18 Oct Interview: Cáit Mceniff
Cáit McEniff turns magazine cutouts into magical works of art via scrapbooking for a reason.
Wendy caught up with the UK native to talk more about the creative process that goes into producing a journal and various influences and source of inspiration. PS: Tips for the less artistically inclined on how to become more creative, there is hope.
How long have you been doing this?
It’s as cliche as it gets but I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember! I drew and painted throughout my childhood and I always looked forward to the hour of art lessons I got a week at high school. When I was 14 I took GCSE art and I just knew it was what I wanted to do. Journal-wise, I started making little journals and sketchbooks in about 2012/13, but it wasn’t until January 2015 when I decided to start doing a journal a month.
Who do your most prominent influences include? What unique characteristic(s) do you take from each of them?
My Mum is one of my biggest influences in my art, she doesn’t make art herself, but she is no. 1 stationery provider and can always help me find solutions to ideas I’m struggling with. When I was 14 and starting my art GCSE, my school got a new art teacher, Mrs. Ainsworth. She has inspired me so much, along with Mrs. Martins. My great auntie is a watercolor painter and every Christmas or birthday we would receive a hand-made card of her paintings. This always inspired me as a little kid, I really admire her traditional approach to art.
Artist-wise, my biggest influences include Van Gogh, for his complete dedication to painting during the hardest times in his life, despite not getting the recognition he deserved. Matisse and Monet for continuing to create art even when their health impacted their usual practice. Steve McCurry’s incredible list of countries he has visited to take his photographs really inspires me to experience the world. My favorite quote is by Michelangelo, written when he was 87 years old: “I am still learning”
A cliche question that probably has many answers to it but who’s your favorite artist(s) and why?
My favorite artist is Jean-Michel Basquiat. I find Basquiat fascinating, his work is completely unique, yet carries references from art history and the world around him that you can pick out in his pieces. He had an incredibly wide knowledge which he carried though into his work, and his scrawly signature handwriting -which is evident in most of his paintings- includes cryptic messages and notes about a huge range of different topics. I also really admire his rise to fame, after recently watching the documentary The Radiant Child about his life; I learnt how he grew from having to paint on window panes he found in the streets to painting in his own New York studio precariously wearing an Armani suit. Basquiat’s work ethic is a real inspiration to me, when he died at only 27, over 1,000 paintings and 1,000 drawings were found in his studio. He was like a powerhouse painting machine and I would love to become this focused one day.
What do you do in the case of artists block? Where and/or how do you find your inspiration?
I get artist’s block quite a lot. When I’m not pressed for time I find that sometimes the best thing to do is to just accept that your brain isn’t in the mood and just take a little break. Going on walks can clear your mind, and I also really like to watch films or documentaries. Whilst watching films I can find myself doodling patterns as I’m watching, which can slowly get the old art cogs whirring again. Looking through your old artwork, or that of your favorite artists can really give you the motivation to get back into it. I also often get artist block when my desk is a complete mess, so clearing your work space can also help clear your mind.
How would you describe your art?
A big unorganized bundle of mess and ideas…
How long does one journal entry typically take you?
It can vary quite a lot depending on what type of page I’m planning! Sometimes I will stick a single image or a photocopy, filling the entire page and not taking longer than 2 minutes. Other times I will produce different images and text and then take my time playing around with the layout until I’m happy, this can take quite a while depending on how indecisive I’m being…on average maybe the typical journal page would take 20 minutes?
What pieces mean the most to you?
The most recent oil painting I completed of Malala Yousafzai is my favorite piece so far. I’m quite proud of how I have improved my use of oil paint and this painting was my first piece of work to be hung in a gallery so it will always feel very special to me. My artwork from my childhood is also really important to me. When I was little I created the most random things, such as a paper and sellotape hamster complete with paper house, paper water bottle and paper stairs (completely covered in a sellotape overload). I want to keep hold of all these messy gems from my little self’s imagination forever.
What is your creative process?
I’m quite a bit of a floater, I float from one thing to another and I have countless unfinished bits and bobs dotted around my room, maybe one day I’ll finish them all! I usually begin with tidying my workspace and writing to do lists. If I’m stuck for ideas I will usually take a scroll through Pinterest or Tumblr, then I spend a long time choosing the music I want to work to and then I’ll eventually start! If it’s a journal page I’m creating, I will open the box of magazine clippings/tickets/pictures/quotes I keep under my desk and use that to dip in and out of. I’m most productive late at night which is a pain because I have to wake up early every day to catch the train.
Do you have any advice for an average person on how to become more creative and expand their imagination?
Go for walks, walk in the rain, dance in public, people-watch, draw people on the bus, imagine the life stories of commuters on the train, watch a film a week, watch films you would never normally watch, sit in coffee shop windows, visit museums, visit art galleries, visit the theater, visit the park, read, make paper airplanes from receipts, smile at passers-by, listen to poetry, listen to buskers, go to record shops, read old magazines, buy second-hand books, wander through side streets, climb trees, listen to stories, write stories, keep a diary, read your childhood diaries, look at graffiti, go on bike rides, take photographs, be child-like, TRAVEL.