Step into a magical world overflowing with fauna, flora and symmetry through the work of Colombian-American fine artist Catalina Villegas. Specialising in illustrative aesthetics her pieces helped us raise funds for The Hepatitis C Trust at the London Illustration Fair last year, with the opportunity to win another original through this year’s Summer Postcard Lottery with Culture Label.
RT We are used to seeing the paisley in deep and rich colours affiliated with its Persian origins, however here on your postcard it is presented in monochrome. Why do you often choose to work in black and white?
CV It is best understood in musical terms. Songs that are good are those that can be played well both with a full band or just an acoustic guitar. All of my work starts with pencil and black ink (micron pens), with its full potential brought out by later building the colour and texture. My postcard stands on its own as a striped down version of complex work. It is the acoustic version.
RT The magical worlds you create are said to be filled with ‘fresh takes on symmetry’. What about symmetry do you enjoy the most? How do you keep symmetry ‘fresh’?
CV My whole life I have been an artist with my nature drawn to order; in life we lack control so through my work I want to show the routines and discipline that I enjoy. There’s something so appealing about having control. This past year and a half I have fallen head over heels with using illustration as a key element in my practice and hope to push its direction more deeply into symmetry. So many artists have worked with these elements and compositions, in my case I use a range of plants and animals to anchor the viewer as you spiral around the piece to discover all its contents. I feel particularly inspired by the Rorschach inkblot impressions and aim to mimic their style.
RT You have said you don’t keep ‘super pretty and organised’ sketch books but rather ‘folders of regular printer paper with sketches, ink drawings, notes, and other random bits around my studio’. How does this help you work?
CV It totally contradicts what I’ve just said but I’ve always been envious of artists who sketch and create entire complex images directly on one page... and those often turn out to be pages from sketchbooks! It baffles me how they do it, so instead of fighting with myself I listen and work with my skills. I work on plain printer paper, drawing each element separately and then combining them all on Photoshop and Illustrator. The flexibility of digital files frees up my time and what I can create. Before I begin each piece I visualise the outcome and mentally take it apart, and then try to put it back together in real life.
RT Your illustrations are often very delicate and pretty, how do you then get in the zone to play bass with your heavy metal band ‘Golden Box’?
CV Having a balanced life is important to me, it helps me function as a human and stay healthy and creative. I like the duality of the two activities. There’s a romanticism in the darkness of rock and roll, especially heavy metal. It’s heartfelt, profound and deeply freeing. I find music and art simultaneous thought processes. It’s all about breaking something down and figuring out the parts and then putting it all together to create something new that connects through higher vibrational levels. As a species we have a beautiful, intrinsic ability to go beyond physical dimensions and create things that are in tune with other people’s desires and necessities. It’s also really fun. Playing live gigs and making music with friends is amazing.
RT Where do you find inspiration?
CV The universe. The list is vast.
Firstly – anything not made by man. All forms of nature and wildlife, even something as small as a butterfly crossing your path. Over the course of three days I recently had three encounters with flying insects; two butterflies and one dragonfly, all of which were blue. I believe in signs and on the first day a butterfly landed on my hand, later I found about a passing of a friend that same day. To help ground and inspire me I try to be receptive and open, looking and feeling for all the bursts of magic.
Secondly – man made things. I always listen to music when I work, as specific albums have a higher vibrational state my recent obsession has been Warpaint. Their sound is experimental, full of layers and textures, if I’m in an art rut I’ll play it really loud. I think their sound mirrors in my work. I also enjoy Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and musicians such as Charles Mingus or Miles Davis when the sun goes down. To inspire me further I use yoga to stay sane and chocolate is my biggest inspiration.
RT Why did you want to get involved with Art on a Postcard?
CV When I first got the email I was a little perplexed because I had never really understood what having hepatitis C meant and how much suffering it could cause. The thing that really struck me was finding out that most of the people who work with The Hepatitis C Trust have or have had the virus. It’s inspiring and beautiful to see folks from different walks of life come together and really make a positive impact. I’ve been so blessed my whole life and I think it’s important to expand that gratitude in to actions that will help others.
RT What exciting projects do you have coming up?
CV Sometimes my life is like the Dory (Finding Nemo) meme: “My plate is full, I can’t possibly take on anything else. Oh, look! A project!”. I am in the midst of creating my first adult colouring book entitled TROPICO, bringing together all the tropical inspired scenes and animals I have worked on over the past year. It’s a self-published project so I am learning a lot. I’m also working on an exciting temporary tattoo collection for French company Sioou and competing in the Lila Rogers Global Talent Search to hopefully win representation. Last year I made it into the top 50. It’s all a great learning experience and I’m more relaxed and having fun.
Get your lottery ticket to be in a chance to win an original Catalina Villages HERE.