By Gail Braznell

From her home in Warwick, Caroline Shotton talks about all things Christmas and spending time with her young boys Sam and Elliot.

Caroline Shotton has built herself up to the top of the contemporary art world by inspiring many thousands of people with her warmth and humour. Known for her adaptations of well known masterpieces – featuring her iconic cow twists – Caroline is a sensation and her artwork is highly valued, and highly collectable.

Originally studying at Central St. Martins and then progressing to a self-made career as a freelance artist, Caroline’s path to success was truly made whilst she was expecting her first son, Sam. Caroline wanted to paint something happy for her child’s bedroom wall, a character that would make him smile and keep him company. This led to a colourful composition featuring a quirky cow.

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Photography by Gail Braznell © Reflected Images www.reflectedimages.co.uk

Painting and travelling as a working freelancer was going to be too much of a challenge as a new mother, so Caroline started approaching publishing companies. Leading UK Fine Art Publisher Washington Green were quick to realise that Caroline had a unique and appealing style and quickly focussed in on the cow character – and history was in the making. Since then, both Caroline and Washington Green have forged a long-standing and successful partnership.

What does Christmas mean to you and your boys and how will you be spending it this year.

Christmas is magical for us, it’s all about being together and sharing precious moments. As I work from home, it’s one of the rare times when I can shut the studio doors and relax without thinking about painting, and spend some quality time with the boys. We love snuggles in front of the fire whilst watching a film, eating lot’s of food and of course playing with the boys new toys that Santa has delivered.

What’s on the Christmas menu and whose cooking.

Sam and I love cooking together and we always have done, ever since he was a little boy it’s kind of been our thing in the kitchen. We haven’t had turkey for about four years now, he’s decided and wants to try different meat and recipe ideas. We haven’t decided what we are doing this year but last year was probably the best one, he’s pretty capable in the kitchen now. He did a wonderful tower of honey glazed pork with cider apple sauce, pureed carrot and swede, crushed mash potatoes and Sprouts, with bacon and chestnuts finished with a gravy reduction and strips of crackling. Sam won the school bake off last year which was done like the t.v show over six rounds and because of this his presentation on Christmas day was absolutely immaculate. When he’s older hopefully he can be a good dad and a good husband and pass that on to his children.

Elliot is in charge of the starter and whatever the occasion Birthday, Easter or Christmas it’s always prawn cocktail and probably always will be. He’d much rather be playing with his toys, he’s not the cooking kind, which is fine because he’s very grateful and appreciates the work that goes into it.

How do you like to decorate your home at Christmas, is it the same every year or do you like to swap it around from year to year.

I love decorating the house it feels so magical to come home to sparkly lights and the smell of cinnamon candles after a long walk or a chilly bike ride. The house is a 1930’s build so it suits traditional decorations like rustic pine cones, tartan bows, holly berries and fir branches. The hall and lounge are pretty much the same every year but the boys like to decorate the kitchen and choose a ball-ball every year with the date on.

What would you like to find in your Christmas stocking.

I love fluffy socks, candles, bubble bath anything for a little bit of time-out and relaxation. Oh and I love paint brushes, my aunt Susan always used to buy me paint brushes at Christmas.

Do you have any funny Christmas memories.

There are to many to mention but the funniest was when the boys were very little. We were in a shop with a huge display of dancing singing Santa’s and various other Christmas musical items. Sam set a couple of them off which made Elliot who was still only little and in his pushchair giggle so much that people walking by stopped to laugh at Elliot giggling which in turn encouraged Sam some more until all the musicals were going off. I don’t think i’ve ever laughed so much and the rest of the shop thought it was hilarious.

What’s your favourite festive song or carol.

There’s two and they are both completely different, the first one I,ve grown up with and has got to be Slade “Merry Christmas Everybody” which was released the year I was born. This one has stood the test of time, you can still hear it today and those magical feelings of your childhood Christmas come flooding back to you. And the second one is “Hark The Herald Angel”. My Grandmother who raised me, and I used to belt out the descant together in the choir at church when I was little, and I have very fond memories of us singing together.

What’s the best or worst Cracker Joke you’ve ever heard.

Whats the best present in the world……….. a broken drum, because you just can’t beat it.

In a Christmas fantasy moo-land who would be the famous figures past and present at your dinner table and why.

Actually this question is really hard because they’ve all got to get along and I keep changing my mind. The three that I’ve settled on are surrealist Salvador Dali, he’s so eccentric and so bizarre in a nice way, I think he would be hilarious as well. And of course he’s an Artist. I love Stephen Fry and just think he would be the perfect dinner guest, intellectual, funny warm and friendly. A lovely chap who would have lots to talk about. Then there’s Morcambe and Wise who are just so funny. My favorite sketch of all time has to be with Andre Previn, it’s just so funny……. “I am playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order”

Who would you like to grab under the mistletoe.

My answer and I,m not going to elaborate so don’t dig any deeper is……. that would be telling (wink)

What would your perfect Christmas look like and would there be snow.

Yes, We love snow, and of course it’s a main feature of a lot of Christmas adverts, cards and decorations…. but I tend not to raise the boy’s hopes of it being a ‘White Christmas’ as it so very rarely happens here and I don’t want them to be disappointed! Instead we focus on snuggling up in front of the fire together watching Christmas films and grazing on chocolates and savoury treats!

Looking back what have been your highlights for the past year And looking forward do you have any New Year’s resolutions.

The highlights as an Artist is meeting people at the shows, some of the stories and the reasons why they put my work up are very humbling. It’s quite solitary working in the studio so to go to a show and see all my paintings on the wall is quite surreal. It’s almost like a different person has done that and I find it very humbling. I’ve met a lot of lovely people over the last 12 years and seeing them laugh and smile is so nice. I’m so lucky to be able to bring happiness to other people and i’m touched that people choose my work to put on their walls. With the boys i’m so very proud, they are both happy healthy boys and i’m very grateful for that. Looking forward…. I’m looking forward to some new ideas and continuing to be happy and healthy.

Sam was your inspiration in the beginning, do your children inspire you now.

Absolutely, yes! My favourite painting is ‘We can be Heroes’. It’s of both of them dressed up in Elliot’s Batman and Robin costumes. They’re both very funny boys, full of energy and love, and I hope that comes across in my paintings. They like to come into the studio and give their ‘critique’ of what I’m working on… They can always spot the areas that I’m working on, that aren’t finished yet, and it’s nice to be able to explain the painting process to them, and they appreciate how long it takes to complete a piece. They’re a constant source of inspiration and their characters often appear in my work.

I would like to thank everybody that chooses my paintings to hang on their walls. I’m truly overwhelmed and thankful to be lucky enough to do what I love. Have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

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‘We can be Heroes’

 

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‘Hay You’re It’