Jamie Catt is a visual artist and illustrator with a fondness for illustrating animals and nature. Using watercolor as her main medium, her unique illustrations have made their way into collaborations with other artists and brands like Heima and Renegade Folk. She also illustrated Marla Miniana and Reese Lansangan's book, In Case You Come Back.
She shares her unexpected journey into the creative field and what it means to live an authentic life with us in this inspiring interview.
Give us a little background about yourself. When and how did you get started with art?
Memories of my childhood consisted of countless coloring books my mom would bring every time she comes home from her flights. Back then, I didn’t realize how creatively inclined I was and how it naturally occurred as a part of who I am. It wasn’t until a couple of years back that I acknowledged my creativity and honed it into something bigger than myself.
I was always told that I had a creative spirit but I never believed that. From my perspective, I didn’t know how to make art that mattered and visually pleasing to myself and to others. Four years ago, the only knowledge I had of drawing was the basic shapes, a stick man and some measly little houses. I always thought being an artist was talent that you were born into, and not a skill you could hone over time with practice and determination.
Up until high school, my mind was filled with notions of pursuing a career in science, partly because I grew up being an animal lover. Seeing as that didn't pan out the way I imagined it would be, I drastically shifted into the art industry. I was frustrated that I couldn't pursue my childhood dreams, and painting and drawing became the lifeline that held my sanity and passion in check.
When I started to lose sense of the bigger picture, having a sketchbook in hand kept a clear image of who I wanted to become.
Through illustrating animal-based works, my dream slowly shifted from one path to another. When I started to lose sense of the bigger picture, having a sketchbook in hand kept a clear image of who I wanted to become. That overflowing feeling of finding something else that I was becoming good at and starting to love doing made me decide to pursue art.
What began as a pastime and outlet of frustration evolved into a life-changing moment.
Are you a full-time artist? What made you take the leap to pursue art?
Personally, I don’t consider myself as a full-time artist since I’ve always thought of it as a side career. It was sudden and unintentional.
What started out as a side hobby turned into a full-blast career. I was only supposed to shift my major and transfer my studies in Hong Kong, but when things started to fall apart again, that's when I took the moment to pick myself up and pursue a career in arts.
It was more like balancing life and art.
When I finished my minors (which were mostly gen. ed. subjects), I took the leap of breaking away from college after my second year and decided not to continue my majors in Interior Design. The main reason was that I wanted my work to be centered more on storytelling and visual arts rather than design; hence, I gravitated towards the field of Illustration.
For the past two years, I focused on becoming a freelance creative and have worked on a myriad of projects. On the side, I also attended art fairs and managed an online store. It was never a 100% kind of thing as I always felt like it was a series of experimentations, new beginnings and shifting roles—not to mention that I was constantly traveling, so my focus was not entirely directed on my career. It was more like balancing life and art, and I was (and still am) trying to grasp how to navigate in the creative industry since I’m still fairly new to the entire thing.
Currently, I'm psyching myself to go back to studying and thinking that I might temporarily hit pause on my freelance journey, so I could focus more on my education.
Tell us about your art. Has your style evolved since you started making art?
I’m heavily inspired by the world around me, and seeing its magic unfold each day. My work gravitates on the fluidity and subjectivity of nature and animals. I tend to portray them in a whimsical manner that captures their beauty and soul.
I drift towards earthy elements that mainly consist of blues and oranges. I love combining organic and structural compositions to produce illustrative paintings; and over the course of my creative journey, my style has definitely evolved from playful, childlike pieces to more abstract and fluid paintings. But I still try to maintain the imaginative and dreamy aura to my work as a projection of my childhood fantasies.
Take us through your creative process. How do you go from a blank page to a finished piece?
My work stems from mundane things that I get to interact with everyday, inspired by the Universe around me, whether it be a cleverly written story or a fallen leaf that I passed by on a morning run.
My process starts out by generating ideas in my head, laying out a visual image of what I want to work on, and then immediately doing a quick sketch before it slips from my mind. Sometimes, my ideas form slowly over time, where I would only have a grasp of the concept but not the whole image. Other times, it’s as quick as having a ‘eureka’ moment where the image is already the final visualization in my mind, and all I have to do is get to work and turn it into a reality.
Most of my work is research-based, especially since my subjects are animals where scale and proportion is important. I combine a series of reference images to transfer the visual imagery from my head to my hands.
Drafting / Planning
Usually, I don’t do drafts unless I’m working on a big project. When I do, I would sketch a few thumbnails to show my clients and have them choose. But for the most part, I skip that process and go straight to the painting or illustrating leg of my process.
Painting (to Completion)
The time it takes for my illustrations and paintings to be finished usually depends on what medium I use and the subject that I’m working on. I could finish a single piece anytime between 15 minutes to a week. There are a lot of times I get stuck on a piece, and that’s the reason why my work usually takes long to reach the completion stage. But aside from that, my process is fairly quick and intuitive.
I never like working on a project for too long because I get bored easily, and it feels like the spark that motivated me to do the work in the beginning would soon die out. When that happens, it’s hard for me to pick it back up and contemplate on how to finish the piece, so I do my best to do everything while I’m at my peak.
What does your workspace look like?
I don't have an actual workspace, only this large, wooden table that I managed to salvage from our storage room.
Whenever I begin my painting process, my space needs to be absolutely clean and organized. I could never function under messy environments, so everything has its own place. As I go about my work though, things tend to get crazy and my art materials would soon be missing under piles of paper. But at the end of the day, I could never leave anything in a cluttered frenzy. Otherwise, I won’t be able to sleep well at night and work peacefully the next morning.
Describe your typical day. Do you have a daily ritual to keep you productive and motivated?
Yes! I do have a morning ritual and I believe it's significant to have one as it plays a major role to my creative process and sets my day accordingly. I talked about it extensively on my blog (link below).
My ritual is typically divided into three aspects: cultivate and nourish my mind, body and soul. When I wake up, I take time to sift through my thought flow on a piece of paper, either by journaling, sketching or doing a quick watercolor exercise on fluidity (which turns out to be mostly abstract paintings). It puts me on a positive note with my creative process, and I usually do this while I wake my digestion with a mug of warm lemon water.
I find that working out and meditating in the mornings give me the energy and mental clarity, to power through the day and be in touch with my creativity.
After that, I get ready to go out for a run (on mornings when I feel energetic) or practice yoga (when I feel like I need to slow down or unwind), both followed by a meditation session. I find that working out and meditating in the mornings give me the energy and mental clarity, to power through the day and be in touch with my creativity. Most importantly, it encourages me to start my day right by fueling my body with a hearty and healthy breakfast.
My morning ritual would usually end around 10am. Afterwards, I dedicate the rest of my day for creative work. Sometimes I would tackle admin work first so it’s all over and done with, and then proceed to any idle projects that need my attention.
What do you like about making art? What makes work meaningful for you?
One is the journey that an artwork goes through, from conceptualization to completion of the piece; and second is the ability to share it with others, finding meaning and connection through every piece of work I create.
Every moment, feeling, and thought that goes into my art creates a story in itself, and it’s different for each and every single one. That makes it meaningful to me.
At DesignHatch, we believe in the life well-crafted—living intentionally to achieve an authentic life that’s entirely your own. Can you share one important decision you made that completely changed your life or led you closer to where you are now?
Going vegan has definitely made a significant impact on my life. It felt like a leap closer to my ultimate dream and living the life that I truly desire.
I wholeheartedly believe that authenticity means living in connection to who you truly are and the decisions and ethics you choose to uphold and stand by.
On the grand scale of things, it connected almost instantaneously to my craft and the work that I do. Being passionate about animals and the movement that supports their cause has always been a dream of mine ever since I was young. I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist, and when I shifted to a creative path, it showed how deeply ingrained it was through my works. So when I was enlightened on veganism and the principles and ethics it adheres to, it became a major turning point in my life. All of my priorities and reasoning behind things radically shifted.
It wasn’t only lifestyle-wise that changed, but also my mindset, my attitude and my connection to every living being. It was a self-seeking journey that made me more intuitive, compassionate, appreciative and understanding of not only myself but the people and the circumstances that surround me.
I wholeheartedly believe that authenticity means living in connection to who you truly are and the decisions and ethics you choose to uphold and stand by. To me that means spreading light, love and compassion to every breathing soul in this Universe.
Just for fun, if you were an art tool, what would you be and why?
Definitely a paintbrush! Just because they’re cool and I couldn’t live without them.
What are you excited about today? Any upcoming projects/events you want to share?
Living and appreciating every single moment and life. And of course, going back to my studies. I can’t wait to go to art school and study Illustration. It’s always been my dream to pursue this major ever since I stopped two years ago. Finally it’s here and about to happen in less than a month.