Artist of the Issue: Cat DeRousse

Senior Caterina DeRousse studied art at the Oxbow School in Napa, Calif. last spring.


Caterina DeRousse showcases her hand design in which she used a technique that she learned from spending her last semester studying art. photo by Sophie Sakoulas

by Gwyn Doran and Sophie Sakoulas

The Dart: Where did you study?

DeRousse: I studied at the Oxbow School in Napa, Calif. It’s just a semester school for high school students or people in a gap year. [Oxbow] gave a presentation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and I was so excited about the prospect of leaving STA for a few months to just go do art.

The Dart: What were your classes like?

DeRousse: Classes were very different from STA. On Monday, I had no humanities, no English, science, history or math, just art all day. Tuesday, in the morning, we would have curriculars, and I did hiking. Afterwards, I had 3 hours of English, history and science, all in one class. Teachers would just switch out. It was very weird. Sometimes classes would be combined. Wednesday I would be back at art, Thursday I would be back at humanities and hiking, and Friday I had off to work on homework and see if our advisors wanted to take us on a day trip. We went on a lot of field trips.

The Dart: Was it hard transitioning to a more traditional school environment at STA?

DeRousse: It was easier than I thought. I think I worked it up a lot in my head. I have very few classes and I can just ease my way back into STA…I had to take a couple of summer classes, but it was fine.The administration at STA was really nice to me this semester. I had a ton of meetings with [principal for academic affairs] Barbara McCormick…I really emphasized how much I love art. It took a while, but it was definitely worth it.

The Dart: What was it like living in California?

DeRousse: I lived in a dorm, right on Main Street next to our school, with 6 other girls. It was chaotic but awesome. I learned that I love living by myself. I think one of my favorite parts was going grocery shopping.  Being able to buy food for yourself and be so truly independent was really awesome.

The Dart: Can you describe what type of art you do?

DeRousse: I mainly do fashion design, painting, and printmaking…I want to do papermaking and make books and zines, with the paper and leather and all the sewing.

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The Dart: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

DeRousse: I draw a lot of my inspiration from the people I’m surrounded with – people from the STA art department like [seniors] Sarah Ferron, Ellie Grever and Mara Cressey…A lot of my friends from Oxbow are the most incredible artists I’ve ever met. I’m so overwhelmed with how great they are. That’s really where I draw all of my inspiration from, just being around those creative people.

The Dart: What’s your process like?

DeRousse: If I have an idea that just comes to me, I’ll find the nearest scrap of paper and write it down. I journal a lot, so I can get out all of my ideas and sketch whatever comes to mind. I ask my friends what they think would be best, get other people’s help and make a lot of prototypes, working with smaller scale stuff before I move on to the final product. I do so much sketching before I get to a final project; once I get there it’s months past when I had the idea. It takes so long.

The Dart: So how long would you say a project usually takes?

DeRousse: It depends on the size of the project and how important it is to me. I had the idea for the project I’m working on right now a month or two ago, and I’m still developing that idea and probably won’t be done with that for another month…I was featured in Rookie magazine in July for their theme of estrangement. They had a theme about breaking off friendships and what that was like, and just the ending of things. I did a couple of paintings just based on my personal experience with that. I did that in the span of two weeks. It varies.

The Dart: What’s your plan for after high school?

DeRousse: I definitely want to continue a focused path on art. I’m applying to all art schools. I’m looking at schools that are a lot like the Oxbow School. Since I enjoyed it so much, I want that to be a part of my future. I want to do art for the rest of my life.

The Dart: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

DeRousse: I went [to Oxbow] for art, and my art has grown so much since going there, but probably the most important thing about Oxbow is all the friends that I made, like my best friend Dana. I can’t even describe how happy I am to have met all of my friends there. All the people I lived with were my best friends, and we still talk to each other everyday. We send each other letters and packages…The experience would not have been the same without them. The reason why I was so happy there wasn’t just because of the art, but because I had people like them around me to support me and be the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life.