Sometimes I think artists are just meant to run into each other. I had the fortune of stumbling onto the art of Catherine Somerlot recently and she graciously consented to an interview. If you’re interested in things Celtic or in photography, you’re sure to like this interview. Please visit her site and consider obtaining a piece of her art.
Q. How did you become a photographer?
A. When I was 9 or 10 I received my first camera little Kodak 110. I went through a lot of cassette film taking pictures of my dolls. My father dabbled in photography quite a bit (he always had a camera or video camera on hand for birthdays and holidays while I was growing up), and when I was 14, I expressed interest in learning how to use an SLR. He let me borrow his old Focal camera. We went on many day trips around Ohio and I’d shoot rolls and rolls of 35mm film of the landscapes, scenery and historic landmarks. Later on, I studied photography in college, but the lack of a photography degree program provoked me to educate myself and experiment further on my own. I’m blessed to have made a number of photographic friends through my former photo lab job in a camera store. We bounced a lot of ideas and advice around over the years.
Q. Your photography is rich in Celtic imagery. Why does the Celtic culture fascinate you? Are there further areas in that mythology you’d like to explore? How has Maidens of the Otherworld been received?
A. Maidens of the Otherworld (http://www.maidensoftheotherworld.com) is definitely infused with the Celtic/Mythic spirit in mind, although it’s more my own imagination running rampant. So I consider it fantasy-themed, with whispers of Celtic myth & legend. Creating this art is my way of reaching the lands I long to visit one day! The Celtic culture has always fascinated me, and I think that love flourished because of my interest in fantasy literature…especially historically-based fantasy. When I was a child I was enthralled by fairy tales. Since my teenage years, I’ve been reading mostly fantasy literature from authors such as Robert Jordan, Melanie Rawn, Madeleine Le’Engle, David Eddings, Kate Elliott, Stephen Lawhead and others. The book that really struck a chord with me was “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s the tale of King Arthur from a unique feminine and mystical perspective that inspired me to learn more about medieval and Celtic history. And the rest is history!
Music also plays a huge role in my creative process. I listen to a lot of Celtic, medieval, world, folk and fantasy-esque music that puts me in the right state-0f-mind for creating fairies, forest spirits, and other enigmatic subjects.
Maidens of the Otherworld has received some exposure on the Web and at a number of Celtic and Renaissance Faires (thanks to Christine Rose, co-author of Rowan of the Wood). One piece, The Meadow (http://www.deviantart.com/print/4723651/), was chosen for the cover of the Fairy Society Magazine, which is set to be published online very soon. More work was featured in the first issue of Amazing Events, a Fantasyana Publication (http://www.fantasyanapublishing.com/publications.php). There has been some interest expressed by other artists looking to collaborate. Hopefully the series will see some more local exposure here in the artsy town of Seattle now that my solo exhibit (http://catherinesomerlot.com/blog/?p=546) has opened at the Lynnwood Library Gallery. Iíll be displaying four pieces from the Maidens collection along with a number of photographs. This year I also hope to display and sell my work at festivals and faires in western Washington and Oregon.
Q. You have beautiful models. How do you find them? What kind of model do you like to work with? Do you do much self-photography?
A. Nearly all of the subjects you see in the Maidens of the Otherworld collection are stock models. Stock models are wonderful people who provide portraits of themselves for artists to use in digital art or as a reference for illustration. This is a popular trend on deviantART (http://photopixie.deviantart.com/), an online art community I’ve been a part of since 2003. I’m able to use these portraits royalty free and have been granted permission to sell and display the art to the masses, thanks to these very generous stock providers. I would like to break away from using stock images since I sometimes find the same subjects in other’s art (since it’s available for a large community of artists). Lady of the Lake and The Odyssey include my own models (two are statues!). I’ve done a bit of photographic portraiture with my good friend Kristy Howe, such as the Crimson Queen (http://photopixie.deviantart.com/art/Crimson-Queen-XX-40286115) series, but haven’t turned any of it into digital fantasy art because I really liked how the photographs worked as their own series. I still would like to photograph my own subjects, but I’ve yet to invest in a studio lighting kit. Hopefully someday I will make that a reality!
Q. What trends do you see happening with digital photography? What would you advise anyone who wants to work with this type (digital) of photography? What advice would you give new photographers?
A. Digital has all but taken over the world of photography. I was working in the photography industry at the time the shift from film to digital was happening. Up until I left that career in late 2006, there was still a LOT of film being shot. I know because I was processing all that film! But digital was really catching upÖto the point where I was printing almost as many prints from memory cards as from 35mm negatives.
If you want to get into digital photography, do your research. If you’re a professional or semi-professional, definitely do your research! There are many excellent digital SLRs out there, but you should find the one that best suits your needs. Don’t buy it online…go to a camera store (not Best Buy or Circuit City) and talk to a camera sales person. They know what they’re talking about and can answer all your questions. If you’re new to photography, I’d suggest the same…but you’ll want to look for something without all the bells and whistles so you can focus on learning the basics like composition and the rule of thirds. Go for a point-and-shoot camera with a good optical zoom.
Q. What future projects do you have in mind?
A. I lie awake most nights, unable to fall asleep because my mind is always working. I’d love to have my own studio to photograph my own models for creating more fantasy art. I’d love to collaborate with a costume or clothing designer and makeup artist to create some wildly ethereal fantasy and medieval-themed conceptual portraits. My ultimate goal is to travel to the British Isles to capture Celtic history in photographs, then publish the series as an art book with Celtic myth scattered across the pages.
Q. What type of camera do you use?
A. I currently use a Canon 20D. In the past I’ve used a Nikon N75 and Canon Rebel X, both 35mm film cameras.
Q. Any final words, thoughts . . .
A. You can see more of my work at the following links:
http://photopixie.deviantart.com/gallery (the largest collection of my work on the Web)
http://www.catherinesomerlot.com (my homepage and blog)
http://www.maidensoftheotherworld.com (homepage for Maidens of the Otherworld)
Thank you so much for the interview, it was fun!
*Here is a sample of her photography: It is called, “Forest Fey.”
Here is a photo of the beautiful and talented artist: