Cass Urquhart’s work is the perfect match for the sunshine state of Queensland, and you can find her colourful illustrations on the pages of our city pocket guide Smudge Eats Brisbane. We asked Cass about her creative life and her favourite places to eat, drink and explore in her home city of Brisbane.
Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up in illustration?
I ended up in illustration via a very indirect route. I’ve always loved art and drawing but it took me a long time to realise that a career in the creative arts was even a remote possibility. After high school I had a few false starts. I enrolled in and dropped out of art school, took a side tangent into an occupational therapy degree, moved overseas and did a bit of travelling before finally deciding to enrol in a graphic design course back in Brisbane. It was during this time studying that I really rediscovered my love of art and illustration. After graduating I spent a few years working as a graphic designer in different studios and agencies before going out on my own to freelance. Freelancing gave me a lot more freedom and I was able to work on personal illustration projects in my spare time. I began to pick up a few illustration jobs here and there, and sell some art prints online and at markets. Eventually I saw the potential of focusing on a career in illustration full time.
What has been one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your illustration career?
To keep a pencil and notebook with you all of the time. You never know when inspiration will strike.
What mediums do you use to create your work?
I always start by working in a traditional medium such as pencil, ink or paint. Then I scan everything onto the computer and put all the elements together in illustrator or photoshop. At the moment I am really enjoying working with ink because it’s quite free flowing and its unpredictable nature makes it really fun to work with. Sometimes it’s difficult to control and leads to a few failures, but other times it creates happy accidents, which can be really exciting.
Can you describe your style and how it’s evolved over time?
I think that my style could probably be described as colourful, fun and a bit naive. I started out working mainly in pencil and some of my early work has perhaps more of a traditional feel, but as I started to explore different mediums such as ink, gouache and digital pen, I think that my style became more diverse and colourful.
How do you spend your Saturday mornings?
Any great Saturday starts with a little bit of a sleep in. Then I like to go for a walk, followed by either going out for brunch with friends or getting a takeaway coffee and lazing on the verandah reading a variety of magazines and newspapers.
Are you a morning person or night owl?
100% night owl. Once I get on a roll I find it hard to stop and put myself to bed. Inspiration often comes as I’m going off to sleep, which is really inconvenient. I try to remember to keep a pen and paper beside the bed so I can get the ideas down without having to turn on the light and get out of bed.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Copenhagen because I spent some time there in 2011 and it’s the most beautiful, creative and exciting city I’ve ever stayed in. Since then I’ve been trying to find excuses to go back. I don’t know of any other place in the world you can see women riding bikes in high heels, with their dog and grocery shopping in the front basket, while simultaneously texting and drinking a coffee – that’s pretty awesome.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I like to start every work day with a walk to put myself in the right headspace, and grab a takeaway coffee on the way home. I then sit in front of my computer to drink my coffee and I glitch out. Glitching can take on many forms, from falling down a Pinterest hole, to researching dog videos on youtube. I think that this glitch time is really important because in the background my brain is processing what I have to get done that day. After I snap out of the glitch I’ll usually spend a couple of hours on emails and admin type things for my business. If I have any online orders that day I’ll prep them and head off to the post office. From around lunch time until the early evening I’ll work on creative briefs. During this time I love to listen to a mixture of Spotify playlists and podcasts. Sometimes if I’m feeling stressed or creatively blocked I’ll take some time out to listen to a meditation app. There are also lots of tea and toast breaks. Often times I’ll end up in the kitchen with my head in the fridge or biscuit tin not remembering how I got there. I try to finish working at around 6 everyday if I can, but if I’m busy I’ll keep working after dinner.
What other creatives are you inspired by?
There are so many inspiring creatives out there but right now a few of my favourites are Kate Pugsley, Lorien Stern, Laurie Melia and Susie Hammer.
What has been your proudest moment as an illustrator to date?
The first time I sold a print through my online store.
What’s next (tomorrow or 10 years from now)?
This year I’d like to keep working on my own projects and also expand my horizons creatively. At the moment I’m doing sewing lessons and I really want to take a ceramics class. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in 10 years, but I’m hopeful that I’ll still be pushing myself creatively.
Locals Know Best Questions
Where’s your favourite place to share a meal in Brisbane?
A little place called Curryville in Morningside. It is a fairly unassuming restaurant with only a handful of tables, but I think it might be the best Indian restaurant in Brisbane. It’s become a go-to for family birthdays and take away nights with friends. I’m getting hungry thinking about it.
Do you have a favourite neighbourhood in Brisbane – where is it and why?
The inner south side area that stretches from Woolloongabba to West End. I grew up and went to primary school around that area and every time I go back there different childhood memories come back to me. It has been interesting seeing the area change over the years. It used to be quite wild and wooly, but now the whole area is filled with an exciting array of shops, restaurants and cafes.
We want to show our out-of-towner friends the best of Brisbane. Where should we take them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night drinks?
Breakfast: Brown Dog Cafe, Woolloongabba
Lunch: South Side Tea Room, Morningside
Dinner: Head next door to Death Valley, Morningside
Late Night Drinks: The End (West End)
Where in Brisbane could you spend an entire months salary in one hit?
It would be easy to do at the Woolloongabba Antique centre. It’s packed full of mid century and vintage awesomeness. I like to get a coffee and scone at their cafe then browse the stalls for vintage books, knick knacks and fabric.
You’re heading away for the weekend. The car’s packed, you’ve got a great playlist ready, where do you like do you like to escape to eat and drink yourself silly?
Byron Bay is my favourite weekend getaway. It’s nice to come out of the ocean, have a beer on the water at the beach hotel and then stroll down one of the alleyways off the beach for dinner.
Rapid Fire 10
What is your favourite solitary food? What do you most enjoy eating on your own?
Sweet and salty popcorn.
What’s your signature dish?
Pumpkin, spinach and chickpea curry.
What food trend are you a total sucker for?
What food trend can’t you stand?
Coffee with milk or straight up black?
Sweet or savoury?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
I have a chewing gum phobia.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I’d love to be a theoretical physicist. I’m not that great at maths, so I’m not sure if I’d be a very good one, but nothing is more interesting to me than attempting to understand our true nature and how the universe works.
Which 3 people, alive or dead, would you invite to your dinner party?
I think that a combination of Bill Murray, Eric Wareheim and Kristen Wig would make for witty and hilarious conversation.
Are you a cat or dog person?
I love both equally.
Cass is a Brisbane-based illustrator. She’s inspired by travel, popular culture and vintage textiles. A lover of cute dogs and a good Netflix mini-series, her favourite mediums are ink, pencil and screen printing. She’s a south-side girl at heart, often found bunkered down in a Woolloongabba cafe sipping salted caramel shakes, Googling and doodling. cassurquhart.com | Instagram @cassurquhart