Caroline Shotton has built herself up to the top of the contemporary art world by inspiring many thousands of people with her warmth and humour. Known for her adaptations of well-known masterpieces - featuring her iconic cow twists - Caroline is a sensation, and her artwork is highly valued, and highly collectable.
Originally studying at Central St. Martins and then progressing to a self-made career as a freelance artist, Caroline's path to success was truly made whilst she was expecting her first son, Sam.
So, why cows? "I wanted to paint something happy for my child's bedroom wall. I wanted to create a character that would make him smile and keep him company." This led to a colourful composition featuring a quirky cow.
"Inspiration often comes out of the blue, I don't have to try to think up a new piece to start if the studio is empty of work as there are lots of ideas for titles, cow puns, compositions, colours and techniques scribbled on scraps of paper, receipts, sweet wrappers etc!! I suppose you could call them lightbulb moments that come out of the blue, but when you've been painting cows for over 15 years, I guess my mind is subconsciously whirring away all the time searching for inspiration. I often have ideas for new pieces in the middle of the night, so I keep a sketch pad next to the bed to jot ideas down otherwise I can't get back to sleep for fear of forgetting them! It sounds odd but I often dream I am painting, it feels so real and sometimes I wake up and go down to the studio expecting it to be there.
It sounds like there really isn't any escape from it all, but I love it, and I wouldn't want life to be any other way. I've always painted, it's my soulmate.
I had a fantastic art teacher at school, he was very focussed on technique, realism. It was this training that really set me up for life and I'm truly grateful for all his words of wisdom, encouragement and sometimes criticism! Life at Central Saint Martins, where I did foundation then Graphic design/Illustration, was very different in that it opened my eyes to so many different techniques and styles. They didn't dismiss anything that I'd learnt in the past but encouraged me to unwind my very precise way of painting and to try new ways of interpreting what I was painting, Both these approaches have been invaluable and have enabled me to continue to explore new avenues with confidence and excitement.
Looking back, I have always wanted to make people smile through my work. At school I was often in trouble for disrupting the class by passing round a Spitting Image style sketch of the teacher. I loved typography too and did a lot of posters for local fetes, concerts and events from primary school onwards. I didn't realise at the time but typography and humour were to play a big part in my career after art college, I vowed I'd never have a proper job so started out doing signwriting, paintings and murals for pubs, restaurants and businesses all over the country. It was great, I loved it, being out and about, meeting new people but deep down I knew in my heart that what I wanted was to have my work in galleries.
The chance came when I was pregnant with my first son, I had no choice really as I could no longer paint up a tower scaffold with my legs dangling two floors above a building site, so I worked on the dining room table and produced work to take round galleries.
I was also getting the nursery ready for Sam's imminent arrival and it was by chance that when walking the dog by a cow field, I decided to paint him a cow for his room. I didn't want it to be too realistic so I painted a caricature of one, a cow that would make him smile. Everyone loved it, so I painted more and took them to galleries around Oxfordshire. To my delight, they sold! I didn't know the future of the cows then, but, 15 years later, the cows have taken their own path in ways that weren't planned or originally intended,
I just keep getting new ideas all the time and I hope I continue to make people smile with them, just like I did with my classmates 30+ years ago with those caricatures of the teachers.
I mostly paint in oils now and often incorporate other materials such as gems and real hay to enhance my work. Elements of typography make an appearance too so all that signwriting in cold pub cellars hasn't gone to waste. I take a lot of my inspiration from the old masters and love replicating their paintings in 'bovine form'. The first of which were in a collection in 2007 called 'The Moosters' which included The Mona Lisa, The Laughing Cavalier and The Scream. I have revisited this idea over the years and in 2017 three more were published.
I get a lot of ideas from my boys, especially the things they got up to when they were little. Dairy Milk was inspired by their faces covered in chocolate one Easter morning and I used real chocolate ( sealed in with varnish ) on that piece. Them playing in hay, leaves, mud and puddles have also featured in my family pieces and by using real hay or leaves adds another dimension to my pieces.
My studio buddy is a little Jack Russell Terrier. We've had her for about a year now. She is a rescue dog and full of character but she does tend to get in the way a lot. I've had to keep the studio quite tidy as she has a tendency to eat pencils and tread on wet palettes!
I'm really looking forward to joining Buckingham Fine Art Publishers, my work is changing constantly, but will always incorporate humour. I'd also like to see my pieces animated one day or perhaps in a children's book. I still have so many ideas for the cows, family pieces, using different materials, taking more traditional pieces and 'Shottonizing' them, the list on my studio wall is endless. Above all, I always want my cows to be able to make people happy, be unique, and memorable."