Interview: Designer Catalina Winitzky on simplifying characters from iconic cult films

Catalina uses simple shapes and colours to recreate the personalities from The Breakfast Club, Mean Girls and more.

Designer Catalina Winitzky, 23, is obsessed with using simplified shapes and colours to create stylised characters after struggling to find her feet with detailed pencil drawing.

She’s always wanted a career as an artist, and after recently graduating with an illustration degree, she’s found interest in fashion and graphic design.

Catalina says in a digital age where we’re awash with images, she likes to play with the idea that sometimes simplicity can capture the eye a little longer.

In Chick Flicks, her latest project, Catalina uses her refined vector-based style to interpret some of her favourite 80s, 90s and early 2000s film characters within a book. She focuses on the iconic films The Breakfast Club (1985), Mean Girls (2004), Jawbreaker (1999) and Clueless (1995).

Catalina was born in Peru, raised in Argentina and studied illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. She says she’s "grown as a person and an artist ever since."

"Now I've graduated and come to realise I have a love for design, fashion, advertising, and drawing is just another creative component I like to use."

With Chick Flicks, Catalina hopes to create her own adaptions of the narratives and "transmit them in a fun, easy, approachable way", as well as producing content hat can be used across different media platforms.

We talk to Catalina about how the project came about and the creative process behind simplifying complex characters.

Miriam Harris: How did you develop your style?

Catalina Winitzky: "My style used to be very detailed before actually. I was very much into graphite and using pencils to shade everything. Although I always stylised my work, as I was never a fan of realistic interpretations, pencil and textures predominated. I think it was just because I wasn't comfortable with the digital medium.

"I later learned how to use digital tools, and slowly realised my "drawing" wasn't reflecting what I wanted, and other students in my class could "draw" for hours digitally – I couldn't.

"I came to the realisation I am more of a designer. I took the completely opposite approach and started obsessing over simplified shapes and colours. Basically, I shifted completely and now I only work with more constricted geometric flat shapes and have fun with the stylisation and colours."

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MH: How did the idea for Chick Flicks come about?

CW: "The idea of Chick Flicks was a sudden thought that popped my mind. I've always been a fan of these types of movies and I wanted to work on something that I deeply enjoyed. I feared at first it was too "superficial" or a big reference on pop culture as opposed to something with a deep core message, but then I didn't think about it twice and it actually works perfectly with the style."

MH: Tell me about the creative process for illustrating each character.

CW: "The way I started illustrating the different characters actually began as an idea for spot illustrations. I thought of the three to five main characters from each of the movies and decided to create simple spots for each one.

"I already had this simplified style developed, but I used it for fashion sketches and really wanted to bring the personality of the characters into them. Most people think I use Illustrator to make these, but I actually just use Photoshop.

"I use the lasso tool a lot, as it gives me freedom to create some fun angular shapes, and I build it from there. I basically use layers to describe the different body parts and elements of clothing, and made sure to put the characters in their iconic outfits so they would be immediately recognisable."

Image: Jawbreaker

MH: How do you simplify often complex characters and their appearances?

CW: "The way I simplify the characters is basically thinking about the most important features (such as clothing, poses or hair colours) and stressing those with the shapes. Anything else, such as expressions, which are hard to depict accurately with such simplified shapes, I removed.

"I didn't really think about it twice, and just try to get the general bodily expression and their personalities through the overall shape of each of the characters. Iconic physical features were definitely the elements of clothing, the hairstyles, the poses and the colours."

Image: The Breakfast Club

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MH: You mention how sometimes simplicity can capture the eye a little longer. Can you tell me a bit more about this?

CW: "My idea with simplicity capturing the eye a little longer was something I thought of as a result of being an illustration student where a lot of drawing, rendering, painting and lines were constant in the work around me. It was great work, it's just that I didn't identify with it and I always found myself more attracted to simpler well-executed design work."

Image: Mean Girls

CW: "I thought if everything around me looks so busy, something a little simpler could stand out. Also, in current social media we are constantly surrounded by digital photos and artworks, so finding those simpler graphics is always fun for me. You have to give people somewhere where the eye can rest, just for a little bit."

Image: Clueless

MH: Did your interest in fashion influence this project?

CW: "Fashion was definitely an influence for my project. I actually developed this style through fashion sketches. The character's outfits were something to look at, and featuring all their different clothing styles from their respective "eras" in a visual style that would work together was a fun challenge. I want to do more fashion related projects in the future."

Image: The Breakfast Club

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MH: What’s next for you?

CW: "Life after graduation is confusing, and exciting at the same time. I have been interviewing around my area, but I think I am finally making the decision to move to New York. However, I actually just started a personal project, which I'm excited about and reflects my thoughts on being a confused 23-year-old. It should be fun.

"For the long-term future I have my eyes on the advertising industry and the fashion industry. You never know. All I know for sure is years down the line I want to be an art director or curator, so I will be working towards that."