The Brooklyn-based illustrator sheds light on her process and shares the tools she just can’t live without.
Caitlin Keegan’s playful patterns have adorned spaces large and small, from sheets of wallpaper to a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Her new coloring book and greeting cards invite everyone to play within the lines of her detailed work. Here, she talks with us about the artistic challenges posed by creating spaces for others to fill, finding inspiration, and paisley spotted pigs.
How did you first get started with illustration?
I’ve loved making things and drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom is really creative, so I definitely picked that up from her. My dad used to “hire” me to make greeting cards when I was little because he saw that I was interested in it — and probably also to keep me busy. I’ve come full circle now with Color-Your-Own Greeting Cards!
When I was in second grade, children’s book illustrator Steven Kellogg visited my school to sign books. That experience made me realize being an illustrator was a real career possibility. I eventually studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After about ten years of working as a designer and doing illustration on the side, I finally made the leap to being a full-time illustrator. That was about four years ago, and I’m really happy I made that decision.
Where did you find the inspiration for your page designs and what did your creative process look like?
Storey’s creative director, Alethea Morrison, sent me an initial list of art ideas for both the coloring book and greeting cards, and I tried to put my own spin on each design. I used Pinterest to find inspiration and reference images — especially when searching for the prettiest jars of obscure pickles and the most shapely watering cans for the Country Life Coloring Book.
The designs in Color-Your-Own Greeting Cards were more from my head and less from reference images, but I looked at some typography and design books, like The Handy Book of Artistic Printing, for type and border ideas.
What did you find uniquely challenging and/or satisfying about working on these coloring projects?
I really tried to keep the colorist in mind while drawing each page, making sure that there was enough detail in each element to keep the designs interesting. Adding more details to open spaces led to some abstraction that I may not have incorporated otherwise — especially on the Country Life Coloring Book. Maybe paisley spotted pigs will make their way into my other work someday.
What do you make of the recent explosion of coloring?
I think a lot of the recent interest in coloring comes from a need to do something creative in the physical, non-digital world. It can feel like a relief to focus your attention on something that isn’t a screen, especially for people who work on a computer all day. I’ve also heard the word “meditative” used a lot to describe coloring, and I definitely get that. Coloring is also something people of all ages and abilities can do together. And maybe some of it is nostalgia — I have a lot of good memories of coloring with my grandparents as a kid.
Who are the artists currently working who inspire your art?
They’re not currently working, but I have been really inspired lately by illustrators like Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious. There is a cat illustration in Color-Your-Own Greeting Cards that is very Edward Bawden-inspired. I just discovered Vera Bock’s work. And I love looking at vintage textiles for inspiration — Pat Albeck’s designs from the 1960s are another recent discovery. Design For Today and 50 Watts are great references for finding new older artists.
What are the tools you simply can’t live without?
I like to switch up my tools because it helps me stay interested, and staying interested always leads to better work. I do most illustration on a Cintiq display plugged into my laptop, but I try to get off the computer and make pencil drawings whenever I can. My favorite and most-used pencil is a wooden mechanical one from Muji, and I supplement that with miscellaneous colored pencils. Lately I’ve been making patterns using brush pen drawings that I scan and color digitally. I post a new pattern every week to my social media accounts (Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.) I found a box of Color-Aid on the street years ago and I love making collages with that too.
What current or upcoming project has you most excited?
Another set of color-your-own cards with Storey is coming out soon: Color-Your-Own Christmas Cards! I’m also very excited about The Illuminated Tarot. It’s a tarot deck that you can also use to play card games. I’ve always wanted to do my own interpretation of tarot imagery, so I illustrated a card every week for one year as a personal project. It’s now being published and will be out in 2017.
Because we couldn’t fit all of Caitlin’s gorgeous designs between the covers of the Country Life Coloring Book, we’ve got a web extra for those who just can’t get enough! Click to download and print the full 8½ x 11 PDF. Happy coloring!