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Fantasy Realised: Caitlin Shearer

Taking inspiration from the likes of Sofia Coppola, Lula magazine, flower gardens, old movies and the 1950s, as well as “people who cultivate imagination, who are trying to make this world a more magical place,” Caitlin Shearer creates imaginary friends who we would love to hang out with for a day. They are androgynous boys in Peter Pan collars, girls with bleeding kneecaps and impossibly long eyelashes and paper dolls in cutesy clothes; just looking at such images makes us wish we could live in a life-size dollhouse and eat cupcakes for breakfast. But beneath the surface of watercolour paint, ink and glitter, there is something deeply enigmatic and enchanting about her characters, which recalls another, slightly more sinister set of inspirations: David Lynch, superstition and witchcraft.

“According to my baby book, I would draw on the walls with crayons and lipstick. My parents used to work at Hanna Barbera animation studios, so I remember colouring in photocopied stills of Fred Flintstone,” Caitlin says, recalling her first experience with art. “Other than that, it’s just vague recollections of drawing mermaids and fairies and the Spice Girls.” Her repertoire has certainly expanded since then, although these elements of magic and sense of childhood nostalgia play heavily in her work. While her favourite thing to paint is still people, Caitlin tells us, “Lately I’ve been drawing some funny little animals like bendy cats and colourful birds. I want to draw more houses and furnished scenes and more mysterious boys... put the pastels aside for a while and focus on mysterious storytelling and motion.”

After doing a year of fine arts at COFA, Caitlin decided the course wasn’t for her, although she looks back fondly at the life drawing classes she took with artist Anwen Keeling, saying, “that was truly amazing. She taught me to draw what was actually in front of me, rather than draw what I imagined I could see, and this wasn’t something I was used to at all.” While Caitlin’s practice differs drastically from Anwen’s, both the artists are concerned with womanhood and there is a very feminine underpinning to their work. “Girls with long hair and plump thighs - that’s feminine!” Caitlin declares, citing Marilyn Monroe’s figure as her ultimate feminine ideal. “I think the feminine image in my head is that of mother and nurturer. It isn’t one person, but an amalgamation of love and care and tenderness.” We can see this translated in her work, in all those images of women with 1950s figures, waist-length locks and ruby-red lips. “I think mermaids are feminine too, even though they probably don’t exist,” she adds. “I’m still waiting to meet my muse, though. Images of Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz and Joan Flax often linger in my head. She has miraculous eyebrows!”

Caitlin admits her tendency to live vicariously through her characters and the fantastical worlds that she renders on paper. “Sometimes I feel like I am drifting through my own life, a bit blank, a bit shut in. So I think that subconsciously, all these people are who I would actually like to be.” With her own long, brunette curls, porcelain skin, dark lips, even darker eyes and ladylike poise, Caitlin is not too far off the mark. “People on paper can get away with things that I can’t, like wearing see-through clothes and being overtly coy, or sailing on the ocean, or performing magic. They don’t need to shrink away from anything,” she justifies.

“At the same time, they all do live in the back of my head in a fully formed neighbourhood. It’s a secret one though. I like to pretend that they are real people who are out there somewhere.”

“I need to listen to music instead of my own voice in my head, or I get too annoyed at myself,” Caitlin suggests the frustrations that are so often coupled with creative output. “I would consider art ruts as disasters; those times when I can’t even look at a paintbrush or I feel frustrated. If they last for more than a week I become a ball of fury and just stab at my sketchbooks with quills.” During these times when she’s not painting, Caitlin is “watching re-runs of The Nanny, reading, sewing dresses, going to the post office and talking to my cat, Mouschi.”

When she’s working, you will find Caitlin alone at her desk, but be warned: do not disturb her. “There is nothing worse than having someone look on over your shoulder. It interrupts any flow and adds pressure, even if it’s someone who I love.” Caitlin explains her working process, saying that “paintings never look like how I initially imagined.” For her, it is important to let the image come into its own: “It is quite difficult to transfer an imagined image to the paper in a precise way, so I usually stray… I have hazy, vague images swimming around in my head for weeks before I even attempt to put them to paper.”

For an artist of barely 20 who has had their work shown in a David Jones display window, Vogue Girl Korea, the Frankie photo album, Ambush gallery, Mori gallery, Extended Play gallery, the LADY boutique in Melbourne, as well as a plethora of regional galleries, we wonder what Caitlin’s proudest moment is to date.“My first ever solo art show at The Wall (The World Bar), back in May,” she answers. “It was the culmination of much hard work, and to have my friends and family there to enjoy that with me was quite a happy moment. I felt I was actually doing something worthwhile. It was surreal to see my paintings all framed and hung up in a row. I usually just put them in a folder under my bed, so it was freaky.”

To see more of Caitlin’s work you can visit her blog, or to purchase some of her art you can go to her Etsy page.

Caitlin Shearer

Side Street, Sydney has five 6x8 prints of Catilin’s to give away, you lucky things. To score one for yourself, send us a message to explaining why you deserve it so by 5pm on this Friday, January 8.

words: Ingrid Kesa


April 27, 2010 at 4:09 PM Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Peter Pan, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.

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