Hi Caitlin! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am an artist, and a cat lover, and an identical twin. I grew up in northern California in a small town on the coast, surrounded by redwood forests and rolling hills on one side, and the cold Pacific on the other. I always loved animals and nature and spent most of my youth in the wilderness, clambering about the ancient trees, hiking and camping in the mountains and building forts of driftwood on the rocky beaches.
I live in New York City, I’ve been here for about 8 years now, including my time at Pratt Institute, where I graduated in 2009 with my BFA. I am currently planning my move back west to San Francisco, something I am quite excited for as it’s long over due.
I draw animals, pseudo mythical and mutated creatures that represent the thin line between what is human and what is animal, the wavering boundary between these definitions. My work is about both the beauty and the brutality of this boundary; the ways in which it is damaged and pushed, usually from the human side, and of the natural world itself that is under ceaseless invasion and yet remains a place of wonder for me. I work mostly in ballpoint pen and watercolour on paper, along with some coloured pencil and acrylic. My work varies in size from tiny mice at 4” by 6” to enormous bird creatures at 5ft by 6ft. I prefer to work large when I have the chance, I like the way these huge creatures confront the viewer.
You work in a range of different media but you specialise in ballpoint pen. What do you particularly like about the different mediums you use? How do you colour your work? Is there anything you particularly enjoy about working in pencil?
I love ballpoint pen because you can shade with it as you would a pencil, but it doesn’t smudge as easily as pencil does and has a rich blackness to it. Plus you can watercolour on top of it (so long as you have a pen with the right kind of oil based ink). Growing up I would always doodle and sketch with ballpoint pen, so it was a natural progression for me later in my career. I use watercolour and coloured pencil layered on top of the ballpoint.
I do use pencil occasionally, I enjoy the way it blends, pencil has a softness and a detail to it that give the drawing a greater sense of reality. I use coloured pencil in combination with ballpoint pen more frequently than I use pencil alone, but I have done a few series using only pencil, they tend to be faster pieces to create as well since pencil is more forgiving than ink.
Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
I usually start out a drawing sketching lightly in pencil, and then follow up with the detail work in ink. For colour pieces I watercolour over top of the ballpoint.
I have so many ideas for potential pieces bouncing around in my head it can be difficult to decide which one to start first, I have lists written in sketchbooks and strewn about my studio full of ideas for pieces. I get images in my head, some inspired by environmental issues, some from dreams, some that just pop into place, and I write them all down for potential pieces. Some ideas even bleed into each other, joining up, combining myths and fairy tales I love with contemporary environmental issues I hear about.
Often the size of the work dictates what concept I am going to draw. For group shows I usually have to make smaller pieces, as opposed to the large scale work I prefer, and since I dislike drawing things smaller than life size I create a lot of birds and small mammals for those. I am obsessed with forest creates, song-birds and foxes, ferrets, squirrels, wild cats, rats and bats.
What is your favourite subject-matter and why?
Animals in general are my passion, they are pretty much all I have ever wanted to draw, even as a child. In particular I love to create deer, foxes, cats and birds. I also love drawing branches, I grew up surrounded by forests and have always loved the sculptural forms of trees, here in NYC I love to walk through central park in the winter when the trees are dark and bare, they have such striking lines.
I’m not sure why I love animals so much, or what draws me to them so ceaselessly, but I have loved animals all my life. I wanted to go into wildlife biology before I went into art.
As I mentioned before I grew up surrounded by wilderness, so that probably has something to do with it. In addition my father was an avid out doors man who taught my sister and I from a young age to have respect for the natural world and all of its creatures, and when I was young I wanted nothing more than to be an animal myself and run off into the wilderness. I grew up owning cats, rats and geckos, plus having wild animals such as foxes, bear, deer and raccoons roam through our yard since our house backed up onto the state forest. I am something of a crazy cat lady haha, sometimes I think I like cats more than I like most people.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
It’s hard to pick a favourite piece, I’ve had a few that have just ‘worked’, sometimes drawings are a struggle, but every once in a while I just have a piece that flows out, a recent piece of mine “The King’s Last Knight”, is one of those. I love that drawing, It’s the first black and white piece I’ve done in a while and I adore it. I have also been trying to improve my line quality with each new piece I create, and that drawing was quite successful in that regard, but it’s more than that, the emotional depth I put into that piece really resonates with people, I’ve had a huge response from it.
Do you have any early memories of drawing?
Well I’ve been drawing since I was very young, my sister and I would sit down together at our coffee table and my parents would set us up with piles of printer paper and we would be entertained for hours drawing together and telling the stories of our drawings. However I don’t remember those times very clearly, although my parents saved all of our drawings, we have folders and folders filled with pictures we made when we were 4, 5, 6, 7 years old. I do remember some drawing I did when I was in later elementary and middle school though; my best friend and I would illustrate the stories we wrote together, we wrote one about two Siamese cats, each with one blue eye and one yellow, and with wings. These cats could see ghosts with their blue eye, and lived in a castle in the sky. We illustrated the stories together, and acted them out at recess. I think my parents still have one of the ‘books’ we wrote in a box somewhere.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I don’t keep a sketchbook anymore. I wish I did, I used to when I was young, In high school I would go through a few big sketchbooks a year. Somehow in college I got out of the habit and never got it back. I have a hard time making a sketch and not finishing it, and since I like to work large it became difficult for me to do small sketches at all. I bought a sketchbook recently in hopes of getting myself back in to the habit but so far it’s been pretty off and on.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I prefer to work life sized, or larger. Obviously for illustration work and concept design I have to make smaller pieces, but when given the chance I like to make my creatures life sized.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I am interested in doing some stop-motion and animation. I don’t know when I’ll have time to even think about starting that process, but I have a few friends who are interested in helping me create a stop motion video using paper puppets of my creatures. Hopefully that will happen in the next few years. I’m also interested in doing some more 3-dimensional work again, I used to make puppets out of paper-mache that I would draw on top of, I’d like to make some of those again, maybe larger ones.
I’m moving to San Francisco this year after 8 years in NYC, I’m hoping to meet some new creative folk and hopefully take more time to create new work.
Where can we see your work next? And where else can we get a hold of more of your work?
I started a t-shirt company this year called Fabled Apparel that features my artwork on t-shirts, the first set of designs is out now and you can see them here: http://fabledapparel.com/
I also have several shows up, and coming up. I have work going up at Clement art gallery in Troy NY this month, opening March 20th for their show “beautifully strange”, I also have a lot of work out at Thinkspace gallery, including my new sea-horse piece “when the seas rise” that is going there for a benefit show for the Oceanic Awareness Collaboration. I’ll be doing a group show with the PRISMA artist collective at Distinction gallery in San Diego in September, plus another group show at Copro gallery in November of this year. For people interested in buying art work I do have a fair amount of original work available and I’ll be trying to sell some of it before I move west haha, so they are more than welcome to contact me through my website, www.caitlinhackett.com, and I have prints available from there as well.
Caitlin’s work appears in Issue 1 of Tiny Pencil Issue – available to buy here.
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