Local Creative: KT Smail
KT Smail is a Scottish illustrator living in New York. She has officially captured our hearts with her dreamy portraits and enchanting flower patterns. Delicate lines with intentional color, each stroke setting a new scene whether it’s a character, feeling or mood. It’s a love story made out of line and color and we could literally live in a KT Smail illustrated world for days.
KT herself is as much of a delight as her illustrations. Anything flowers and we are weak, but KT has used her art to create inspiring work for fashion, children, brides to be and to draw up of our favorite literary heroines. Have you seen her astrology inspired images? You must. (Nicole’s sign is Cancer, Jenna is Virgo if you are curious ;) ) For KT’s morning ritual and details on her sweet Scottish twang keep reading and excuse us as we float into a KT Smail dreamland.
The Bakery, South Williamsburg.
It’s always interesting to learn about a ladies morning ritual. What’s yours like?
I wake up around 7, make myself warm water with lemon and try not to immediately check instagram and email (usually fail). Most mornings I light some palo santo or sage and do my yoga practise. Sometimes I go for a run instead. I have a tendency to rush around and get very anxious about things, so taking the time to wake up gently and move my body in the morning is really important to me, and makes me feel so much better for the rest of the day. I shower, make something yummy and healthy for breakfast and sit and read for ten minutes. This might be one of my favorites parts of the day. Then I take the subway to the studio, make a cup of tea and tackle emails before starting on some work.
How do your travels affect your work?
Travel is my favorite luxury; I really suffer from itchy feet if I am in the same place for too long. One of my favorite things to do in a new place is visit the botanical gardens, or some kind of wild and beautiful outdoor space, to see the local flora and fauna and find new ideas for color combinations.
I think that time off and travel are so important for resetting the creative brain, for allowing gaps for new things to grow. It is also really important to me to travel home every year; I love living in New York but sometimes I really miss Europe.
Day you knew you were an illustrator.
Gosh, I might still be waiting?! The thing about working for yourself is that no one is going to give you the job title except you, and on bad days that feels kind of tricky. But I believe that thoughts become things, and once I started calling myself an illustrator the work came and I did feel more professional. Having said that, the day that my agency, Kate Ryan Inc, took me on was very validating for me, and most of the time I feel so proud to tell people what I do.
We love all the floral patterns in your work (such a dream), can you share the flower ladies whose arrangements move you to create?
Thank you! Painting flowers is my favorite thing. My darling friend Ariel Dearie has been a huge inspiration to me. Her floral arrangements are so pretty and painterly, but beautifully wild. We used to share a studio and it was heaven to be surrounded by her gorgeous flowers every day.
How do you find these beautiful faces to draw? We are enchanted by the melancholy but also cheery nature of your girl portraits.
I have always been drawn to tragic heroines in books and paintings; I think there can be something very beautiful in the melancholy. I also think that the image of womanhood which is often imposed upon us can seem so bloody perfect and sunny. It’s exhausting! I try to capture something a little more emotional in the girls that I draw. Not that I think that everyone is actually miserable, just that all the women who inspire me are a little more complicated.
I would love to travel the world, drawing local flora and fauna to compile into a book and exhibition.
Astrology prints! We just love them, so we have to ask what’s your sign?
Thank you. I’m Aquarius! I love astrology and feel very connected to my sign. I can gossip about astrology and the stars with people forever. My prints are available to buy, just send me an email :)
Favorite collaboration so far?
I am working on a collaboration at the moment with my husband, Fidel, who takes beautiful photographs (https://instagram.com/thecannykids/). We are planning a shoot where I will paint large abstract backdrops and I am really excited about it. It’s a little scary to work large scale, but I am trying to be brave and push myself! It will be fun to use my paintings in a new and different way.