Cat MacInnes
Cat MacInnes
Stories & Ideas

Thu 29 Jun 2023

"I'm inspired all the time!": Cat MacInnes’ Goddess Portraits

Art Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion Interview Pop culture
Jayden Masciulli
Jayden Masciulli

Visitor Experience Guide

Bold colours, polished vectors and fierce messaging adorn Cat MacInnes’ sixteen portraits of screen goddesses such as Michelle Yeoh, Josephine Baker and Tilda Swinton.

You’ve most likely seen her whimsical, vibrant artworks in everything from books and advertising to murals and portraits (of both people and pets). Based in the Dandenong ranges just outside of Melbourne, Cat MacInnes’ illustrative work features in an exclusive collection of prints and postcards (available now through the ACMI Shop) as part of Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion, ACMI’s blockbuster exhibition celebrating the pioneering women of screen. Cat talks to us about her creative process, David Bowie and how art allows her to get through the tough times.

Cat MacInnes

Cat MacInnes' Goddess prints and postcards are available via the ACMI Shop (

Jayden Masciulli: Tell us about your creative practice – what motivates and inspires you? 

Cat MacInnes: I’m inspired by things all the time and I can’t really switch it off. If I’m sitting at a café and see an interesting face, I want to draw it and remember it. Or my kids’ schoolteacher might be wearing an outfit that has a gorgeous and unique colour palette, and I must take note and maybe use it on a job later on!

Also, life experiences. If I was going through something difficult, it would help to draw it. This was especially the case when I was young – when I was about 10, I was stung in the face by a wasp, and (after first taking me to a medical professional!) Mum and Dad suggested I do a self-portrait. It helped me process it and gave me something to feel good about, when I wasn’t feeling good.

JM: What was the design process in creating the illustrations for Goddess

CM: Nuovo Group asked if I’d like to do a portraiture series as part of the merchandise for Goddess. “OMG, YES, PLEASE!” I think was my response! They sent me a list of the featured goddesses and we learnt more about them and how they should be portrayed. I began with pencil sketches, and I’d get feedback such as “can you add more jewellery” or “lighten her hair a bit”. Then I’d create the colour drafts and move onto final art. The entire process was done in just a few weeks so it was pretty tight, but heaps of fun!

Browse the Goddess collection at the ACMI Shop

JM: Who are some of the most inspiring women on screen to you? 
CM: I love Rachel Griffiths’ character Rhonda Epinstall in Muriel’s Wedding – she’s loyal, brave and hilarious. And Uma Thurman in anything Tarantino! I dressed up as Beatrix "the Bride" Kiddo from Kill Bill for my birthday last year and I’ve never felt tougher. Beatrix and Rhonda both stand up to injustices, in different ways and to different extremes!

JM: Do you have a favourite portrait from the Goddess range? 

CM: I think my favourite portrait is Mae West. I didn’t labour over her portrait too much, and I think I captured her well. She really was a pioneer for women who dared to be sexy and own it with no shame. I love her one-liners: “He’s the kind of man a woman would have to marry to get rid of.”

Cat MacInnes

JM: Who are some of your favourite local artists? 

CM: I love the work of illustrator/artist Elin Matilda Andersson, who was born in Sweden but is based in NSW. Her work is so bright, and her colour palettes and compositions are stunningly good. I’m also currently obsessed with Catherine McGuinness (and it’s not because we have matching names – my birth name is Catherine MacInnes!) I saw her portrait of Kylie Kwong in this year’s Archibald Prize and I’ve been checking out her other work since. Really strong and bold, with a beautiful freeness about it.

JM: Is there a favourite exhibition or film from ACMI you remember? 

CM: I have always been a massive Bowie fan, so David Bowie Is would have to be my favourite. Ridiculously though, I always imagined him to be some sort of mythological god, so seeing his costumes and shoes reminded me that he was indeed human, and slightly shorter than I imagined! I remember years ago chatting with Ningali Lawford-Wolf who had known Bowie well and I asked her if he was tall. She replied, “he wears heels, darling”.

Cat MacInnes

Cat MacInnes

JM: What are you currently watching, playing, streaming?  

CM: I’ve just finished watching Beef on Netflix. It’s dark and pretty crazy! It’s a story about two strangers involved in a road rage incident, who then become obsessed with getting revenge on each other. It was directed by Korean director Lee Sung. I’m always attracted to anything with a Korean connection, after having spent six months studying graphic design and fine art in Seoul. This was 20 years ago as part of my studies at Swinburne Uni on a study grant. In fact, it was in Korea that I really got into portraiture! Each week we’d do a four-hour class where we would paint the portrait of a local personality on a thick sheet of card, using oil paints. I’d only found out about the trip a few weeks before I left, so I didn’t have time to learn a lot of the language. But I learnt so much there! It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

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