Caroline Shotton, known for her caricature-style cows, discovered her love of art at a young age. She says, “I’ve always painted, it’s my soulmate.” At school she would get into trouble for disrupting the class by passing around spitting image sketches of the teacher. At Central Saint Martins, where she studied foundation and Graphic design/Illustration, Caroline’s eyes were opened to many different techniques and styles. There they encouraged her to try new ways of interpreting what she was already painting. She found this to be invaluable and it enabled her to explore new avenues with confidence and excitement. She credits her art teacher and his words of wisdom, encouragement and sometimes criticism that set her up in life.
Caroline also loved typography and did a lot of posters for local fetes, concerts and events from primary school. Typography elements still make an appearance in her work so her signwriting skills have not gone to waste, it now plays a big part in her career.
Caroline vowed she would never have a ‘proper job’ so she began a career in signwriting, paintings and murals for pubs, restaurants and businesses all over the country. She loved it but knew in her heart that what she wanted most was to have her work exhibited in galleries.
The change came when she was pregnant with her first son and could no longer paint up on scaffolding two floors high, so she worked from her dining room table instead, producing artwork to take round to galleries. And it was when she was preparing for her son’s arrival that she decided to paint him a cow for his room. She didn’t want it to be too realistic so she painted a caricature of one, a cow that would make him smile. Everyone loved it, so she painted more and took them to galleries around Oxfordshire, where she went on to sell plenty. She didn’t know then that 15 years later, the cows would take their own path in ways that weren’t planned or originally intended.
Caroline got a lot of ideas from her boys when they were little, they would play in hay, leaves, mud and puddles. She mostly paints in oils but she incorporates other elements, adding another dimension to her work by using real hay or leaves and sometimes gems. She was once inspired by her son’s faces covered in chocolate one Easter morning so she used real chocolate (sealed in with varnish) on a piece titled Dairy Milk.
Caroline’s inspiration and ideas for titles, cow puns, compositions, colours and techniques often come out of the blue for her. She will jot these ‘lightbulb moments’ down on scraps of paper, receipts and even sweet wrappers.
She says that her subconscious is constantly searching for new ideas. She keeps a sketchpad next to her bed so that when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a new idea she can jot it down and get back to sleep without forgetting it in the morning. She says she often has vivid dreams of herself painting only to find there’s nothing on her easel in the morning.
She is also inspired by and loves replicating paintings of old masters 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. She has revisited this idea over the years and in 2017 three more were published.
Her artwork is constantly changing, but will always incorporate a sense of humour. She hopes to one day see her pieces animated or made into a children’s book. She claims to have endless ideas for the cows and family pieces, using different materials and taking more traditional pieces and “Shottonizing” them as she calls it.
Above all, she wants her cows to make people happy, be unique, and memorable. she says “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.”