects her inspiration from retro illustration of the 1950’s and 60’s, but her inventive use of pattern, color, and texture has created a lovely aesthetic authentically her own. Miss Alexander’s wonderful ability to translate such joy and happiness into visual stories characterizes her work. And, this amazing illustrator is just as warm and compassionate as her artwork appears.
“The Best Dream”
You have a truly unique ability to create pieces that communicate a sense of sincere joy and happiness. They are warm-hearted, colorful, and sentimental in subject, but also in style. Do you believe they all have a unique part of you in them?
First of all, thank you for the incredibly kind words! I do think that I put a lot of myself into my work. It’s funny, because at the beginning of my illustration education, my pieces were a lot more cynical, and sarcastic. The colors were very dull, and it was intentionally sloppy-looking. That period of time in my life was definitely more difficult, and I struggled with a lot of personal things. As I grew and embraced myself, my work began to reflect that inner peace I was finally able to discover. Now I like to think my portfolio has some of the same qualities I’ve learned to love about myself: sentimentality, joy, and a little humor, too.
What steps do you have when creating a piece from beginning to end?
For each piece, I start with brainstorming, and I allow myself to just think about the challenge presented with the assignment. Usually the best ideas come when I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep! I try my hardest to marry the assignment with something I’ve already had a current interest in illustrating. Then I sketch some really rough, ugly thumbnails in my sketchbook, and choose a composition that works best. Depending on who the piece is for, I can draw more detailed roughs, but if it’s just for me I usually don’t. Then, when painting, the process typically goes pretty quickly, and often in one sitting. I prefer not to space out painting sessions because I want my colors to be consistent, and even though I mix the same colors often, they aren’t ever just exactly the same. For more complicated compositions, I’ll paint each part separately and then join them in Photoshop. Most often I use the computer to tweak colors, but sometimes I’ll do some digital painting to touch things up or move the composition around. I’d say 95 percent of my work is traditional, though.
“Cabo Beach Burger”
When working on a piece, are there any “must-haves” in your environment in order to get creative? (such as listening to certain music, having total silence, only working at midnight, sitting at a certain window, etc.)
I have to work in daylight! Even a room with dim natural light during the day is really difficult for me to work in.
Caitlin’s supplies and utensils
Could be totally off, but your work seems to have a sense of nostalgia. Where do you derive your inspiration?
I get my stylistic inspiration from illustration created during the 1950s and ’60s, specifically Disney concept artist Mary Blair. Her work is so beautiful and fun! I love the simple, geometric design that came from that time period. There are several current illustrators that have similar influences, like Peter Brown, who I like a lot, too.
Outside of creating illustrations, what do you like to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my family and friends, to sound corny and cliche. People are like water to my soul— I absolutely need them to stay alive! (to sound even cornier!) I also like thrift shopping at garage sales and antique shops.
Your illustrations’ unique qualities of texture, pattern, and particular color palette stand out in the Square Carousel group. You have also had quite a bit of experience in printmaking. Has this influenced the development of your aesthetics?
Printmaking was definitely a journey for me. I’d say that, without out a doubt, it has changed my way of looking at textures, and color overlay. I often aspire to a screen print-like look, and it helps to know the process behind it. In school, I took classes in relief, photo-processes, and a lot of lithography. Printing is something I would love to dabble in again, but I did need a little break from it. Sometimes the fine art and commercial art worlds clash, and I learned that the hard way during school. It was worth learning those amazing processes, though.
What are some of your favorite childhood books (or movies/cartoons) growing up?
For books, I’d have to say “Are You My Mother?,” by P.D. Eastman. It’s very special to me because my mom read it to me about a thousand times as a child. “Meet My Cats” by Lesley Anne Ivory was the first book whose illustrations that caught my attention, although I never ended up with a style anything like it’s detailed, naturalistic renderings. As far as movies and cartoons go, I was just your average ’90s kid, watching tons of Nickelodeon shows (Doug!) and Disney movies (The Lion King).
All of your pieces have a certain quality of telling a story. Do you see yourself pursuing a little writing in the future?
Yes! I’m actually in the process of writing and illustrating a picture book dummy, as we speak. I’m about to start painting some final work for it, so keep your eyes peeled! In the next couple weeks I’ll be moving into a new studio, and after that I’ll be a very busy bee.
If you grew up in any other country in the world, where would you want it to be and why? Do you think you’d still want to be an illustrator?
I would definitely choose illustration, no matter the location. Picking a place is hard though! I honestly don’t think I’ve traveled enough to make an educated choice, so I’ll say instead that I would love to visit Greece, ancient Egypt, Paris, and Rome. I’m a sucker for ancient art history! It’s so incredible. I could ramble about it for hours! (and I could also travel anywhere and be happy. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do with my family).
Have anything else you would like Square Carousel followers to know about you or your work?
I’m also a member of a local illustration group called The Girllustrators that everyone should check out!
The lovely Caitlin Alexander herself.
View more of Caitlin Alexander’s amazing work!
Challenge 19- Calendar Zine: September
Hi all! For this challenge, I knew I had to do September. The weather is so lovely, and for a dork like me, getting ready to go back to school was always a thrill (new supplies? hurrah!). Plus, it’s my birthday month. So, I chose to make a subtle salute to September with this illustration of schoolhouse antics. I may use these characters again soon in my work, so keep your eyes peeled…
Challenge 18: Gig Poster for Built to Spill
I knew, as soon as Catherine announced the challenge, that I had to do Built to Spill. I saw them for the first time at this show, standing in front, in a small setting (not to mention free!), and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life! I tried my best to illustrate the feeling I get from listening to their music. The reasoning behind the thin vertical format is the idea that I could illustrate posters for the other artists who performed during this free concert series. This would make a recognizable format that visually links the shows.
Listen! (And please excuse the goofy video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OzuCXxM63k
Challenge 17: Nostalgia for Doug
I knew when Elizabeth chose this challenge that I had to illustrate “Doug.” The show was my all-time favorite, and with good reason— it had solid characters, story-lines that taught lessons without being preachy, and plenty of silliness without being obnoxious. Oh, how I miss the days of Quailman!
This illustration is showing Doug’s endless crush on Patti Mayonnaise. Usually he wouldn’t be this obvious about it, so I suppose it’s more symbolic than literal in his actions.
Challenge 16: Letter Playground, ATX
I decided to go with an Austin theme for my letters! Austin, Texas is known for being pretty diverse with different types of people, activities, and cultures. I thought I would highlight some of the most celebrated attributes of the city: the Mexican influence, especially in the food, our preservation and love of our green spaces, and (although I have yet to replace my stolen bike from school) bicycling any and everywhere!
Challenge 15: 2011 Grad Article
I decided to do an illustration for an article, because my portfolio is lacking a bit of concept right now. Pretty much immediately after sitting down to think of ideas, I remembered an article I’d seen someone post on Facebook. The New York Times interviewed a good portion of the class of 2011 at Drew University (and then did research about the rest of us). It’s overwhelming how many 2011 grads are either still unemployed, or not working in a job related to their degree. It definitely hit home for me, because I’ve been doing pretty random stuff since school, and it’s been hard to swallow at times. Sometimes I truly do feel like the graduate in my illustration— “Can anyone hear me?”