Interview: Cait McEniff
Cait McEniff is an artist and illustrator from Warrington, whose work we have fallen in love with. She has just started a degree in Illustration at Leeds Arts University, and also runs her own Etsy store on which she sells her prints and illustrations. We were lucky enough to interview her about her gorgeous work.
Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
Iya!! My pleasure, thank you so much! I'm dandy thank you!
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Warrington, a town between Manchester and Liverpool, I'm half Irish, half English. I finished my Art Foundation at Manchester School of Art in June and I've just started a degree in illustration at Leeds Arts University!
What first inspired you to start creating artwork? What drew you to illustration in particular?
I've been doing it since I was a kid, my Mum is a primary school teacher, so there was always coloured pencils and paper about! She's the stationery queen! I remember making paper pet hamsters and writing and illustrating my own illegible books, always with "for ages 5 to 99" written on the front?! I think I've always been drawn to illustration without fully knowing it? Art in high school is wonderful but it's not as easy to focus on more loose illustrative work, I think I've really begun developing my own style recently, I'm excited to get stuck into my degree!
What medium/materials do you mostly use in your work?
I mostly use pencils and coloured pencils at the moment because they're easiest and portable and always what I have to hand! I'm loving acrylic recently too, I used to hate it but then I stopped buying Home Bargains 50p acrylics and treated myself to some half decent ones, and now I see the appeal! I really enjoy collage and screen-printing, which I hope to do more of now I've started my degree. This year I’m interested in pushing myself to try some new mediums like gouache, and dreaded Photoshop which I've avoided until now!
I noticed from your Instagram that you create a lot of sketchbooks — how do you go about creating these and are they an integral part to your creative process?
Yep sketchbooks are incredibly important to my process, I carry them with me all the time. They're a place to experiment with ideas and materials and jot down anything you experience and want to remember. From 2016 to 2017 I created a sketchbook every month. This was so fun and beneficial and it's so lovely (slightly embarrassing) looking through them all. But this year I decided to stop limited myself to the one-month journal because it became too difficult to juggle my time and I would end up with too many blank pages. Now I'll start a sketchbook, usually a few on the go at the same time, and keep it going for as long as I want. At the moment I have a journal for all sorts of bits and bobs, it's full of sketches, paintings, collages, plans and random inspirations, and also a little thin papered book solely for black fine liner people-watching and everyday observations. Looking through my old books is one of my favourite things, it's amazing seeing how your work and your influences change over time, it'll be a lovely thing to keep when I'm an old biddy
What inspires your creative process? How has your creative process changed since you started illustrating?
During my A-Levels I drew very differently to how I do now. I created more 'realistic' artwork, trying to copy photographs. Whilst obviously there's nothing wrong with this , I accidentally found a new style of drawing during my art foundation! My work has become almost more childlike and spontaneous which I think helps me to capture what I'm observing more organically??
You seem to have a very distinctive style - especially in your illustrations of people - what would you say are the main characteristics of your work?
Thank you! People are definitely a big part of my work, there’s so many interesting characters knocking about with stories to tell, I like guessing my own ideas about these peoples lives and creating almost characters from them!
Where do you get the inspiration for your work from?
People-watching is one of my biggest inspirations, I do it alllll the time. Travel is hugely inspirational for me, I love the different cultures, patterns, architecture and scenes that new cities bring. I've always been fascinated by the colours and textiles of India, which is something I'm thinking of doing a project on. I love storytellers, buildings, patterns, nature, shop fronts, faces, old books etc etc, everything n anything!
Are there any artists whose work you are particularly fond of and inspired by?
I'm completely obsessed with Jean Michel Basquiat, he's been a huge inspiration of mine for a few years now, I love his work and his innate creativity. I'm loving minimalist illustrations of Matisse and Picasso recently too.
Do you have a piece of artwork which you have done which is a particular favourite?
One of my favourite pieces is a large 50x65cm illustration I did of Manchester's famous St Peter's Square. It was part of my Final Major Project exhibition for my Art Foundation course. It took me about 2 weeks to complete so I'm pretty attached haha! Tragically, a few days after I finished this piece the Manchester Bombing occurred, an awful event which made this piece even more special to me, I was honoured to have spent so much time concentrating on this amazing city.
Do you have a favourite art gallery which you would recommend?
I have loads of memories of Manchester Art Gallery from when I was little, I remember staring up at the huge lion painting. I love it, there's always interesting exhibitions on there! The Belvedere in Vienna is incredible too, I cried when I saw Klimt's Kiss hahahaha.
Have you got any exciting projects lined up or which you are working on at the moment?
I'm hoping to print some more and t-shirts and tote bags for my Etsy soon, and I would really love to produce some enamel pins this year!
Is social media an important platform for you as an artist?
Hugely! It definitely has its downsides but Instagram and Tumblr have helped me massively in creating an audience and opportunities for my work. Its crazy to be able to connect and share your art with people all over the world. Social media is also really good for discovering artists and following their processes.
Do you have any advice to aspiring artists/illustrators?
Draw draw draw. Cliche as heck but honestly it has helped me loads to keep a sketchbook with me at all times. I carry with me a little brown book and a pen in my pocket and fill it with doodles of people and buildings and anything I can jot down in spare moments of my day, this keeps your hands active and the practice is so useful! I think sharing is important too, try and get your name out there at all costs, accept any opportunities that fly ya way.
What’s the best piece of creative advice you have ever been given?
Never chuck anything out. Keep work you think is a dog’s dinner, it may come in handy further down the line. You'll end up with a cluttered desk and turn into a hoarder but it's worth it for the nostalgia of looking back through old works. My tutor at uni told us last week to focus on our own practice, it's so easy to get bogged down by constantly comparing yourself to other illustrators and artists, but these people are using their own personal experiences in their work, try to concentrate on yours! (Easier said than done, but helpful nonetheless)
You can take a look at more of Cait's work on her Instagram (@caitmceniff) and her website (http://caitmceniff.tumblr.com/), and also buy prints from her Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CaitMcEniff)/.