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Cath Whiteoak studied at Berkshire College of Art and Design for 5 years and specialised in Graphic Design. Having worked in the design industry for 20 years on various projects for print and web, she is now a digital designer/artist/Illustrator and qualified teacher. (You can try and put her in a box but you won’t get the lid on!) She currently works as a digital design tutor and is co-founder of digi-training. Her own work combines both digital technology and traditional drawing and printmaking techniques, creating a synthesis between these two working methods in order to explore and develop a rich and diverse visual language.

How my work has developed over the last 6 years

My mum dying in 2013 was a real turning point (as I know it is for most people) and made me realise at the age of 46 that I should be pursuing my creative process more seriously than just in my spare time around teaching Digital Design.

The natural place for me to start was with digital techniques and this produced a series of works culminating in an exhibition in 2015 of ‘Linescapes’ (Landscapes and Seascapes of Sussex) 

One comment in the visitor’s book said the work was soulless which affected me deeply but partly because deep down I knew it held some truth. The artwork was not yet communicating my intention in the way I hoped it would.

I inevitably had lots of unsold work from this show which led me to starting my Artists Open House journey in 2015 exhibiting in 2 houses. (although I had been part of open studios previously) Having developed some of the work onto silk scarves and interiors items such as my flying ducks wall stickers, this was a great experience and the feedback was much more positive, and I sold!

Whilst invigilating in one open house and discussing my work with a visitor, I was asked if I’d considered using a grain comb to create the linear effect I was creating digitally but using a traditional paint technique. I had never heard of a grain comb so, later the same day the visitor returned with one and said I could borrow it. 

Well, that was it, once I started using this grain comb with printmaking and ink and anything else I could think of, there was no stopping me! I created endless textures using the grain-comb (and even introduced a nit-comb!) mostly of lines of every kind and nearly all in black on white. Initially this was a perfect digital detox and I was really just immersing myself in the process and trying not to concern myself with the outcome. There was definitely a shift happening in my work and I started to really enjoy the creative flow.

In 2018 as a personal creative challenge, using all the mark-making textures I now had, I created a collage portrait a day and posted on Instagram every day for the whole year (with some drawing and ink challenges thrown in – but ALL portraits) The most successful of these (I was only really happy with about 10 percent of them) have now been developed into card designs by adding colour in Photoshop.

This year I have taken the plunge and opened my own house, exhibiting some of my work which reflects my recent creative journey and also the works of close friends and family. It’s been quite an undertaking and has had its challenges but overall a really positive experience so far…

What next, I’m not quite ready to put down the grain comb yet and have started to move into abstraction (a break from portraits for a while I think!) and re-introducing colour, creating the feel of the digital glitch by layering grain comb effects but this time off the computer using paint so we’ll see where it leads.

I would really like to explore doing some large works in a studio…