Illustrator CatCoq is inspired by her world travels
If you’ve ever indulged in a BuzzFeed listicle, subscribed to FabFitFun or picked up a magazine (Teen Vogue, Dr. Oz The Good Life and US Weekly, to name a few) chances are you’ve come across Cat Coquillette’s work.
As the founder of illustration and design brand CatCoq, the Kansas-born artist has garnered local and national fame for her vibrant and whimsical artworks. Celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff are obsessed with Coquillette’s art, and it even snagged her a partnership with tech accessories company Casetify for a special collection with Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale.
What makes Coquillette’s creations so irresistible are their incorporation of bright pops of color, romantic typography and hand-painted brush works with clean vector illustrations. Her subjects often depict nature and the inspirational, from lush foliage, flowers and animals — something she says she’s always gravitated toward — to quotes from brilliant and daring minds like William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, John Muir and Zelda Fitzgerald. She even references the film Mean Girls in her work.
Coquillette’s art is inspired by her world travels as well as Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of bones in the desert. As a self-defined location-independent artist, Coquillette is happiest creating on the move. She is based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and travels the world, capturing its infinite beauty. So far, her art has taken her to Peru, Indonesia, Belize, Vietnam, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Cambodia and Colorado — all made possible by passive income generated through licensing her work — but Chiang Mai remains her favorite.
“It’s like the digital nomad capital of the world, which means there’s a ton of people like me — location independent, entrepreneurs, freelancers, what have you — that all congregate in the Chiang Mai area,” she says. “… And I love Thai food. It’s a low cost of living, tropical climate. Jungle, mountains, all of those things added up to make it my favorite place to live and work.”
Coquillette has always had a passion for the arts. She says she grew up with a paintbrush in her hand and never really put it down. Throughout her education, teachers encouraged her to pursue her passion, and she did, deciding to double major in illustration and graphic design at the University of Kansas. It was while studying abroad in Germany during her junior year that she discovered the impact traveling had on her creativity. After graduating, she worked as a designer for local brand design agency Willoughby before deciding to take the entrepreneurial leap and build her own brand.
“I painted alpacas from a trip to Peru, elephants from a trip to Thailand. I was seeing enough of that in my portfolio that I realized that that’s my main source of inspiration,” she says. “So rather than staying and living in one city and then having my inspiration come from vacations every once in a while, I could make that a part of my career just traveling from one place to the other, having that surge of inspiration coming in from travel.”
After that surge of inspiration hits her, she begins creating. First, she snaps a picture or takes a sample. Upon returning home, she sketches the day’s model using mediums like watercolor, digital, ink and gouache to bring them to life. Next, she scans them to her computer and cleans them up in Photoshop. The last step is preparing them to be used in many forms, including tapestries, phone cases and art prints.
Coquillette’s extensive process is currently the topic of her second Skillshare course, “From Paper to Screen: Digitally Editing Your Artwork in Photoshop.” Last fall, Society6, one of the print-on-demand sites she works with, enlisted her to create a course to inspire other artists to get involved in print-on-demand. She enjoyed helping others and received such positive feedback that she agreed to another course, this time tackling the No. 1 question she gets from other artists: how she edits her work to sell online.
In addition to her Skillshare course, Coquillette has also been working on branding identity for Mary Schulte’s lifestyle enterprise, Open by Mary. Coquillette’s designs reflect Schulte’s personal, heartfelt and whimsical aesthetic and her belief that the items one selects for their home or as gifts should represent something special.
“Walking into her store is like a dream — I always find the perfect gifts for friends and family,” she says. “Among the branding collateral, I designed a custom Otomi pattern comprised of icons that have a deeper meaning to Mary: the dragonfly symbolizes her relationship with her late father, the cherry blossom branches are a nod to her preference for Eastern aesthetics, and the tortoise represents her husband’s own founder story. It’s always a treat when I get to work with a client who has a strong vision, great brand, and shares my aesthetic preferences.”
For more information, visit catcoq.com.