Artist in residence
Rover’s return After years on the move, the Australian illustrator has settled down in a Melbourne studio filled with books and curios
Rovina Cai’s Melbourne studio is filled with books and curios.
Over the past few years I’ve moved around a lot, and have only recently returned to Melbourne and set up a studio. It’s nice to have a dedicated space to work in, instead of painting on a kitchen bench or on my bed!
I wanted to fill the space with things that inspire me: from books and images to curios I’ve picked up from my travels. I like to be surrounded by things that I find beautiful, because it helps me get in the zone when I’m working. A space doesn’t feel right to me unless there’s a bit of clutter. I tend to be a hoarder and like to keep things. You never know when a piece of cardboard or some ribbon might come in handy, whether it’s for a reference photo or a crazy craft project.
My work process involves drawing traditionally and colouring digitally in Photoshop. As such, I have two work spaces: one desk for computer work and general tasks, and another desk for drawing. I’m often distracted by shiny things on the internet, so it helps to work in a separate, computer-free zone when I need to concentrate on a drawing.
I’m still trying to figure out a good schedule to stick to. I love getting up early and knowing that there’s a long day
stretched out before me. But I’m also a night owl, and love working when I know that no one is around to bother me. That’s why I work late nights and on weekends. I tend to switch between getting up very early and staying up so late that it’s early. Rovina is an illustrator creating evocative images rooted in conceptual ideas. Her clients include Tor.com, Riot Games and The Folio Society. See more at www.rovinacai.com.
This shelf holds drawing tools and various decorative bits and pieces. I like to change these around once in a while. I’ve begun collecting small original artwork. There’s something magical about an original work that a reproduction can never capture. Somehow I seem to be accumulating a teacup and teapot collection. First there was one and now I have stacks of teacups scattered throughout my studio. I use this table for bookbinding and other crafty projects. It’s also a no-computer space that I use when I need to concentrate on a drawing.
I have an eclectic mix of books for inspiration, from picture books to costume references to poetry anthologies. I think it’s important to have a good variety of books to dip into for inspiration, and not just art books. This is my main work area where I carry out most of my digital work, sketching and other day-to-day illustration tasks. Some work for a gallery show at Krab Jab Studio. I’ve been playing with watercolours lately and I’m happy with the results; it’s fun to play with things like metallic pigments. Here I’m about to add some decoration to the mat before framing the piece. I love book design and bookbinding, so I have a special shelf for particularly beautiful and unconventional books. The hat is a Mad Hatter Hat that I made a few years ago for a costume. I’ve used it as reference many times. I have a vast collection of postcards and little trinkets. When I moved around a lot, I took these things with me, and putting them up in each new location became a little ritual. The postcards are mostly of artwork from museums I’ve visited.