Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of Catherine McIntyre. Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Catherine McIntyre, born in England in 1961; I’ve been living in Scotland since 1976. I’m a museum hound, book junkie, animal lover and collector of anything that would comfortably sit in a cabinet of curiosities. I love to travel, and always find the local cathedral, graveyard and bookshop when I do. If there is a fossil beach, ethnographic collection or natural history museum, even better. I am owned by two greyhounds.
Did your work start with photography or is it another tool in your artist toolbox?
I was a traditional illustrator for years before doing a Master’s degree in photography. I drew, particularly from life models, painted Celtic-patterned panels in enamels, sculpted in plaster and clay, and made multi-media pieces with acrylic, watercolour, pastel, charcoal, oils and coloured pencils. Most importantly, I made paper collage, struggling to bring together physical elements whose opacity and size was not easily altered. I’d always taken photographs, but had never felt the results were finished pieces; it was only when Photoshop came along, for me in 1997, that I could finally do everything I wanted to do
Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?
There are so many. Lots of photographers, naturally. Herb Ritts, Pentti Sammallahti, Sally Mann, David Maisel, Susan Derges, Adam Fuss, Frederick Sommer, Veruschka. I adore the work of Rosamond Purcell, and am lucky to have three of her beautiful pieces in Visual Alchemy. Albert Watson has been an inspiration for decades, while Luis González Palma is a more recent discovery; happily, they also contributed some wonderful images. Traditional art is just as important. I love painters such as Euan Uglow, Egon Schiele, Andrew Wyeth, Vermeer, and Degas. I’ve always loved sculpture, and Kris Kuksi’s brilliantly complex constructions also appear in Visual Alchemy. I only discovered Joseph Cornell after I’d been making assemblages for years, and immediately saw how it should be done. Michelangelo, Rodin, and hundreds of generations of ancient Egyptian artists also inspire me hugely. There are other influences too. African art, Benin and Dan in particular; the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Nina Cassian; the films of the Brothers Quay and Jim Jarmusch; music by David Gilmour and Amy Winehouse. Also Leonardo of course, especially his anatomical explorations, and the often anonymous engravers who illustrated old anatomies.
And what about their work inspires you?
I look at art all the time, and it isn’t necessarily obvious how it will influence me. It varies from day-to-day. I tend to take a feeling, rather than a technique or subject, from the things I see. Egon Schiele, for example, makes me feel tense, full of somewhat suppressed energy; I’ll try to communicate this in my own way. The serene, joyous elegance of Egyptian art, with its perfection of simplified line, makes me want to hone down and distil my work. Herb Ritts makes me want to live in a sunnier country.
What led you to do work in digital montage?
I was a graphic designer for many years; one of these jobs was in a digital-only office. I could no longer rely upon Rotring pens and began to explore the possibilities of Photoshop. Its potential for my personal work was immediately obvious, and my time was no longer my own; it became an obsession.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Absolutely. While art’s primary purpose is to communicate, naturally, creativity is also a deep imperative which all human beings share. I’m not happy if I’m not making things.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of creating is for you.
A walk with the dogs first thing always gets thoughts moving. It’s the best time to mull over a picture in progress, or to dream and let my mind wander and spark the next. Then, if there is plenty of light, I’ll often set up a still life or two, or simply photograph one or two of the pieces of ephemera or other objects I collect. Then I’ll go to the computer (a MacBook Pro) and begin work. If I have an image I’ve been working on, it’s most useful to see it fresh; I usually decide that something is finished in the morning, and make the final few adjustments and tweaks. I work better at night, though. I do the real creative part, the first broad strokes of an image, late at night when it’s quiet and there are no distractions.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
I live in a rural area, and finding models can be an issue. Also, I love natural light, which in Scotland isn’t at all predictable or reliable! I do use a studio from time to time, but my favorite work always happens on rare beautiful clear still days. I don’t have a studio, so space to work can be problematic in the winter. On the less practical side, I suffer from artist’s block like everyone, and am immensely frustrated by fallow periods.
What inspired you to take on the task of writing your book “Visual Alchemy”?
I wrote a few articles for a magazine about colour and composition. I really enjoyed it; rather than being a tutorial, they were a broader look at the most important things to consider when constructing a montage. A friend read them and suggested they might be expanded into a book. It had been sitting on my desktop for a couple of years, slowly growing, before I finally got up the nerve to ask Focal if they’d be interested in it.
What do you hope readers will take from the book?
I hope it will make people want to create! I want it to give people ideas, spark interest in new ways of using their photography or artwork, and encourage diversity of thought process. I’d like people to take their work in new directions, step out of their normal routines and see things freshly. No small task!
Was there one lesson that you learned while writing the book?
Yes – that I write better in the morning, and make art better at night, oddly! Writing uses very different parts of your brain; you have to be a lot more logical and work in a progressive fashion. I make art much more intuitively and in a less organised way. It made me look at the way I was making pictures and be more analytical than usual.
How do you overcome a creative block?
Always tough. Input, be it environmental, emotional or intellectual, is enormously
important. If I get bored, which is all too easy in a rural environment, I need to go out and feed my eyes and brain. The best things to spark off a new train of thought are, for me, travel – even a drive into the country can be enough – and of course other people’s art, especially photography. If I’m really stuck, a trawl through Pinterest or digging out one of my old encyclopaedias often helps.
How does being an artist affect the way you see the world?
I think that artists are a bit disconnected from things; we are observers, and stand back a little to watch.
Thank you Catherine for sharing your work and words.
To learn more about the work of Catherine McIntyre please visit her site at Catherine McIntyre.
You can find Catherine’s book Visual Alchemy at amazon.com and other book stores.