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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 · No Comments

Katy Smail is a Scottish illustrator living and working in Brooklyn (she is repped by Kate Ryan). Her unabashedly feminine florals are the latest addition to Buy Some Damn Art; my interview with the artist is below.

Katy Smail_Carnations copy



Kate: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

Katy: I grew up in Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside, Scotland. I live in lovely Brooklyn, NY now.




Kate: What kind of work do you do as an illustrator / designer in addition to your art practice?

Katy: I work as a freelance illustrator/ designer and am represented by Kate Ryan Inc here in New York. My freelance work varies from pattern and kids apparel design to advertising, editorial and horoscope illustrations. A lot of the fashion work I do involves collaborating with photographers to create illustrated “sets” for their images. I love the variety in my day to day working life, I find that all of my different outlets feed into each other so that my painting informs my design work and vice versa.


Katy Smail_Posey Of Poppies copy

Posey of Poppies


Kate: You’re friends with florist and stylist Ariel Dearie. Given your shared affinity for florals, you must collaborate… right?

Katy: Yes, we have been friends for years and now share a studio. We met working at a restaurant and kind of started out on our own creative careers at the same time. In the beginning I used to assist Ariel with floral jobs, and as time has gone on we have collaborated in a variety of different ways. It is heaven to be surrounded by her flowers as I work, and she is so generous with letting me paint her arrangements or leaving pretty leftovers on my desk. It is inspiring to walk into the studio and see so much loveliness every day! I feel really lucky to work alongside such a talented lady, but mainly we just have fun gossiping while we work.


Katy Smail_LittleCoralFlowers copy

Little Coral Flowers


Kate: When winter set in and flowers are imported or artificial, what kinds of things inspire you to keep painting?

Katy: I hate the winter, I hate the cold. I find it really difficult. I always spend Christmas at home in Scotland, and even though things are a little frozen over, it is still lovely to be in the countryside with all of the moss, scruffy trees and wild bracken. The muted colors and textures are inspiring. Otherwise I have a variety of winter coping mechanisms for creativity; the hot houses at the botanical gardens, museums & galleries, cosy days at home with tea and old books. Again, I’m pretty lucky because Ariel manages to find interesting botanicals all year round. Also my husband scatters many beautiful plants in our home, so that helps.


Katy Smail_Pink Roses copy

Pink Roses


Kate: Brooklyn is a creative hub but each year more artists are prices out. How do you feel about and what is the reality of being an artist here?

Katy: It’s scary and hard. Sometimes I feel crazy for wanting to make art here when all my money goes on just paying rent or visiting home once a year. But then I think about the wonderful creative community that I have here; it is such an open and friendly place to live and work. From the first second I visited I just felt so strongly that I had to be here. It is amazing what humans will put up with to follow a gut feeling. I try not to think too far ahead or I get anxious. The reality of being an artist/ freelance worker is that you are always in an unstable position. Maybe you have a good couple of months, but it is invariably followed by a spell where there is no work and you can barely scrape rent together. It is stressful. But I have always had a kind of blind determination that I would make my living from my art. I believe that if you work really hard and keep doing what you believe in, then good things will happen.




Kate: What is your total pie-in-the-sky dream project or job?

Katy: I would love someone to fund me to travel around the world, drawing and painting the wild botanicals of different countries & regions. I would compile the body of work into a book of drawings on wildflowers of the world and a series of paintings to exhibit. That sounds magical. 

Tags: Art · Living w/ Art

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