Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview - Catherine Campbell

Artworks and illustrations by Catherine Campbell

I'm sure many of you probably know of incredible Melbourne-based artist and illustrator Catherine Campbell. Catherine's work has graced the pages of many of your favourite publications, including Frankie Magazine, Sesame Magazine, Kingbrown Magazine and Curvy.... and she's also produced stunning illustrations for some great well-known fashion brands such as Billabong and Vans.

Billabong 'Catherine' Tee!

Catherine grew up in Sydney, graduating from the College of Fine Arts UNSW in 2001... and although she still feels Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world (I second that!), these days, Catherine's heart firmly belongs to Melbourne :)

It's been a huge year for Catherine - in addition to making and exhibiting her art, taking on commercial illustration work, and selling her beautiful wares and occasional handmade treasures online at her Etsy shop My Folk Lover - Catherine has also recently opened a little gallery in Northcote called Extended Play! Wowsers - that's quite a few pots on the boil!

Extended Play Gallery is running a particularly lovely event over summer... Each Saturday during December and January, they will host a small pop-up shop showcasing beautiful things made by some great artists - including Benjamin Sea, Brooke Bobridge, Cat Rabbit, Heiko, Jam Fancy, Laura McKellar, Lilly Piri, Little Glowing Lights, Mel Stringer, Sarah McNeil, and many more! The pop-up shop officially opens this Saturday December 12th, 6pm - 8pm! It will be a great chance to meet and support some of these wonderful local artists (including Catherine!), and also to perhaps pick up a few truly unique Christmas gifts!

Extended Play Gallery
547 High st

Open 11.00am - 5,00pm
Wednesday to Saturday

Pop-up Shop / Art and Design Mini-Market
Open every Sat, 11.00am - 5.00pm during December and January

Nice work Catherine! really deserve a holiday!

ps) Catherine also has a fabulous blog here. OH and btw, I am convinced she looks uncannily like Katie Holmes. I hope she doesn't mind me saying that. But seriously. Am I right?

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you are doing now?

Drawing has been my favourite thing to do ever since I was little. I am lucky to have a family that encourages and supports me. I went to the College of Fine Arts in Sydney after I finished school and then moved to Melbourne soon after I finished my degree. I have been here for seven years now and have met some very talented and creative people who have inspired me to have faith in what I do and to keep doing it.

You have a lot going on at the moment – making fine art and doing commercial illustration, your etsy shop My Folk Lover, and now your very own gallery space in Northcote - Extended Play! How on earth do you juggle all these facets of your business, and still have time to create and exhibit your own work? How do you structure your time to make all these things possible?

Um, yes… I’m starting to wonder that myself! The last three months have been crazy busy so I’m just going to keep juggling until I finish off the year. Come 2010 I’m going to sit down and plan things a little better to make sure the art making stays at the top of my list of priorities. The gallery space is small which makes it more manageable and running it is so much fun, I get to be excited with other artists, wonderful pictures arrive on my doorstep and then once a month we throw an opening night party! It’s a good thing, it might not be something I plan to do long term but I’m definitely enjoying it for now.

How would you describe your work?

I’m detail and pattern obsessed. I’m hoping to push this even further in 2010, working on a larger scale and with different mediums. It is sometimes narrative and often whimsical, I’m interested in exploring ideas about the feminine.

What is one of your favourite pieces and why?

My favourite piece is the last one I made. It’s a very long piece and is part of a series of ‘Tall Stories’ that I am going to continue working on. I think it has a nice balance of pattern, line work and narrative, which is what I want to concentrate on in the future.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Well I never really have a proper structure to my days which is probably not a good thing! I do try and get into the studio between 9 and 10 but if I end up working past midnight then I’ll need a bit of a sleep in. Now that summer has begun I may occasionally have to spend the afternoon at the pool. Typically I work about 10 to 12 hours a day.

Tea or coffee whilst you work?

Coffee first, tea in between and then usually more coffee.

Music or silence whilst you work?

Music. I’m obsessed with P J Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea at the moment. I listen to it on repeat a lot, really loud, and it drives my studio mates nuts I’m sure. There’s also Iron and Wine, Bonnie Prince Billy, The Accidental, Erik Satie and Alice Russell on high rotation at the moment.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, the web etc?

Everywhere, I’m like a bowerbird collecting bits and pieces from all over the place. I have very unorganised folders and boxes full of clippings and photocopies. I also have a giant library of images on my computer that I collect from the web. Whenever I go overseas I usually spend most of my money on books and magazines, which unfortunately makes for heavy travelling. I also like watching documentaries on great creative people, following the history of their lives and what they got up to, the things they think about. I find that very inspiring.

Giftcards available from Catherine's Etsy shop

Which artists / designers / creative people do you admire?

It is an ever changing list but at the moment I’d say George Barbier, Vania, Klimt, folk artists, almost any artist or writer working between 1890 and 1910, crafters, people with a great attention to detail.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to putting my pen down for a little while and enjoying the Melbourne summer!

Melbourne Questions -

Your favourite galleries to see the work of emerging artists in Melbourne?

Gorker Gallery, Arts Project Australia, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Craft Victoria, No Vacancy, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

In the backyard, last weekend, surrounded by a few friends. It was a warm night and my housemate who is Portuguese cooked this amazing Portuguese meal. There was rice, prawns, chorizo, coriander, chilli and some nice beer. It was great.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

These days I’m usually rolling up to the gallery on my bicycle, making sure it’s open at the correct time!

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

The Flatlands. A small strip of High St Northcote between Separation St and Darebin Rd, where you will find such fine establishments as Extended Play Gallery and a bar called Kitty Somerset. If you like a nice drink and looking at excellent pictures you could live here happily ever after.

Catherine's 2010 calender, available from her Etsy shop


  1. I just love these illustrations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! there are so powerful and energetic!!!

  2. thank you thank you for this interview and words....i woke with angst of the previous day and not much in my body mind left to push me through...but these words and drawings have brightened my day!

  3. Catherine's work is absolutely delightful. I love her use of pattern and beautiful lines. Thanks for sharing!