Caitlin Shearer keeps an unusual diary. She has sold over a thousand pages of it to people she does not know around the world, many of whom hang her musings up on their walls. She rarely writes in it. Instead, her thoughts spill onto paper in the form of watercolor paintings of slight, angular girls with scraped knees and rosebud lips.
Her lovely yet melancholy paintings have earned this 20-year-old internet art sensation a devoted following at her blog Caitlin Quiet, praises from Paper Magazine, and collaborations with labels such as Hopeless Lingerie and Tricolore. Meanwhile, her Etsy shop has sold over a thousand paintings since she joined in 2007.
Add the fact that she idolizes Fred Astaire, listens to Beirut, and loves vintage-inspired clothes, and swoon! Can you say new crush?
We tracked this talented young Aussie down for a Q&A about her work, New Year’s resolutions, and boys.
First off, how did you get into art?
I don’t think I ever planned to be an artist. In primary school I would hang out in my bedroom and draw pictures of the Spice Girls and mermaids. It was halfway through high school that I started to draw for fun again. By my last year, I was obsessed with art and would draw sneakily during classes, at lunch, and then go home and draw some more. I suppose I fell in love with creating pictures. It makes me feel content.
How would you describe your work?
Watercolor paintings of people who don’t exist in this world. A neighborhood of imaginary best friends. I like being able to create people out of thin air. I think I’m becoming a control freak actually. Paper is limitless and real life is constraining and a struggle.
Why paint girls?
As a girl, I find it easy to project my thoughts in the form of women. The paintings work as a diary, as an evaluation of thoughts that plague me. These girls are usually the same age as me – twenty! Maybe when I’m 30 I will be painting different things.
And what about those occasional portraits of boys?
The boys… Well, boys are mysterious creatures to me, and I guess to figure them out, I have to draw pictures of them. Like a scientist dissects a frog. I’m working on focusing more on boys lately. I need to amp up the boy-to-girl ratio. Maybe then these girls wouldn’t be so lonely. Lovelorn and sick of waiting!
What do you draw inspiration from?
From everything my eyes take in! Superstition, The X-Files, cats, my friends, pressed flowers, shiny shoes, boudoir queens, Jeffrey Eugenides, Tim Burton, Tim Walker, J.W. Waterhouse, constellations, boxes of old knickknacks, loneliness, seclusion, seamed stockings… and the list goes on…
You started receiving media attention in high school. Did you ever expect your Etsy and blog to become so big?
I never expected any of it to become big at all. It was a a very nice surprise indeed! I try not to think about the attention because it’s just way too weird. All of that stuff happens inside the internet – so it feels like it’s happening to someone else, you know. You turn the computer off and it all disappears.
You recently left Sydney’s College of Fine Arts to pursue art on your own. Why?
It was a good school, but I had such high expectations – life-altering expectations – for art school, and in the end I didn’t feel comfortable there. One day I might like to continue studying, but this just isn’t the right time.
What is your typical day like?
Drawing, checking e-mails, watching TV, talking to my cat, cooking, packing prints, walking to the post office.
Describe your personal style.
1950s-inspired witch crossed with Shirley Temple, crossed with Anne Frank. I wear a lot of vintage and half my wardrobe is black. I like novelty patterns and black patent shoes. I have a rule against pants.
If you could trade places with anyone, dead or alive, for a day, who would it be?
Fred Astaire! So I could go on a movie with Ginger Rogers and dance the night away wearing a shiny top hat and sequins.
Seeing as we just hit a new year, what are some of your resolutions for 2010?
Work steadily and conscientiously, publish a book of drawings and poems, discover more new friends, fall in love, and be daring.
Any life advice?
Be good to your mother and always tell the truth.