A New Fairytale: Catrin Welz-Stein Talks

Art & Culture

Catrin Welz-Stein creates whimsical, layered fantasies; surreal juxtapositions that are steeped in the timeless imaginary worlds of children's literature. Ahead of her forthcoming appearence at the Illustrated expo 2016, we asked Catrin to send us through some examples of her work and had a quick chat about the process of plugging into worlds on the edge of dreams… 

Your work reflects bright imagination and a clear ability to build recognisable narrative – where do you get your ideas from and how do you approach the initial phases of creating a new piece of work?

It really is quite simple, if it is not commissioned work I just let my imagination run wild.  Working in Photoshop I build up images layer by layer, in effect creating a collage combining old images and illustrations together.  When creating work I have no definitive plans but actually find that by combining weird pieces together it sometimes works out – this the most inspiring way to create a new image and explains why a lot of my images are surreal!

Storytelling is not only reflected in your work but in the titles of the pieces too, are the ethereal qualities so prevalent in many of your pieces informed by literature and fantasy?

Reading books was always a big part of my free time, during childhood I loved to read and dive into different worlds full of magic and fantasy.  I've read Narnia and Lord of the Rings quite a few times and I still like history novels from the medieval and Victorian days.  Having read a lot of historical biographies surely my art is influenced by my passion for history and fantasy. I can imagine a lot of titles of my images being the title of fairytale books as well 🙂

How do you go about composing your pieces? Is digital manipulation used extensively or do you engage in a hybrid process using more traditional techniques too?

The creative process always starts with a digital sketch, sometimes I go from there, print out the file and paint on the surface with acrylics and mixed media.  However the most popular images are the pieces done completely in Photoshop combining parts of old Illustrations and old paintings. I like it to keep the impression of a 'hand made' imagery.  Looking at some of my works, you can’t tell if the image is an oil painting or digital. 

Are you professionally trained? How did you stumble upon this unique style?

I studied Graphic Design in Germany and worked professionally for several years which is where I acquired my Photoshop skills.  It all started when I was creating a Christmas card for family and friends in 2009.  It was my first digital collage which can still be seen in my portfolio, named 'Lovebird'.  I posted the image on several online pages and got lots of positive feedback – so I went on with it, thankfully until now!

You're work obviously has broad appeal … Do you think there are commercial applications connected to what you do, can you see yourself begin commissioned by a brand to create imagery or is this something you'd seek to avoid?

Its not something I'd avoid.  Working formally as a Graphic Designer and coming from an advertising background, I still feel connected to the commercial side. I like to do commissioned work. I don’t think my artwork is only privileged to hang on 'uncommercial' walls….

Catrin Welz-Stein's work can be seen on June 10-12 at ILLUSTRATED 2016 – find the event here