Artist of the Month: Katie Craven

Our latest featured artist Katie Craven talks about cuts, connections and collaboration, and how it’s ok to fear the future…

Artist and illustrator Katie Craven is incredibly friendly and smiley when we meet for this interview; talking honestly and passionately about her love of drawing and painting, it’s a pleasure to hear her discuss her work. She is the creator of surreal, black and white portraits, characters with exaggerated features, lines and curious expressions, placed awkwardly or within odd settings. Skies and landscapes swirl with texture and activity – rolling storm clouds, multitudes of stars, banners, planes, rippling northern lights.

Born in 1989, and growing up in Lancashire, she remembers creating from an early age. “I’ve always drawn … my mum said the other day, all you were doing as a kid was drawing and writing  stories and illustrating them, all the time. It’s all I wanted to do … my mum is a really talented artist and I think she really inspired me … she would judge art competitions at school so I was never allowed to enter them! (laughs) I … knew I wanted to be an artist.”

Studying Fine Art BA at Liverpool John Moores University (2007-2010), a contrast between style and medium emerged. “I think my style formed during my BA; but before that I always knew that I wanted to illustrate. I never knew whether to take illustration or fine art, and because I also do massive paintings, and am very expressive with my paintings … there’s a balance of the two. They defintely inspire each other.

“I think my style formed during my Fine Art BA; but before that I always knew that I wanted to illustrate”

“I don’t know what it is, whether I’ve got an image in my head, that I need to get out, that I put into different forms. But there’s something I really like about illustration rather than painting … in an instant way, something like neatening up my style. I’m quite instant with my work, I’m not that precious. If a line goes wrong, it’s wrong, I’m going to continue drawing with it. A lot of the time I don’t use pencil before.”

Although predominantly working in black and white, Katie’s drawing process is different in feel to her abstract, expressive colour paintings. “You can get it [illustration] exactly how you want it to look. There’s something more free about it [painting] … I don’t really  like paintings that are too pristine, I think there’s something really ugly about that. Too perfect… I’m defintely a painter, I never thought that these tiny little pens would interest me, but it somehow happened!”

Behind Katie’s engaging demeanor is a real (shared by many) concern about her future; expressing intelligently a fear of our current political and socio-economic situation through her current project, a self-published comic. Almost as a metaphor for the narrative behind her work, her images are tumultuous, rolling, confusing; almost looking like the lines move before your eyes. Katie’s banner for our homepage (taken from the comic), betrays a feeling of hopelessness and lack of place. Look closely and you’ll notice a nod to the escalating cost of living; a ‘Can’t Pay’ council tax sign in the window of one of the homes.

“I think it’s been something that’s been building up over the last few months … [the project is] really current, about being in your twenties and what that means in our society now, and how people are dealing with that? I meet a lot of people at work, and I ask them loads of things, get talking; people don’t realise but I take a lot of what they say and put it into my work … General feeling of being completely unsure of what you’re doing, your place in the world – everything. The complete feeling of being lost, and doing the right thing. Wasting time, there’s a massive feeling that you’re wasting your life in your twenties, for some people.”

Is that a feeling just experienced by those in their twenties, we wonder, or for society as a whole as a result of the recession and recent political decisions? “Definitely both. For my parent’s generation, it was easy – just get a job, have your kids, get married, for most people anyway. Career for life. I don’t think they had the anxieties that we have … we don’t have the chances anymore. Also with the internet, we can see what everyone else is doing around the world; in a way that’s good, so we can do exactly what we want, but then it’s what’s right for you? … [who is] able to achieve what you want in the current climate?”

How do you think you’ve expressed that in the comic? “I’ve made it as simple as I can. Because I think it’s such a confusing thing, it’s a comic about confusion. It’s mostly letting people know that thats ok, you’re allowed to feel like that.”

“I’ve made it as simple as I can, because it’s a comic about confusion”

Citing influences from graphic novelist Mike King for his autobiographical style of storytelling, illustrator Sin Eater – ”because I am absolutely in love with his drawings” – and Berlin-based illustrator Ana Albero – ”I love her use of imagery, plenty of humans, objects & nature. Her illustrations make you want to know the whole story” – you can see where the interest in detail and personal stories emerge. Until recently working from a studio in recently closed Wolstenholme Creative Space, she looks on that time amongst musicians, performers, curators, fine artists and street artists as inspiring. “It was amazing to be in there but really sad when it closed; I think it really helped me with my work just being in there, around everybody. I made good friends.”

So what’s next for Katie? She’s preparing to apply for an MA in Visual Communication (specialising in illustration) at the Universität der Künste Berlin. She’s also working on another zine about dreams, with fellow illustrator and uni bud Delyth Briggs, to be released in July, and is to continue street art projects with former fellow WCS resident Tomo and French artist NOZE, getting out on their bikes and using paste-ups.

Next month sees the launch of The Ghosts, an intriguing collaborative arts/literature event, curated by ArtShaped instigator Amy Jones. With art, music and two specially commissioned publications to take away, the evening will examine themes around ‘the other, ghosts, and traces left behind’, including a story by Liverpool-based writer Adam Scovell, illustrated by Katie, ”about a lonely old man …living by the sea.” Other confirmed collaborators include NYC artist Sue de Beer and local psychedelic musicians Cove.

Ultimately, Katie feels, despite the cuts and the anxieties, Liverpool is a great place to make art right now. “It’s so exciting, there’s too much to to do. I want to quit my job so I can make art full-time … it’s a really creative city and really positive as well, people want you to do things. Want to help you and help you do the best you can, and work with you.”

Katie’s serialised comic will be released in June, and will be available through her shop 

Pick up a copy of Katie’s work at The Ghosts, Thursday 27th June, Drop the Dumbells  

See more of Katie’s amazing work: 

Posted on 29/05/2013 by thedoublenegative