Today I have a special treat for you: a little up close and personal time with mixed-media artist Cait Sherwood, who’s featured in the new May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. I was instantly captivated by Cait’s work when I saw it on Instagram. Her style, aesthetic, palette, and techniques all spoke to me, and I was struck by her intuitive art process and the fearless nature of her work. I thought it might appeal to you as well, which is why we asked her to write the article “Quilt-Inspired Art Journal Pages.”
In it, she focuses on her technique of using patterned paper and fabric as inspiration for hand-painted designs on found papers, which are then incorporated into quilt-like motifs. This method works with all styles of art journaling, and I encourage you to try it. The article also includes a photo of Cait’s handmade art journals, made from repurposed book covers. They’re just amazing, with all types and sizes of papers inside. Having them in our offices to photograph was thrilling!
I thought it would be fun to ask Cait a little about her background, her creative process, and how art journaling influences her other work.
Q. Cait, how did you get started in art journaling?
A. When I was a teenager I always had a sketchbook and a writing journal, which were separate. I started merging the two and keeping an art journal once I was exposed to a journaling community on Livejournal, where people would share images of more creative journal pages. I discovered Sabrina Ward Harrison’s books and her work through that group, and that helped solidify the idea of visual journaling for me. I had already been art journaling, I just hadn’t known that’s what it was. It was a process that I felt deeply connected to once I saw examples of it.
Q. Do you recall some of the first pages you did? What did they look like?
A. Yes! I would combine writing with drawing practice, usually drawing models from magazines. I also did a lot of collage from teen magazine pages at that time. I drew with pens more than I do now. Now I prefer pencils.
Q. You seem to have an intuitive art process and no-rules approach when it comes to working in your journals. Is this how it’s been since the beginning, and did you make a conscious decision to create this way?
A. Creating intuitively has always been my tendency, which is why I like art making in the first place. I guess I would say that I made a conscious decision to embrace an intuitive approach, which comes more naturally to me, rather than strive to create the type of work I “should” make. I feel very comfortable in that meandering, exploratory headspace. At times I try to make art that looks a certain way, but I always find that I get distracted and it ends up being more intuitive.
Q. Your journal art is fascinating to look at for many reasons, not the least of which is its organic and authentic nature. How do you approach working in your journal? Do you have a technique in mind that you want to try, or a specific medium you want to work in, or do you just open to a blank page and start?
A. I do have go-to supplies that I have come to realize I like best, like gouache, water-soluble graphite, and paper. I often open to a blank page and start. I usually make a background by painting or collaging. I like to draw onto painted or collaged surfaces rather than a blank surface, like a blank white page. I like to have something there to respond to visually. Then the artwork just kind of flows out.
Q. How has working in journals influenced the other artwork you do, and vice versa?
A. I used to see my journals and sketchbooks as a warm-up space, where I would explore ideas that would one day become “real” work, which I usually envisioned on a canvas or other flat surface that could be hung on a wall. Over time, I realized that the sketchbooks were valid as finished work. I do make more traditional paintings on canvas as well, also using a mixed-media approach. Working into sketchbooks seems to foster an authentic, honest and immediate quality to my work that I am always striving to bring to the canvas. I find it a little harder to work on canvas.
Q. How did you begin binding your own journals, and why do you like customizing books? What does it add to your art journaling?
A. I studied book arts in college, and I was a teaching assistant for bookbinding classes. I just really took to it and loved the simple puzzle of binding a book. When I learned bookbinding it was a very precise and exact process. I aimed to make books as perfect and well crafted as possible. But since finishing school I like making imperfect books out of interesting materials. I love the idea of using a variety of papers in my sketchbooks because then they are more exciting to work on. I also like to use store-bought sketchbooks sometimes. I love Moleskines and right now I am using a beautiful sketchbook that I bought at Anthropologie.