Illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald Picks Causes She Believes In

On this day in 2020, Macmillan published V is for Voting. The popular children’s book, written by Kate Farrell and illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, teaches elementary-aged kids about the basic principles of democracy, civic duty, and social justice through an excitingly energetic ABC book format. The colorful illustrations done by Caitlin invite children into the world of democracy as if it were a joyous parade. Though V is for Voting makes sure to communicate the importance and seriousness of the political world, Caitlin’s illustrations keep it on a child’s level.

In a 2021 interview with FF2 collaborator Elisa Shoenberger, Caitlin Kuhwald revealed that though she always knew she was going to be an artist, the idea of being an illustrator never entered her head until much later. “When I was deciding on colleges…bthere were workshops you could do, depending on what your prospective major was going to be. I was going to do a painting workshop and there was a show hanging in one of the galleries that was the graduating illustrators’ senior show. I was like, ‘I don’t really know what this is, but this is what I want to do.’ [She found out that] this is an illustration major,” Caitlin shared. “I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’ll do the illustration workshop then.’ So, before I started college, I knew illustration was what I wanted to do.”

Caitlin Kuhwald attended the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where she earned her BFA in Illustration before heading across the country for graduate school. At Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Caitlin then obtained her MFA in painting before returning to San Francisco, where she worked as a teacher of illustration and watercolor for eight years at her alma mater. At California College of the Arts, Caitlin also served as the Program Expert for the illustration department.

Caitlin’s illustrations bring excitement to these historical figures, while at the same time humanizing them.

In 2019, Caitlin illustrated the first in the children’s book series, Who Did It First? The book, written by Julie Leung, features a collection of history’s greatest geniuses who all spearheaded work in various fields of science, technology, and the arts. Who Did It First? ranges in subject from Alan Turing to Aretha Franklin, each of its chapters putting stories of acclaimed innovators and revolutionaries into the hands of children. Caitlin’s illustrations bring excitement to these historical figures, while at the same time humanizing them, and showing children that one day, they could do the same as these heroes. 

Now having entered into the world of children’s book illustration, V is for Voting seemed like a perfect opportunity and natural next step for Caitlin. Though other illustrators may have been put off by the political nature of the book, that never bothered Caitlin, and in fact encouraged her to take the job. “I’m very liberal and come from a really, really liberal background. So, it [didn’t] occur to me that that would be something I wouldn’t do,” Caitlin told FF2. “I’d rather be doing work about stuff that I care about. I think that there are people who are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to bring [politics] into my work.’ Maybe they want to stay neutral. If I have the opportunity to do something that will help causes and things I believe in, then I feel like it’s my duty to do that.”

Caitlin’s illustrations would also be recognized in more adult circles due to her work with the Criterion Collection. The video distribution company whose Blue-Rays and DVDs are a must-have for any cinephile’s personal collection are known for their restorations, special features, and, more aesthetically, the covers of their re-released films. Instead of using the original covers or movie posters, Criterion covers are designed by artists who create pieces just as beautiful and memorable as the films they house.

Caitlin’s design credits for The Criterion Collection include the beloved classics The Awful Truth, Heaven Can Wait, Amarcord, and To Be or Not To Be.

Caitlin’s design credits for Criterion include The Awful Truth, Heaven Can Wait, Amarcord, and To Be or Not To Be among many others. Though Caitlin is able to adapt her style—one of precise lines and sharp colors—to any genre of film, it really pops when illustrating mid-twentieth century glamor. Caitlin works by drawing her illustrations first by hand before digitally coloring them and working out the smaller details. Her illustrations, though lively, appear clean, with not a line out of place on any cover. This, along with her talent with portraits, works very well for 40s era films, with their black-and-white yet softened images. For The Awful Truth, Caitlin captured Cary Grant’s famous onscreen persona, aloof, serious, yet simultaneously a gigantic goofball, perfectly in the roll of his eyes and slightly upturned smile.

Currently, Caitlin teaches illustration at the University of California, San Diego while also continuing to work out of her home studio as a freelance illustrator. No doubt, Caitlin will continue to illustrate, but what is yet to come remains an exciting mystery. On my next Sunday morning visit to Barnes and Noble, I’ll make sure to keep an eye out in the Criterion section for a Caitlin Kuhwald original.

© Reese Alexander (7/21/23) FF2 Media


Read Elisa Shoenberger’s interview with Caitlin here.

Visit Caitlin’s website here.

Buy V is for Voting here.

Watch Caitlin’s video interview with Criterion here.


Images provided by Caitlin Kuhwald and used with her permission.

Tags: Amarcord, Caitlin Kuhwald, Criterion, Criterion Channel, Criterion collection, Heaven Can Wait, Kate Farrell, The Awful Truth, To Be or Not To Be, V is for Voting, Who Did It First?

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Reese Alexander is currently a student at Barnard College, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and French. Reese enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been published in multiple campus publications, including Quarto, Echoes, The Barnard Bulletin, and The Columbia Federalist. Reese is most passionate about medieval literature, as she believes it illustrates the contributions of women artists throughout the centuries.
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