08 Mar 12 at 4 pm


Katy ‘KT’ Smail illustrates tragic girls in pretty dresses and fashion’s finest, bringing them to life in her floral and photo collages.

Location: New York City | Hometown: Edinburgh, Scotland

Day job: Illustrator! (It was waitress for a very, very long time)

What mediums do you mostly use in your work?

Pencil, pen, cut paper, sometimes paint.

Did you study art, if so where, and what was the most useful technique or skill you learnt?

I studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art and Rhode Island School of Design. I am happy that we had life drawing classes for a full day every week because it taught me so many essential skills when it comes to discipline in drawing and capturing people. I think that one of the most useful things I learnt was the importance of presentation; as an inherently scruffy person it is always a struggle to make sure that my finished pieces are clean and neat, but it is so important if you want people to take you seriously. Also, the importance of persevering right until the end; the idea that just when you think you are done, you can probably push yourself a little bit harder and make something amazing! Even though it hurts…!

Have you ever looked back at your childhood art? What was it like?

Lots of girls in pretty dresses with flowers…..so nothing much has changed!

Do you ever suffer from a creative block, and how do you overcome it?

Oh yes, all the time! My natural response is to struggle through, getting increasingly cross and frustrated until much paper is crumpled and thrown. The older I get, however, the more important I realize it is to step away in these moments; it is far more useful to put down the pencil and do something else than to keep flogging a dead horse, even though it might feel like cheating. I find that if I go for a run/ to a gallery/ have a drink with friends then I am much more likely to return to my desk with fresh eyes the next day. Or maybe the next week….

Are there any artists who inspire your work?

So many! Schiele, Darger, Kahlo, Matisse, Nabokov, Garcia Marquez, Plath, Patti Smith, Tim Walker, Julia Margaret Cameron, Anais Nin…..I could go on forever

What are your plans for 2012?

Collaborations with magical people, my first children’s book, more fashion illustrations, maybe some exhibitions. And hopefully lots of happiness, magical adventures, gin with friends and drawing!

If we were to visit your town, where would you recommend we go?


  • Armchair Books
  • Bramble
  • Herman Brown
  • The Canny Man
  • Under the Stairs
  • Armstrongs

New York:

  • Romans
  • Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
  • Neue Galerie
  • WeatherUp
  • Marlowe & Sons

It’s really cold here at the moment, what’s your favourite hot drink?

I drink gallons of tea every day! My favourites are peppermint, ginger and earl grey. Although you can’t beat a good cup of British tea and a biscuit…..


Website: www.whatktdoes.com & www.kateryaninc.com/artists/KATY+SMAIL / Blog: thistledownspirits.blogspot.com

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