KATY SMAIL

KATY SMAILCH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

KT: I don’t really like to categorize my style; my favorite thing about what I do is the sweeping variety. I like to paint portraits, design logos, illustrate stories, build paper sets, collaborate with photographers, make small botanical studies…. I guess one thing that ties everything together is that everything is drawn by hand. And I’m always drawn to girls, botanicals and birds no matter what I do. If I had to describe I would say feminine, decorative, dreamy & figurative.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

KT: So many things! I love the flicker of excitement right at the beginning; the hazy outlines of inspiration that you can’t even squint to see but feel so real and exhilarating. I love clutching to the coattails of that feeling, starting to research & draw in a world that doesn’t quite exist yet. It can come from a book, an exhibition, a movie or just the light upon a bended bloom. I am forever inspired by the representation of women; their portraits, their stories and the historic role that florals play in the telling.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

KT: Well, when I am working on my personal projects, it almost always starts with a girl; her story, her face, her hair etc. She might be a friend, a painting, a character in a novel. Once I have captured the essence of her, and I am happy with her face, the rest of it comes together based on my inspirations and obsessions at that time. I am working on a series of portraits now, in which I am using detailed patterns to help to set the tone, to hint at her world. So then it’s a matter of thinking about what makes sense to adorn her with; is it a fragile paper bird, a spiky thistle print, a delicate wash of wildflowers. The botanical element of my work might come from a flower study I made, a walk in the woods, an exhibition I saw or an old swatch of faded wallpaper. And then it is just a process of trying to knit everything together, to seamlessly merge scale, detail, surface and color to create a rabbit hole for the viewer to tumble down.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

KT: It varies depending on the piece but, in general, a feeling momentary escapism, a “washing over” of beauty, a tension between fragility and strength and the hint of a story that compels them.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

KT: I work freelance as an illustrator, designer and exhibiting artist so my lifestyle is quite different from week to week. I love this variety and enjoy the fact that one day I might be making paper owls for a photo shoot, the next painting a portrait and the next designing a wedding invitation. I find that all of these different outlets feed into each other and help me to feel stimulated and inspired. I enjoy being in charge of my own schedule and the quietness and solitude that affords me and my work. Working alone can become sad and lonely though, which is when I am so thankful for the projects where I am on set, collaborating with design teams or working with florists. I also make sure to break up my day and go for a run or to yoga class every day; those things absolutely keep me sane! I am so thankful to have the time to do this. I have also started to structure my week to match my friends and loved ones, so I try to be done by 6ish and give myself Sunday off whenever I can. Working for yourself is really a wonderful thing, but it also takes an enormous amount of inner strength, determination and blind optimism. My lifestyle and feelings during a busy period vary wildly from my experiences during a dry spell, but I am ALWAYS thankful to be spending my time doing what I love.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

KT: I think that a strong impulse/ inspiration/ obsession is the best starting point. I always have a pretty clear idea of how I see things turning out, but it is an important lesson to let that go sometimes, and let things develop organically.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

KT: Sometimes taking a break, and coming back to things with clear eyes and new ideas, is much more valuable than struggling through.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

KT: I regard it to be a naturally integral part of me and my work.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

KT: Not being able to switch off, worrying about money and the awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you make bad work.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

KT: Being able to articulate esoteric ideas.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

KT: Many! Schiele, Darger, Kahlo, Matisse, Nabokov, Garcia Marquez, Plath, Patti Smith, Tim Walker, Julia Margaret Cameron, Anais Nin…. I could go on forever

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

KT: I don’t use technology to physically create the work, but I certainly use it as a means for self-assessment and promotion etc. I use my camera phone to take photos as work progresses, as I find this helps me to “see” the work more clearly. I use my scanner and photoshop to clean up my work and make it presentable, and my website, blog and instagram have been vital in putting my work into the world and reaching a wider audience. So, while I think that preserving classical skills and cultivating a hand-made practice is incredibly important to me, I can’t deny the part that technology plays in my career.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

KT: I think that everyone views the world in a slightly different way. Being an artist has undoubtably shaped my outlook, but then so has my yoga practice, the people I love and being a woman.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

KT: I adore traveling, but could never name a favorite city! I love Paris, Rome, Naples, Melbourne, my hometown Edinburgh and my adopted love New York. I am dying to go to Mexico, New Orleans, Croatia, Vietnam and Argentina.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

KT: Too many! I love Anna Karenina, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Anais Nin, The God of Small Things, Patti Smith, Sylvia Plath, Garcia Marquez, Les Enfants Terribles and Nabokov.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

KT: Many! I am working on my new bespoke stationery business, so I hope to work with many lovely people and couples to create lifelong mementos. I want to continue to collaborate with magical people, write and illustrate a book, develop a print design portfolio, exhibit more, and spend more time drawing abroad.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

KT: It means trying to add a little beauty and meaning to the world, in some small way.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

KT: A description of where I am at with my work right now:

Drawings that are bittersweet, dreamy , poetic. Trying to examine the representation of women; their portraits, their stories and the historic role that florals play in the telling. I draw the narratives of my muses in layers of their winding botanicals, paper petals and regimented patterns. Wild, steely eyes flicker under the groomed beauty of strict gardens. Untamed vines of paper hair cascade upon ladylike lace. Fragile blooms clutch neat wildflowers and gaze from iron frames unto the creeping wilderness….

CHECK OUT MORE ON: KATY SMAIL

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