A 'PICK ME UP' Q&A with Claire Catterall

Mon 28 Apr 2014

An abundance of graphic art in all forms to stimulate and inspire creative types. Now in its fifth year, Somerset House have presented another super ‘Pick Me Up’ contemporary graphic arts fair for 2014. We asked Festival Curator, Director of Exhibitions and Learning at Somerset House Trust, Claire Catterall what she looks for in new talent and what makes Pick Me Up such a special event in the Illustration calendar.

Who sat on this year’s Pick Me Up Selects panel and made those all important creative decisions? Liz Farrelly, Gavin Lucas, Liv Siddall and Sarah Mann made the all important selections.

What makes Pick Me Up different from other arts fairs? PMU is a festival rather than a fair – It’s a celebration of contemporary illustration and graphic arts that packs together the most exciting talent and gives young, up and coming illustrators the same exposure as more well-known household names. Our Selects artists have all graduated or set up their studios within the last seven years and are all starting out, but then you might have Anthony Burrill running a workshop or Judith Kerr talking about her long career. We also select a number of Collectives and Galleries to set up shop and install their own ‘world’ in the gallery, where the visitor can chat to the artists and get involved. And of course there’s lots of great artworks that you can buy!

It must take a lot of time, love and consideration to curate such an amazing display of artworks... What is your creative process? PMU is now in its fifth year so the greatest challenge is to keep it feeling fresh, new and different from previous years. It is a great team effort and we call upon our network of PMU ‘friends’ whose opinions we champion too. The Selects are specially chosen and nominated by our panel of judges (and the PMU team) and we make sure we get a good mix of traditional and contemporary illustration techniques. The Collectives and Galleries are chosen by the PMU team through a call for entries submission and the team have great fun planning the mammoth series of events and workshops. The most important thing for us is to make sure we are representing graphic art and illustration in all its forms from print making to drawing and animation – it all has to be there!

What do you look for in your Pick Me Up Selects collection of artists? The basic criteria is that they have started their careers within the last seven years. After that, it’s down to personal taste amongst the judges, which always makes for an eclectic result that is different year after year. But we are definitely looking at the quality of work, relevance to illustration today, humour, beauty, talent and originality. And that little spark of what’s to come!

Which artists would you say are the ones-to-watch from this year’s show? That’s a tricky one! Julia Pott is a hit with her charming characters and mesmeric animations, Carine Brancowitz’s labour intensive but slick biro drawings and Kyle Platt’s irreverent observations of modern society. But we have missed out a lot of people that you should definitely keep your eye on.

You must have a serious passion for the arts to create such a visually stimulating fair... What do you love about what you do? Year on year PMU gets bigger and better and the exciting thing is going out and searching for the best and the new work around before putting it in the mix and making sense of it all! We work on PMU for well over six months before we open the doors to the public so we always get a huge adrenalin rush when everything falls into place.

Check out the daily arts and crafts activities schedule here.