Art Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Capehorn Illustration Puts Chicago In Perspective

Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Sep 09, 2014

I am personally thankful for those among us who see the details. Those who hone in, zone the rest of out, and focus on the minutia that truly makes all creative things worth enjoying. Phil & Katie are the epitome of a team, and the art they produce preserves Chicago in all its glory and from various angles. Whether a straight-ahead view of your parents home, or a map of the best beer bars Chicago has to offer, this pair is cataloging our architectural lineage.

Once I found out that they do commissioned works for any structure a client brings to them, I was impressed by the mix of custom products and Chicago-centric creations, and had to know more. Based in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, this husband-and-wife team seems to have some of the finer things in life figured out; like living creatively, being together, and making things that satisfy not only the customers need, but their artistic itch.

Next, I dig in a bit deeper to find out how the team at Capehorn puts Chicago on an illustrated page.

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What is Capehorn illustration?

We’re a Ravenswood-based outfit. We illustrate things we love and things our clients love. Homes, Chicago, Maps.

During an amorphous bit of google search curating, we stumbled across your super detailed depictions of all
types of keynote Chicago locations, locales, and homes. Have you both always been interested in architecture or history?

Yes, both of us have always loved both. I explored architecture as a career, working briefly at an architecture firm, but I found I was more in love with the outcome than the practice. For us, walking Chicago, or an old European city, really hits the right architecture and history nerves.

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Phil, you work with pen & ink, and Katie works in the digital realm… is that a stark division of the labor, or how do you two mediate the interaction between the two for the business?

Less stark now. I always do the pen & ink but I’ve taken on more of the digital work just due to business needs. But it used to be very stark: I would finish a piece, and dramatically hand over the page to her to work her magic.

How did you come to live in Chicago?

Both of us came from PA for school–Katie to SAIC, me to U of Chicago.

You also do custom portraits if homes for people, it seems like such an amazing gift. (I’m pretty sure I have to hire you to do the same for my folks home one of these upcoming Christmas’). How did you decide to develop that art service?

It started with my illustration of the three two-flats. Doing that, loving the process and the way it turned out, led us to believe that others–and Chicagoans in particular–would want to commemorate their homes.

On your site is says you guys live in the Ravenswood Corridor, it must be a nice neighborhood to hunker down and create in…

We’ve sampled a few neighborhoods now, and Ravenswood–like River North–offers up rich history of former industrial buildings that we find very cool–the buildings along the tracks kind of leave hints about the booming, early 1900s factories here. Add to that the great Craftsman style homes and there’s inspiration everywhere.

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What kind of clients come to you for the custom map work? I never would have even imagined that happening, even as a map lover!

We’ve done it for clients who want to show their home in context–so a home side by side with a map–and for retail clients that have a particular idea they think their customers will like. Occasionally we’re asked by individuals about doing a map to commemorate a great trip.

How would you describe your approach to branding & logo design? Do you think of it a lot differently than you would a less confined project?

We attract companies that, like us, take inspiration from history and old styles. That leaves things wide open, so our aim is to suss out the historical periods or trends that most speak to the client. One had a very distinct love for early Chicago bicycle manufacturing, so the aesthetic around that area–the typography, the ads–helped guide the logo design.

What does your perfect day look like?

Both working side by side from our home-studio, eating lunch at Lill Street, being productive right up til we make a new recipe for dinner.

What’s the last album you listened to?

Daughter, “His Young Heart”.

If there is one artist IPMM readers should google right now, who is it?

His name is hard to google, but Mark Brown, a Chicago and former SAIC guy. Very original, evokes a story, always evolving and experimenting with new styles.

Cape Horn Illustration Chicago Renaissance Map
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Head over to their site and scoop up a print of your very own…
Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Sep 09, 2014

tags: architecture, capehorn illustration, chicago, chicago locations, chicagoans, homes, interview, Lill Street, maps, pen & ink, river north, SAIC, U of Chicago