Behind the scenes: Catherine Rowe

Welcoming Catherine Rowe to Yellow House Art Licensing! 


Catherine Rowe is a highly talented young designer whose work will, without doubt, be admired for many years to come. We were immediately attracted to the quality of draughtsmanship in these beautiful works and are delighted to represent Catherine at Yellow House. We have already been impresssed with her positivity, dedication, and attention to detail - watch this space! 

This month we go behind-the-scenes with our Artist of the Month - Catherine Rowe: 

Image credit for photographs of Catherine in her studio; Natalie Miller Photography



What was your favourite subject at school?

I have always loved drawing, so art, but I did really enjoy English literature. For a while I thought that might be the career path I would take.


Trained or Self-taught Artist?

I suppose a bit of both! I went to Art School but had been drawing all my life up until then. 


How did you become an Artist?

Once I started studying for my A levels I knew I wanted to pursue a career in art - I definitely wanted to go to university, it was just a case of which course. Because of my combined love of literature and drawing, I decided on illustration. I discovered my way of working during my time at university, but upon graduating I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue the career of a freelance illustrator. I ended up landing a job as a jewellery designer for an independent jewellers near where I grew up - the position was a fantastic new learning experience, but I knew it wasn’t where my passion lied and my personal work was suffering from all my creative energy being used on jewellery designs, as well as the job itself being relatively demanding and high pressure. I had always found the idea of working for myself daunting and wanted to try and get a “proper”, stable design job for a company, which proved difficult with my little experience.


Image credit: Timothy Roe Fine Jewellery

I finally decided to take a leap and get a job as a sales assistant in a gift shop just a few minutes walk from my house so I could try and concentrate on my personal work. My eagerness to create was instantly restored and my life transformed - it was almost a question of pride at one point, leaving a job so good on paper to become a minimum wage shop assistant again, but it was the best decision I could have made. Now, my personal work is doing well and I don’t have to work so many hours in the shop. I think it can be really daunting for many people to make a decision that could make them feel as though they are regressing in life - however, I found it was a case of almost simplifying everything and staying true to my gut, which can sometimes take a lot of courage. 


How long have you been an artist for?

Professionally, since graduating in 2013. In general… Forever!


How did your style evolve?

Once I started my illustration degree, I struggled finding an identity in my work for some time. I loved printing - engraving and relief, but I found the process difficult and painstaking, I wasn’t passionate about it enough for the result to be worth it. I then discovered an Artist working with scraperboard at an arts market in Cambridge - I was fascinated as it looked like the result of a relief print or wood engraving, without the long, messy process. I went to the local art shop that day which, miraculously, sold the very elusive plain scraperboard, and I have barely touched another medium since. Scraperboard is card with a fine layer of chalk coated in (dried) black indian ink - it is best known as the type with a multi-coloured metallic layer under the ink used on children’s paint-by-number style activities. It’s rarely used professionally nowadays, its peak was in the 1950’s as an easy medium to resize and reproduce in newspapers.
Every original I produce is always black and white, which is how I kept things for a while. The response to my work was good, but I constantly received comments about whether I could make them in colour or not. I started digitally colouring them, but as one layer of colour so the images were still monochrome. The response to this work was better, but it wasn’t until I started making fully coloured images that I knew I had found my perfect way of working.

Where and what did you study?

A degree in Illustration at the Cambridge school of art.

What mediums do you prefer?

Scraperboard, photoshop, graphics tablet.

Preferred subjects?

Hares! All animals really, and leafy plants.

How would you describe your own work?

Fine, detailed and controlled - which I’ve always thought is funny as these things are total opposites to my personality. My friends and family often tease me about how fine and delicate my work is for somebody so clumsy! 


Where do you draw inspiration from?

A combination of my totally beautiful location in the countryside here in the downs, British wildlife (mainly). I think I also underestimate the impact my day job (Sparks Yard Lifestyle Store, Arundel) has on my inspiration - we stock a huge range of different artist’s designs on greetings cards, notebooks, wrapping paper etc. - it’s a wonderful feast for the eyes. 


Describe your perfect day:

A day full of animals, beautiful Cornish countryside, good food. 


What piece of your work are you most proud of and why?

Probably my ‘Old Spots Pig’ - I produced this when I first started colouring my scraperboards digitally, so I didn’t have much experience with it but was so pleased with the result. I also rarely draw pigs so I was pleased with the outcome in general. 



Have you done any interesting commissions? Or done work for anyone notable?

Whilst at university I had a great opportunity to be involved in illustrating Jack Zipes' ‘Golden Age of Folk & Fairytales’ - a selection from the Children’s Book Illustration MA and Illustration BA were involved, my chapter was about the evolution of the fairy tale ‘Puss in Boots’. 


What's been your best-selling design or piece of work to date?

Spring Hare or Mother and Baby Hare. 


Which piece of work has attracted the most attention?

People seem to really like my scraperboard moons! 


Which kind of work do you enjoy doing the most?

I love colouring my scraperboards digitally. They really come to life. 


Which part do you like the least?!

Trying to transfer my rough sketch of a design onto scraperboard! Getting started is always difficult. 


What’s your favourite thing to illustrate?

I love to illustrate children’s stories which have at least one of the following: animals, and magic! 


What would your dream project be?

I think an entire children’s book. Although I moved away from illustration more and more after finding my work takes too long to produce to keep to the often shorter deadlines illustration briefs usually demand, I would love to make a beautiful, intricate storybook. 


Which is your favourite Yellow House Art Licensing artist & why?

I adore Mary Stubberfield’s harbour scenes with cats - they make me feel so good and happy. 



What's been your biggest mistake/cock-up?!

It is difficult to rectify mistakes using scraperboard. You can apply ink back over the top of a part you have already scratched away, but it will always look different to the rest of the image on the original and sometimes you can’t scratch it off again if you have accidentally scratched away all the previous chalk layer - which is impossible to tell sometimes! I had already started my ‘Miniature Italian greyhound and radishes’ for a third time after being unhappy with it twice - I had almost finished and decided, at something like 1am, the background looked wrong and so I filled it in with ink again to re-do. However, I had gotten a bit scraper
happy previously and had scratched all the original chalk away, so I watched with horror as the ink bled into the card base, ruining my third attempt! You live, you learn! 


What’s been your biggest challenge?

Having the faith in my ability, courage and drive to leave behind the idea of a “proper”, stable job to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time artist. 


As well as being an amazing artist, do you have any other hidden talents?

I am very into aromatherapy amongst other holistic therapies - I mix my own essential oil blends for body and mind! 


Do you have any top tips for being an artist that you can give us?

If you are truly passionate about your work and you can’t live a life without it, then make your life all about it - everything else will fall into place! It won’t be easy (at times, on top of a 40 hour working week I would try and fit at least 5-6 hours of artwork in a day, before and after my shift!) but it will be worth it. 


Do you have a favourite paintbrush or tool?

I love a brand new scraperboard cutter blade - I get through a ridiculous amount, I probably use one an hour and each piece takes me at least 6 - 8! 


What attracted you to/attracts you about working with Yellow House?

I’m quite shy about my work and have found it very difficult to get it out there, as well as being hopeless at the business side of things. I just want to concentrate on producing the work and having some help getting it out into the world. Jehane and Sue seemed like the lovely ladies for the job! They have been so supportive and


Is there anything you would like to ask us? (Click the link to read how...)

I would love to know more about both of your artistic backgrounds and how the Yellow House came to be! 


What’s your favourite joke? (....this is a good one!)

A man is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and sees a snail. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. Three years later there’s a knock on the door.
He opens it and sees the same snail. The snail says: ‘What the hell was that all about?’

Thank you to Catherine who has created this wonderful image, in honour of Yellow House!

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