The gentlewoman

Over the past week, I was privileged to spend some time with the delightful Caitlin Shearer. Caitlin’s inimitable watercolours span pleasant baked delights to confident glamorous ladies to awkwardly beautiful intimate scenes. Her painted characters gaze distantly, lost in worlds of their own, always poised, though letting us in on a quiet, private moment. Her linework is firm and angular, carving out hands, faces and figures with merciless honesty, but in these irregularities of features one sees not disfigurement but personality. As one who has complained about the smoothing over of ‘blemishes’ and the bland rounding-out of the female form, I certainly admire an artist who can explore femininity in a truthful way.

Caitlin is that rare breed of lady—elegant, unassuming, poised and polite. Her lips and nails are painted, her hair is a voluminous flowing mass, and she speaks with a soft trill, as though sentences are melodies. Sydney terrace houses with Juliet balconies have her dreaming up the sorts of fantastical narratives that her paintings depict, full of romance and longing. Painting is, for her, an escape—a means of creating worlds in some ways simpler, in some ways more complex, than the one we really inhabit.

It was a real treat to meet another illustrator and to talk candidly about our hopes and fears and illustrative intentions and aspirations. Illustration is a bizarre sort of career that demands a great deal of work—constant output, clever ideas, maintaining a presence and a little bit of luck getting noticed. And once you’ve put all these things in the pot, given it a good stir and seasoned to taste, people are wont to become attached to the things you are not, and to fail to notice the work that you feel defines you. I suppose all an illustrator can do is make a fresh pot of tea and keep translating her ideas into physical things.

© Caitlin Shearer


The tea towel above was a present from Caitlin, and should you need to celebrate your love of cakes too, you can get one through her Etsy shop.


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