If you’re in the market for paintings of cows dressed up as superheroes, Batman and Robin then you are in luck; as there’s a contemporary artist out there going by the name of Caroline Shotton who’s a dab hand at capturing our bovine chums in a variety of novelty poses. Or actually posing as fictitious characters and/or famous actors. How about one of the most famous cowboy-portraying actors on the planet, John Wayne? Or rather a cow, masquerading as John Wayne to be precise. Captain Jack Sparrow anyone? No. We can do better than that. Perhaps Admooral Neslon tickles your bovine-wears-the-clothes-of-famous-historical-character fancy. Or our personal favourite, Blackudder and Bulldrick.
But that’s another thing we love about Caroline Shotton’s art. Not only does she create amazing – if not zany – illustrations of cows mocked up as leading political and historical figures (also including Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare), but she then gives her work witty titles based on clever wordplay. Which we can’t get enough of. Like the inspired, Study of Moona Lisa and the fabulous, Study of the Laughing Cowvalier. Historical wordplay aside, Shotton is also well known for her more cutesy paintings of, well, you guessed it, cows, as well as sculptures of, yes, cows too, and has accumulated a legion of fans, who flock (sorry, wrong animal) to her gallery and exhibitions.
So, what do we know of Caroline Shotton, apart from she has a wicked sense of humour (and knows how to use it) and is evidently an incredibly talented artist. We best start at the beginning. Born and raised on the outskirts of London by her grandmother, Shotton was, believe it or not, influenced by the works of the old masters in the aftermath of frequent visits to art galleries during her youth, as well as taking inspiration from the countryside and villages in proximity of where she spent her formative years. She was quoted as saying she was captivated by the presence of such remarkable realism found in the old masters’ work throughout her school years, which led Shotton to view art in an altogether different way.
It wasn’t until she studied at famed London school of art, Central Saint Martins that Shotton’s creative visions broadened, and an appreciation of the more innovative side of art emerged; including Surrealism, Dadaism and Impressionism. Exposure to these movements, all of which are known to push boundaries, gave Shotton the courage of her convictions required to develop and evolve her fledgling cow themes. She adopted her very unique images – laden with a sense of fun and parody - evolving around her passion for cows.
Upon graduation, Shotton turned freelance and found employment in the commercial industry where she attracted commissioned work from a spectrum of businesses across the UK. Completing the full gamut of work, from large abstracts to intricate murals, it was only after the birth of her first child, that Shotton made the career-changing decision to dedicate herself to her own personal artistic odyssey, move away from the restraints of disciplined briefs, culminating in the successful opening of her own gallery. To date, Shotton’s work has found homes across Europe, whilst in 2008, Shotton originated two boxed canvasses in aid of a charitable organisation that concentrates on raising awareness for special care babies, Bliss. ‘The aptly-titled, ‘Handle with Care’ and ‘Special Delivery’ were reproduced for the wider market as limited edition boxed canvasses, and depicted the fragility of premature babies. Widely regarded as one of the highest selling artists in Britain, Shotton’s popularity spiked on the publishing of ‘The Great Moosters’; a collection of limited editions.
Referred to as a humour artist, Shotton has of late, expanded her portfolio of whimsical yet originally and ebullient animal art, and in a departure from cows has been dabbling in the witty, surreal, yet always immaculately detailed presentation of more exotic creature features; like for example, giraffes, zebras and camels. All of which will with reservation place a broad smile across art buyers and collectors faces, and anyone else who happens to clap eyes on her inventive, fascinating works of art.
When asked as to where she sources her inspiration from here and now, Shotton makes no bones that it essentially comes by virtue of the mundane. "It may be a scrap of paper I've saved from a furnishing magazine or the disgruntled look cows give me as I pass them in the field that morning that inspires me to paint. I find myself constantly sourcing images, taking photographs and scribbling down ideas which I may use that day or in a year's time.”