There are a handful of very lucky artists out there who see a completely different world when they close their eyes. It’s a world filled with magical characters. Ones you wish you could come across in your travels.
We recently had the good fortune of getting to know wolfCat Workshop and learning about all the beautiful creatures and characters he sees in his world. This west coast native and fellow cat enthusiast gave us a peek into his creative process and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Please check out our interview below as well as some of his beautiful artwork!
-Tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist and how long you have been creating.
I am very much a generalist, and I am very curious about a lot of things. So, naturally, it has not been a straight path for me. A few years ago when I was visiting my mother she asked me to clean some things I left in her apartment. I found all these journals and papers from before high school. I used to write a lot. I really wanted to be a writer. There were poems – really bad ones, mind you – short stories, articles, essays… and on the margins and the backs of notebooks there were a ton of drawings. For a long time I wasn’t serious about drawing but looking at those made me realize I had been doing it all along. My childhood was full of mechanical toys and drawing supplies (my mother was an architect before computers were The drafting tool) but it was only after college that I fully realized that making things with my hands made me whole and happy.
And making things with my hands is at the center of my life, even if it’s not considered art. I enjoy woodworking and metalworking and sewing and hobby electronics and food fermentation projects. The special thing about the visual stuff I make is that it makes me the most proud. And the feeling is not like “Oh, that’s the best thing I’ve made,” it’s more like I look back at some of those drawings and think “Yeah, time well spent. I’m glad I did that.”
-Do you have a routine for your work on a daily basis?
Yes, there are some things I try to do consistently. They change overtime or I adapt them to what I need, but the basic idea is: draw something everyday, whatever it is.
A few years ago I was depressed and told all my (Facebook) friends I would post a new drawing everyday for 30 days. It’s not a cure for depression but it helped, and some nice images came out of it. After this I kept trying similar challenges. I like that feeling of the self imposed deadline where I don’t wait for inspiration but I’m constantly thinking “What the hell am I going to draw today? Well, something is better than nothing…”
My current routine involves drawing for at least 10 minutes first thing in the morning. I’m not a morning person and I found out that this non-judgmental doodling helps me transition between grumpy-me and let’s-get-started-with-the-day me. I often go for longer or keep working on the same project day after day. One can do a lot in just 10 minutes a day. Right now I’m collecting these drawings. I will make them into a zine when I reach 42 pages.
-Many of your pieces feature various types of amazing creatures, where do you come up with them and are they representative of anything?
There are a few creatures I draw over and over and I think of them as versions of certain concepts. For example: there is the tentacled alien god – which is clearly Lovecraftian – but it’s also my caricature of god, or a god. I mean, if there is a god it probably is an utterly incomprehensible creature, a true alien to us, an Other. Plus tentacles are really cool.
There is also Umbrella Man. He’s a sort of a puppet made out of discarded umbrellas that came to be after seeing all the umbrellas that get discarded after the rain in New York; sad, forgotten, insect-like and melancholic. Umbrella man represents that feeling for me.
Although I have to say some of the creatures are less special in terms of their origins. Sometimes they were just fun to draw or maybe I saw the work of another artist and I wanted to make my own version.
There is also this book I have to mention. Not so much because I’ve tried to illustrate some of the characters in there but because I feel it gave me permission to imagine my own. China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station is a fairly gritty novel set up in a Victorian steampunk magical world populated by really strange creatures. It has a multidimensional spider with human hands that speaks in verse, a moth like creature that feeds on people’s dreams and secretes a powerful drug, parasitic hands… it’s very visual, and very eclectic, very metal in fact. And I know I don’t need permission to draw anything, but sometimes it helps to see crazy concepts working well in other artistic realms.
I get some ideas from comics too. I love the surreal and ornate world of Jim Woodring, Neil Gaiman’s willingness to borrow from all cultures and the gloomy children’s world of Taiyo Matsumoto.
-Your work has such intricate line work and shading, has that always been a part of your style or is that something that developed over time?
It developed over time as I found out ways to use my natural inclinations. I can be very focused and patient. Somehow I do enjoy sitting there for hours putting dots on a piece of paper. Details matter a lot to me.
Also, brush pens. I love brush pens. If you are not familiar with those, they are like a fountain pen but instead of a nib you have a brush with actual bristles. They have an ink reservoir so unlike a normal brush you don’t have to dip it every few strokes. Very fun if you are into making lines with varying thicknesses and lots of control. I think using them so much has influenced my output.
-How did you come to start doing the woodwork pieces? Did it evolve from your sketchbook ideas?
I have been trying to bring different aspects of my life together. Woodworking is really fun for me, I also like sewing and I’ve worked in construction and metal fabrication professionally, so I consider myself pretty crafty, but somehow I’ve kept the visual art stuff confined to flat surfaces like paper. The woodwork pieces come from my desire to mix them up, so as you mention, I’ve been taking ideas from the sketchbook and trying to make them work as three dimensional objects. I feel I’m just getting started with this, but I’m happy that those pieces have had such a warm reception.
-What music are you currently listening to while you work? Are there any specific bands that have been a big influence for you?
When I find something I like it’s on repeat for weeks. I’m one of those obsessive listeners. Lately I’m loving Tau Cross, the project by Rob Miller from Amebix. The lyrics are really wonderful, simple and full of interesting images. As a side note, it was really cool to find out Rob is an amazing blacksmith, he makes swords, incredible craftsmanship.
To Your Death by Christian Mistress just came out last year, Christine Davis is probably my favorite heavy/thrash metal vocalist of all times.
On the brutal side of things I’ve been really enjoying Wormed from Spain, I think their sci-fi theme and humor work well (they have a song titled “Cumputronium Pulsar Nanarchy” ! ) and the music is great fun. Lately Jomsviking by Amon Amarth has been on repeat too, because who can resist those catchy tunes? And I saw their L.A show in May.
It’s hard for me to establish a connection between particular bands and my visual art, but there are some bands I’ve thought about for a long time, and in that way they are an influence. Carcass comes to mind. I distinctly remember the first time I put Necroticism–Descanting the Insalubrious on my treasured Sony Discman, I listened to the whole thing, read the lyrics and… didn’t get it at all. I was even a little bit disgusted. I thought it was weird and a little bit crazy but I eventually came to love that album. Kinda like when you hate someone at first sight later to fall in love with them. Carcass became my model for appreciating art. I think Descanting the Insalubrious taught me that if I strongly dislike something, I need to explore it further, dig deeper, see the other side.
-Do you exhibit your work in galleries or do you show online only?
After doing online only for a while, a good friend pushed me to have a show and it was a great experience. People asked me questions I didn’t have good answers for, which was a good learning experience. And I loved seeing people flipping through the pages of some of my sketchbooks, touching the drawings and feeling the textures. I would like to make more stuff that is tactile and needs to be experienced live, and even if you don’t touch them, it is nice to see the originals. So there are probably some shows in the future. I don’t have any concrete plans right now but if anyone wants to suggest a venue, please get in touch.
-Who is your favorite living artist?
I’d like to tell you my cat Shiro, for he has mastered the art of being awesome, but you probably want to know who my favorite human artist is. I really admire Andy Goldsworthy. His patience, visual elegance, craftsmanship. I accept that we are two entirely different human beings but sometimes I wish I was Andy Goldsworthy. There is a documentary about his work called “Rivers and Tides.” Go watch it after you follow me on Instagram.
You can check out more awesome work through the following links, and be sure to sign up for the newsletter!
Twitter & Instagram – @wolfcatworkshop