Catherine Denvir is an artist whose career path has taken her from illustration — a vocation in which her work appears in many publications — into painting to satisfy a growing fascination for the media, while working with a multitude of painting disciplines. Apex Magazine is excited to feature her art ‘The Incomplete Group’ on the cover of this issue.
APEX MAGAZINE: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as a painter?
CATHERINE DENVIR: I have been painting for about five years, having taken a break after a successful career as an illustrator. I consider myself an emerging painter, still exploring the medium, the message, and the freedom with great relish. Although I have been working as an artist for quite a long time, it is only in the past five or so years that I have started to paint. I sort of wandered into it, so to speak, rather than made a choice.
AM: At first glance, your piece ‘The Incomplete Group’ is very striking and chilling, in a good way, particularly when one notices the details of the piece — the costuming, posing, etc. that can add depth and story behind the subject matter. What was your inspiration behind this piece?
CD: I sort of feel my way through a painting, the problem being at which point to reach a conclusion. I find it rather difficult to describe how I arrive at a certain image. The elements are things I have seen, photographed, drawn; ideas that suddenly come to me; something I read; even something very simple like noting the particular way someone is seated on a chair. Beyond that…? A picture somehow emerges… I don’t like to delve too deeply into how or why in case I break the spell.
AM: Looking through your website, you have created a very distinct style and tone to your artwork. How did you conceive of this style? What sorts of processes do you use to achieve such consistency and maintain a recognizable style? How do you feel about your current style?
CD: I very much enjoy working as I do at the moment but am always excited by the idea of veering in other directions I don’t think drastically, but as painting is quite new to me, I look forward to exploring on every level, and hope I will and know I should.
AM: I read in your profile that you were a prolific illustrator before becoming a painter. What sorts of changes in your artistic philosophies made you choose painting as your next creative venture? How do you feel about your current vocation as a painter? What sorts of differences do you notice in the world of illustration versus painting, if any?
CD: There is without doubt a strong thread between my painting and the illustrative work I used to do. The big difference being that the narrative is mine rather than a visual interpretation of someone else’s, be it a book cover or illustration to accompany an article.
AM: The subject matter in your pieces seems mostly to revolve around puppet–like childish subjects, some with an almost fairy tale or old world quality. It’s all incredibly engaging for the viewer! What sorts of concepts do you reference to create your artwork? Are there any greater themes that tie them together or keep them separate?
CD: I suppose it is the mood and atmosphere of the paintings that hold them together as a body of work and, of course, the style.
AM: What do you love about creating artwork in the genres of fantasy, horror, and science fiction? Any advice for aspiring artists, both painters and illustrators alike?
CD: It’s interesting: I hadn’t thought of my work as science fiction, fantasy, or horror, and, apart from the 19th century writer Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, and [Huxley’s] Brave New World, I haven’t read any. I did enjoy those, though.
I am influenced by writing, quite a lot. Nabakov is a particular favourite and inspiration.
The advice I would give to others is that which was given to me (but with the arrogance of youth pretty much ignored, the painting bit anyway). I have always been a big looker and take mental notes of things in general. Look at paintings (you don’t really have to think anything as you look), draw a lot, and/or make notes. Actually, look at anything.
AM: That is sound advice, indeed, for any creative individual. Thank you very much, Catherine Denvir, for a wonderful interview!