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Cat Caroff: enchanting illustrations from the French Riviera

Cat Caroff at her desk in Nice. Photo: Fabien PraussHer charming watercolour characters capture the personality of the modern day woman and entertain us with their words. Despite the light-heartedness of her work, Cat Caroff’s past collaborations with big brands such as Galeries Lafayette and fashion brand COS prove that she is an artist to be taken seriously.

Cat spent her childhood by the sea - just not the warm waters of the Mediterranean that we all know and love. Born in Saint Malo, a port city on the English Channel, she stayed in northwest France until she left to study graphic design in Paris.

After her degree, she worked with advertising agents in Paris and Marseille, which gave her the opportunity to further embrace her creative side and build up a strong network. Looking to settle someplace that would inspire her work, she then moved to Nice as a graphic designer and independent illustrator, where she has now been living for over 20 years.

Over a coffee at Nice’s Comptoir Central Electrique, Cat tells me that her love of living in Nice stems from its beautiful setting and the relaxed mindset of the locals. Sitting outside the café, looking out onto the little side streets of Nice basking in the mid-morning sunshine, it’s not hard to see why so many artists have historically chosen to call this city home.

She explains how the proximity of the mountains to the beach gives the area a sense of freedom as it means that so many different activities are possible.

As the conversation turns to her work, it’s clear to see that Cat has a real passion for what she does. She describes her style as flirty and feminine, with a focus on the contemporary woman. Her fauvist use of non-naturalistic colour sets her apart from other illustrators, with several of her artworks created using one tone, usually green or red. The characters that she creates using watercolours are allowed to interact with their audience through the funny quotes that they are presented with. Interestingly, despite the feminine nature of her drawings, Cat gets just as many male customers as female. She prides herself on the fact that her artwork is also accessible to people of all ages, allowing her a wide target audience.

Although most of Cat’s work is done on paper, she doesn’t dismiss any opportunity to paint elsewhere, including on walls, purses and even people. You can even find her little characters on lampshades in Babalux, a lighting shop in Nice. She has also created posters for children’s theatre shows and illustrations for children’s books, working with publishing houses such as Editions Gilletta and Editions du Ricochet. Although these two projects necessitated more solid characters and in-depth backgrounds than her usual work, Cat’s style still manages to shine through, retaining the unique magical edge to her drawings.

In addition to her love of art, Cat has also developed a love of teaching. She enjoys teaching painting to adults and children in Nice on a regular basis: “I find great happiness in watching my students learn.” She also organises frequent ‘Stages Aquarelles’ - four day watercolour painting courses that are designed to inspire creativity in both beginner and experienced painters: “I take groups to some of my favourite places to be inspired by my favourite views; I try to encourage original ideas in original places.”

As well as her artistic pursuits, Cat has plenty of other hobbies to keep herself occupied. She became involved with Nice’s performing arts scene as soon as she moved to the city in order to meet new people. She is currently preparing to perform in ‘Mais qui a hérité de Mr. Georges’ at Nice’s Théâtre de L’Eau Vive, which runs between September and November.

She also tries to travel as much as possible, having been on hiking holidays in exotic destinations such as Costa Rica, Thailand and Réunion. Given her love of colour, it does not come as a surprise that a trip to the Holi festival of colour in either Nepal or India is on her wish list of future travel destinations. Closer to home, Cat’s favourite travel destinations on the French Riviera are the beautiful communes of Èze and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.

With plans to delve further into the world of body painting and a desire to get involved with wedding planning, it doesn’t look as if Cat’s creativity is going to diminish any time soon. Happy in the knowledge that she will continue to entertain us with her characters and their words, we’re looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

For information concerning Cat’s work or to sign up to one of her watercolour courses, you can visit her website.