MA Children’s Book Illustration Grad Show

I have recently finished my Master of Arts in Children’s Book Illustration. With the Graduation Show at Candid Arts Trust in London from the 15-19 February fast approaching, I wanted to give a little insight into my artistic process.

Was Art a part of your childhood?

I loved drawing from an early age, and before my sister was born, the page was my playground, diary and place to understand myself and the world. I grew up by the sea and loved playing on the beautiful Norfolk beaches and in the nearby pinewoods, so nature has always been a big inspiration for me. My first teachers were my parents. They could see that I had a love for drawing, and encouraged me to draw, study and pursue a career through my art work. 4 year old Catherine wanted to study Art at Yarmouth art school, and go to the fun fair at the weekend. I didn’t make it to Yarmouth, but I did study my undergraduate degree in Fine Art from the University of the Creative Arts in Canterbury.

What inspired you to do the MA?

I used to work as a Library Assistant and especially loved working in the Children’s Library, with all the wonderful picture book illustrations. I could see the impact books had on children’s minds and development. It was their space to learn, to grow and get to know themselves. I want to be a part of bringing beauty, joy and inspiration to the world, through the magical realm of words and pictures.

What role does Observational Drawing have in your practice?

The foundation of the MA is based on observational drawing and it’s the first module that we studied. Developing this regular habit has truly transformed my practice by helping me to look at the world differently. I take my sketchbook everywhere and find inspiration in nature. Natural foliage patterns appear in my work from what I have drawn through observation. My Masters Stage stories have both developed from Observational Drawing. ‘Stories from the Sea’ was inspired by sailing trips with my partner and drawing him working on the boat. We both became interested in the sailing language that we heard from speaking to other sailors and watching YouTube channels about sailing. There is a rich history from sailing that can be found in our everyday words and phrases. Stories from the Sea, illustrates and describes the origins of some of these words and phrases.

What is the best lesson you have learnt on this course?

My biggest lesson has been to embrace the ‘failures’ within my work. Our tutors encouraged us to experiment with different media, and without pushing my boundaries I would have never tried Lino Printing. It’s been a balance of pushing myself and finding enjoyment within my practice. I found this mind-set especially helpful during the lockdowns. Back in March 2020 we were in the studio one week and then online the next, for practically the rest of the course. It was a big transition and sad not to be with tutors and peers in person, but it has made my practice more adaptable. I had wanted to explore print making using the University Print room facilities, but I had to research printmaking at home. It was a long journey of trial and error, as I figured out how to cut and print the lino, layer different colours, and discover which papers I like to use. I’m now hooked; I love the process and textures that can be created. So really, my earlier failures were never really failures at all, but just a part of the overall process of developing my Artistic Voice.

What is your plan after the MA?

I would love to have the opportunity to illustrate Children’s Books in the future, some dream projects would be to illustrate a Children’s Cookbook and Mindfulness book, as I think Lino Print would be a wonderful medium for these subjects. I also have a new job working in an arts and crafts centre on an American Air Base, where I will be teaching Lino Print Classes. I’m really excited to share this wonderful process, and continue to develop my own practice through teaching.

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