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Licensed to succeed

Illustration graduate Catherine Rowe

Since graduating from ARU, illustrator Catherine Rowe has started her own successful business creating designs and licensing her images for re-use. She tells us more about her experiences as a student in Cambridge, and her career path.

I always knew I wanted to study illustration. The course at Cambridge School of Art was recommended by the tutor of my foundation course in Portsmouth because of its printmaking workshop and studio space.

I was amazed to get an unconditional offer as I really thought I’d mucked up my interview and remember crying in the café opposite campus!

As well as the amazing facilities, we had access to some really good illustrators who came into to talk to us and who influenced my decision to be an illustrator. I decided this was what I wanted to do at the beginning of my second year and discussed it with my course tutor, who was candid about me needing to be serious in my ambition – and for the need to be really really good.

Cheetah wallpaper design by Catherine Rowe with green table and lamp in foregrouond
Lobster wallpaper design by Catherine Rowe with rolltop bath in foreground
Scarf design by Catherine Rowe featuring a zebra, giraffe, butterflies, hand mirrors and perfume bottles

I recently returned to Cambridge School of Art to talk to current students and it was so emotional going back. There are lots of things that you don’t necessarily appreciate when you are there: not only the unlimited access to all sorts of facilities, but also the community and support you get in the studio environment. My work would really benefit now from the crits we had, which really help develop your work.

Cambridge also influenced my work and my choice of media – I discovered working with scraperboards from someone in the local creative scene. I remember taking it back into the studios and being really excited and the course tutors being excited too. A scraperboard is the main medium I use now, as an alternative to printmaking, creating detailed black-and-white designs which are then coloured digitally to enhance the commercial appeal.

Cushion cover design by Catherine Rowe: bee and flowers
Scarf design by Catherine Rowe: cheetah on black background
Illustrator Catherine Rowe using a laptop in her studio

When I graduated, I started to work in jewellery design but I knew that I really wanted to do my own work and make products from my own designs. As of this year, I now work wholly for myself. My business is two-fold: making and selling a range of products including cushions, wallpaper and scarves, and licensing my images for use through my licensing agents Yellow House.

I was introduced to the idea of licensing by someone who worked for a publishers, as many creative directors won’t work with someone who isn’t licensed. My images have been licensed for greetings cards, puzzles and ceramics as well as for a commission for 12 Christmas stamps for the Isle of Man Post Office.

Most recently I was one of four winning entries for the fabric design edition of the Liberty Open Call, and this work is now licensed exclusively to them. I'm proud to say that my fabric is available to buy from Liberty London.

Catherine Rowe is the founder of catherinerowedesigns.com.

Interested in studying illustration at ARU? Visit the course page to find out more, or book your place at one of our Open Days.