Cat Finnie

“Being an illustrator is as much about creating content that’s useful or informative or connects with other people as it is about making something that’s meaningful to me.”

Hello Cat!
How would you describe yourself – who is Cat Finnie?
I’m a freelance illustrator living in London, working in editorial illustration and design for animation. I like to make digital and vector based illustrations that are generally concept driven, often with an aspect of surreality.

Could you tell us a bit about your journey into illustration & design?
I’ve been drawing just about as long as I can remember; as a kid I would be easily occupied with a pad of paper and some pencils. When I was very young, what I’d mostly draw is horses and hills. That was my go-to content. I also remember having a Tony Hart book of how to draw animals – I’d draw the animals as funny caricatures to make other kids laugh. So drawing was my way to entertain myself and others, and I guess it still is! Apart from that, I’ve followed quite a conventional pathway into illustration – studying an Art Foundation course and then a BA degree in Graphic Design, which was a broad course that also included illustrators, typographers and people interested in motion graphics.

What does being an illustrator mean to you?
I think that, for me, being an illustrator is as much about creating content that’s useful or informative or connects with other people as it is about making something that’s meaningful to me – both aspects are important. I always try to find a way to personally connect with a piece I’m working on, so that I can put some unique perspective into it, even if it’s not obvious to others in the final illustration.

Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
I absolutely believe that it’s never too late to take up something creative – everybody has it in them to make things. I think sometimes people put up their own barriers that can prevent them from creating. Self consciousness can be tricky to overcome, because if you’re going to make something – it doesn’t matter what it is – something personal of yourself is going to end up showing through – and not everybody is naturally comfortable with that. I think just starting to make things is half the battle – after that, just keep making things until you figure out what you like and what you want to say.

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far? Do you have any tips for artists thinking of doing freelance?
As a freelancer, I’m very much responsible for tasks – such as my own self promotion, keeping tabs on invoicing, and chasing down late payments – that I don’t really enjoy, and I sometimes struggle to motivate myself to do them. When you freelance, you’re a business as much as you’re a creative – because you need to get paid to live, right?! So, the one tip I’d give is that if, like me, you find that side of things harder to get on with, devote some time to learning it and practicing it anyway, because it’s really important.

You have some special individual style. How do you define your own style?
Thank you! I actually found it very difficult to find a place of stylistic consistency – it seems as though one way to get there is just to draw and make things – a lot of things! – and see what comes out at the end. So I guess my style is a product of all my influences. I’m very drawn to Surrealism in particular, both in art and in literature, and I think that has a strong influence in my work. Where it’s appropriate – e.g, illustrating more conceptual pieces – I always try to dig down into the unconscious aspect of the subject I’m illustrating and get a feeling for what is under the surface, the undercurrent of an article.

Have you found any inspiration in an unexpected place recently?
I took up running a couple of years ago, and I often think about projects when I run, and sometimes come back with fresh ideas that way.

What other illustrators/designers are you digging these days?
So many! It’s really hard to pick out just a few but some of my favourites are Anna and Elena Balbusso, Gérard DuBois, Kelly Anna, Ben Kirchner, Shyama Golden, Zoë Van Dijk, Jasu Hu, Armando Veve, Eugenia Mello, Jun Cen, and loads more!

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
I’m not sure, but I’d love to see some of my illustrations in motion sometime, so an animation collaboration would be awesome!

What are your top five songs on your playlist?
Currently listening:
Toro y Moi – Ordinary Pleasure
Robyn – Ever Again
Self Esteem – The Best
Metric – Now or Never Now
Janelle Monae – Screwed

What demands most of your time?
It is still illustrating – though emailing, invoicing, and other admin tasks sometimes take a fair chunk of time too.

What are the five books that every designer should read? What’s some of the most nostalgic books for you, in a visual sense?
I confess that I don’t really read design books very often. Try ‘The Master and Margarita’ – Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ – Angela Carter, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ – Gabriel García Márquez, ‘The Unreal and the Real: Volumes 1 and 2’ – Ursula Le Guin, ‘Kafka on the Shore’ – Haruki Murakami, and everything by Jorge Luis Borges.

Where are your favorite spots in London? Food, coffee, shops, etc.
I love London for the fact that, whatever your preference, there’s an option you’ll enjoy! I love my local, Deeney’s – a Scottish cafe that serves haggis (and vegetarian haggis) toasted sandwiches and a really great vegetarian breakfast! My Neighbour the Dumplings is a very cute place for dim sum. Crate is a lovely summer spot on the canal for pizza and beer. I like any of the Tonkotsu branches for ramen. Marmelo Kitchen is another Leyton local that’s great for seasonal dishes.

Could you give us three fun facts about yourself?
My favourite colour is a deep green, or teal.
I call myself Cat because most people mispronounce my Scottish full first name, Catriona – you don’t need to say the ‘o’.
My friends introduce me to people as Cat Finnie, rather than just Cat, and I kind of like it. I guess it’s my brand!

Finally, is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
I’m not sure, so I’m just going to list some movies from last year that I really enjoyed, because I love movies! The Favourite, Annihilation, Hereditary, Lady Bird, Sorry to Bother You, The Death of Stalin.

Thank you!