Self Healing with Cath Garvey
Through satirical illustrations artist Cath Garvey creates discourse on mental health and modern female sociology. Her work aims to quietly empower women and also offer humour through surrealism on very real subjects.
Tell us more about yourself and your practice.
I’m a Freelance Illustrator and comic artist based in the North West of England, I draw colourful things with an under layer of pessimism. I make comics, postcards, t shirts for my online store. I run a blog on cathgarvey.tumblr.com, where I post comics every Friday.
What was your creative process for this series or for your work in general?
My work is often based on experiences I’ve had, I carry a small book out with me so when I get an idea I just write it down and make it into a drawing or comic later.
Train journeys and coffee shops are the best places for drawing and getting ideas.
Sometimes I draw something and go back to it a year later, I find it important to keep all my books where I just have ideas in. I find if I’m stuck on ideas I go through all my old sketch books and pluck out something to work on further. When I get to drawing I draw it on A3/A4 usually, I don’t use any fancy paper just something that won’t bleed and can take watercolour. Then I ink it with a manga pen or fine liner and maybe watercolour it if I feel like it. I keep the paint loose and super watery so I can drip colour in. I then scan my work and edit the hell out of it on my laptop.
What work inspires or has inspired you?
Comic artist Kate Beaton was the first female comic artist I’ve seen, I loved how she wrote comics about historical figures and made it funny. The comic series she made about feminists are one of my favourites of her work. A lot of the dry humour I have in my work today definitely stems from her.
Another artist is Julian Callos whose work encouraged me to use watercolours. I researched him while I was in College and loved the textures in his work and how he uses colour.
I love listening to music, I listen to Hello Goodbye, The Beach Boys, Caravan Palace and Tegan and Sara. They’re all upbeat and motivate me.
Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?
I love Fauvism, now that I think about it Andrè Derain really influenced my choice in colours. I remember being in School and doing a copy of his work, it must’ve stuck with me. I also love Surrealism, who doesn’t? It’s funny.
Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?
My rule for myself is never, ever make jokes about people less fortunate than me in my art. Also anything offensive or crude is not my thing. It’s not funny unless I’m making fun of myself.
I feel strongly about how people in poverty/ working class are seen and portrayed in the media. Like the stereotype of someone who is on Benefits are seen as the lowest of lows. Like, I really think peoples’ views on the poor/working class has to change, cos it can happen to you one day, ya know? You can joke about that mother outside the Job Centre with 3 kids but next year you could lose your job and have to go straight there. Be humble. It costs nothing.
I also believe you shouldn’t tip toe or even ignore the subject about mental illness. I spent a year in denial about my depression due to not being ‘sick enough’ or the fear of my doctor not believing me. It’s pretty stupid of me to sit through all that crap when I could’ve got help sooner.
Your artwork is hilarious while also being deeply empathetic and relatable! It also actually looks great which is such a hard combination to come by. Can you tell us more about the work in which you re-envision Barbie as a very real-life, modern day woman with the same issues and vices? What were your thoughts behind this work? I’ve also just become a huge fan of your t-shirts.
Heehee thanks! Actually, Barbie is me. I had a rough year where I was spat out of University and was sort of stuck. I had to grow up quickly and pay rent, bills, find a stable job (haha) and keep care of myself. All while trying to keep up making artwork, I desperately didn’t want the skills I learned go to waste.
The series started out as ‘Anxious Barbie’ which I sketched down and didn’t go back to it until months later. I was afraid it would offend people but then I thought nah I’m just being anxious. I made Graduated Barbie, Depressed Barbie and Benefits Barbie cos I’ve been through it and they are subjects people don’t discuss. But the reality is Barbie has depression, Barbie has lost her job and got to go on benefits. I thought it’d be ironic to use Barbie dolls I had as a kid and place them in my current situation (my favourite Barbie was Depressed Barbie, her dress was reversible and came with a bottle of glitter!).
Any words for aspiring artists?
Keep going, you’re gonna be great. It’s going to be hard but don’t let that stop you. Like, we’re all in the same boat. And if you’re like me, who sees all these amazing artists on the internet with their beautiful work, remember they were like you at some point. Tell your story. And take care of yourself, you’re not just an art machine you’re a human being so take regular breaks and don’t feel bad about not making art for a short while, you’re recharging your creative juices.
Is there anything you’re currently working on?
I’m learning to play piano! I’m having lots of fun and I’m hoping to be a music maestro by next year!
I’m also writing a story about aliens with my sister that will eventually be a comic, it’s a story about friendship and learning to trust. The intro to the comic is already online.
Where can we get one of your tshirts from?
My t shirts and everything else can be bought at my store: Cathgarvey.bigcartel.com and I’ll be at Thought Bubble Leeds in September, so if you are around come and say hi.