"I make cute things gross and gross things cute."
I had the opportunity to interview and explore the quirky, sometimes creepy and always beautiful mind of Milwaukee illustrator, Catherine Palmeno. We talk death masks, Christmas shopping and her upcoming exhibition.
I have the pleasure of knowing a little bit about your process and your workspace. Can you give us a little 'fly on the wall' insight?
I work very small, so all of my work is done at my little drafting table in my office. All of my cut paper work is done at about 5"x7" and scanned, then finished in photoshop. I try to pick up different textured and colored paper whenever I see it, and I make a lot of photoshop brushes to add texture and dimension.
I am an avid collector of antiques, so my workspace is filled with trinkets and oddities I pick up all over. My favorite things in my workspace are a Ouija board that has been in my family since the 60's and a replica of L'Inconnue de la Seine death mask (a girl who drowned in the Seine river in the 1880's and who's death mask has been on the walls of Albert Camus, Rainer Maria Rilke and Anaïs Nin).
You've said that if you weren't an artist you would be a mortician. Do you feel like that comes through in your work?
Oh definitely! A lot of my subject matter has a darker side to it. I think we tend to push things relating to death and our own mortality out of our mind because it's scary to think about the end and the unknown, but I am fascinated by the weirder and ugly parts of life. I try to make the macabre more accessible in my work. My summation of my work is usually that I make cute things gross and gross things cute.
How do you choose who to star in your prints? Do you have a favorite in the shop right now?
If I'm doing work for myself and not a client, I just pick whatever is my interest or obsession of the moment. Maybe I'll read an article or see a photo and it will click that I have to do something on that subject, or using a certain color scheme, or someone will suggest a subject and I run with it. I have an illustration of a voodoo priestess name Marie Lavaeu in my shop that is my favorite right now. She was the voodoo queen of New Orleans, and is a character on American Horror Story for the third season.
You have a show opening at HotPop soon. Can you divulge any secrets about what we can expect?
All of my work for this show will be spooky (and super cute)! The show is December 6th at HotPop, and I can't wait to see how amazing everyone's work looks in their beautiful new location!
See you there, Kittens.