Saturday, 4 February 2017

Mat Pringle - How to Not be a Dick

As part of our Professional Practice module, we had to interview an illustrator of our choice in groups and then present our findings in the form of a Pecha Kucha (a powerpoint with 20 slides, each 20 seconds long). My group and I decided to interview the very talented Mat Pringle, and this is what I learned from the experience:

1. Inspiration comes from everywhere.
When we asked him about where he gets his ideas from, I was honestly expecting something along the lines of research and observational drawings, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Mat gets his inspiration from pretty much everywhere: 
"Music and films are a huge part of my life and have been since my spotty adolescence, so these both play a huge part in my inspiration and can often generate ideas for artwork. Also from old books about folklore, horror movies, bestiaries, cryptozoology, the occult, flora and fauna."
This was really interesting to me, as I always assumed that to be a successful illustrator, you had to focus on what's popular at the moment and what the client wants to see, as opposed to just what interests you. I think that maybe I should start incorporating my own interests into my illustration more from now on.
2. It is possible to be a full-time illustrator and pay rent at the same time.
Though I know that there are people who illustrate full time and manage to make a living from it, I had always figured that most illustrators had a job on the side to help generate income and that it took years and years of hard graft to really be able to illustrate full-time. Though he admitted that generating income was definitely the most challenging part of being an illustrator, he also explained how, with the right balance of commission work and freelance projects, it's possible to make it your one and only job. Even if, like him, you are looking after your baby daughter full time as well.
3. You don't have to be a butt kisser.
I've always thought that a large part of being a full time illustrator was regularly sending out emails and letters and samples of your work to potential clients in the hopes that one of the hundreds that you've contacted will like your work. I knew that attracting clientele was part of the job, but the idea of grovelling for work kind of filled me with dread. I was so happy when I found out that, like me, Mat isn't so keen on sending out mass-emails of his work either. Though he does send the occasional email to people he think will "dig my work", he focuses most of his energy on creating a good internet presence via his website, twitter, blog and Etsy shop to name a few. It was so refreshing to hear that good work does get recognised and that, with a good enough reputation, people will come to you.

So all in all, I would say that this project has been a fruitful one. Just to finish off, I'd like to share a piece of advice that Mat gave us:

"Put the hours in and draw, draw, draw. Focus on drawing things you have a genuine love for rather than trying to create work that doesn't mean anything to you. Don't expect to make a lot of money. Don't copy other artists and don't be a dick."

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Beth Nicholas - A Fountain of Advice

I met Beth Nicholas several years ago when she was the artist in Residence at my school. Since then, her career has blossomed and her unique works of art have gained the recognition that they rightfully deserve. It was really great for us to get a chance to catch up a bit and talk about her work and how her career has been developing since we last saw one another.

Please introduce yourself and your work

I am Beth Nicholas and I am an abstract painter.

When did you start making art, and at what point did you realised you wanted to do it for a living?

My mum is a painter, she painted a lot when she married my father. We were in America, and when we came back, she got into PR but she always wanted to paint. I guess because of that it meant that I was always drawing and painting as a child, and then it was something that I loved and studied throughout my education. I guess it was something natural, it just happened. So I went on to do my Art Foundation and then I studied Textile design. When I finished my course, quite a lot of what I was doing was painting and then digitally printing it on to fabric.

I then went into costume for film and tv, but always creating on the side, and then when I came out of costume for film and tv, I got an amazing opportunity to work in an all girls boarding school called Wycombe Abbey (laughing) You might have heard of it? Wycombe gave me the opportunity to really explore my practice with a big studio and financial support whilst I taught the girls. The residency was only supposed to last for one year, but the school asked me to stay for a second, and I jumped at the chance. At the end of each year I was given an exhibition of my own work as well the work of the girls I had taught. Teaching was a fascinating experience because I based all of the schemes of work around my own practice. I've always been fascinated by taking something that is disgusting and dirty and turning it into something that is beautiful, so I took this into Wycombe. It was quite an interesting experience asking teenage girls to see something rotting as anything that could hold any aesthetic beauty, and that was quite a challenge.

I came out of Wycombe and I knew that I had to continue following my practice. I was really lucky because one of the girl's fathers knew a gallery owner in central London and she loved my work. Without that father, I wouldn't be where I am now, or at least it would have taken a lot longer! The gallery is called Fiumano Fine Art and was exhibited in art fairs all over the world.To have been given that introduction at such and early stage in my career was an incredible opportunity.

How would you describe your working process from idea to final piece?

I have invented a technique, which is such an exciting thing to do, having a technique that nobody else knows how to do and nobody really understands what it is is such a fun and mysterious aspect to my work. The thing that's interesting about it is that each piece inspires the next. The work is a reaction between two mediums, and then I manipulate it in order to develop the piece further. Each piece is unique, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but when it's successful, different areas of the work really resonate with me, and when I find that, I'm inspired to create something else, and so it's like a continuous cycle of painting. I get asked sometimes if the work is marbling. Marbling is wonderful because it's such an immediate form of creating something, but my work takes days, but it's quite a look.

Do you find it frustrating if people thing that you've done it really easily but it's taken you days?

I think if people know what marbling actually looks like, they can see the difference. There's a wonderful story about Picasso who was approached in a cafe by an admirer who asked him if he could quickly sketch a drawing on a napkin. Picasso agreed and I believe he drew a dove. Before passing the drawing back to his admirer, he asked a huge fee for it. The admirer was shocked and asked Picasso to explain how he could ask for so much when it took him so little time. Picasso then told the admirer that it took him 40 years learn how to produce it. Similarly with marbling, it may be very immediate, but to learn how to wield the ink in the water, that takes a long time. It doesn't make me mad if they assume it's marbling, because I remember that story.

What's the most challenging part about being an independant artist?

Learning to make it work for you. I have had periods in my career where I've been a full time artist, and that doesn't work for me. I'm quite an extrovert, and if I'm full time painting, it becomes so lonely and so much time is spent sitting on your own, and I become very introverted and self deprecating, and I doubt my abilities and my work. I think that when you're a painter and you love it, you carry on going and make sure that it's in your life as much as you possibly can, but for me I need to make sure that it's not full time. It has to be a part-time activity, and I'm really lucky because I get a lot of commissions on a regular basis, so I never have a period of time where I'm not painting. I also run my own company where I do something completely different, so that's allowed me to have two very creative jobs that run alongside each other. So the most important thing, I think, is to work out how your work works for you.

What's the weirdest commission you've ever received?

(laughing) This isn't going to sound very weird at all, but I love blue, and different tones of blue resonate within me and within my work and I always work in blue, and people suggest other colours and I've tried it and I just cant. But recently, I was asked to paint in purple and there's something in there about making sure you're being true to yourself, but also making sure that you're still challenging yourself. So I struggled initially and fought the commission for weeks, but then it came to me and I was able to complete the commission.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about making art for a living?

The best bit of advice for working as an artist is working out where your practise fits in the market, so that you're showing your work to people who want to see it. For me, part of being an artist is being a business person as well, if you want it to be able to support yourself with your work, to be able to make a living, you need to work out who your market is and make sure you're aiming your work at the right audience.
I very recently discovered a not for profit company called DACS and DACS supports artists with copyright and licensing, they are amazing! They also help artists figure out what they should quote for jobs that involve high resolution images of their work, so you have a support system for that too. DACS also have a legal department which deal with breach of copyright. Images of my work have been stolen extensively over the last year, all over iPhone cases, laptop skins, etc. and DACS have supported me in getting those people to stop using my work and pay compensation. So my biggest bit of advice for an aspiring artist is get a membership with DACS. It's free, but they take 25% of any money they make for you.

What artists do you find inspiring and why?

I have always loved conceptual art, I really love the way that it shouts and expresses and it's fascinating. I've always loved the Young British Artists, I'm a massive fan of Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. My work is pretty much the complete opposite and maybe that's why I love it, conceptual artists seem to me to not be afraid of anything! The most inspiring artists throughout time for me have always been the ones who have done things differently, defied convention and ruffled feathers. Dali, Duchamp etc etc. People don't like change, and it's so exciting to see artists that are pushing boundaries all the time.

If you were to start all over from scratch, what would you do differently?

Um...I don't really look at life like that. I don't have any regrets. I've had tough times in my life and in my art practice but if you don't have those times then you don't grow, and you don't learn who you are or what your work is. So there's nothing that I would do differently. Everything has led me to this point, and right now I'm in a really great point in my career, so nothing, I wouldn't do anything differently!

If you were stuck on a desert island with somebody, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

So this one is quite a personal one, but I never met my grandmother, she died when my mum was 21 and she was in her early fifties, and I was born about a decade later. I'd learn so much more about my mum and my mother's sisters, and by the sounds of it, she was a fascinating woman, she put up with so much from my grandfather, but she was very gentle and very kind and I think it would be fascinating to meet her.

If you want to find out more about Beth and her work, you can check out her website and her Facebook page.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

George Butler - Finding the Normal in the Abnormal

George Butler is a Reportage Illustrator with a unique style who will often travel to 'hostile' places in an attempt to reveal the every day people and things that surround him. As an illustration student myself, I am regularly encouraged to go out and draw the world around me, something which George has used to tell rich stories that you won't necessarily see in a newspaper or a magazine. It was a real treat to be able to interview him and ask about his work.

Please introduce yourself and your work.
My name's George Butler and I am a Reportage Illustrator, which means using illustration or, in my case, location drawing to tell stories of different places and scenes in the world, so quite often newsworthy stories done with illustration instead of photography or writing.

When did you start making art, and at what point did you realise that you wanted to do it for a living?
Well, I've just always done it. But I don't think I realised that illustration existed until I did a foundation course, and I suppose there isn't necessarily a career path in terms of reportage illustration, there isn't a job for that, so you have to find your own work. And so the decision to do that was after I finished university. I started making my own way, trying to do some editorial drawings and other bits and pieces which, I suppose, still goes on, to do work for magazines and newspapers (or whoever the clients might be) and it takes quite a lot of time, but it's worth it in the end.

So did you study Illustration at university then?
I studied Illustration at Kingston, yeah.

How would you describe your working process from idea to final piece?
Um...I'm not sure, that sounds a bit formal for a process that's largely based on inspiration, something that you enjoy doing, but I like the idea of something that you wouldn't necessarily get with a photograph, so something personal, trying to highlight moments of empathy, trying to use drawings to connect with people I suppose.

So would you say that your ideas are sort of spur of the moment?
Not necessarily, I think that probably the best sort of moments, like music or poetry, can come without thinking, but the same thing with anything creative, theatre or photography, it has to be thought through and to be thought through consistently. I think the great artists and photographers and writers probably just spend a huge amount of time doing it, but I think in my case, a lot thinking about and planning a lot of trips. Sort of getting that balance between knowing what you want to do and leaving it up to chance.

What would you say is the most challenging part about being an independant illustrator?
Um...there's not very much work? But I think that, yeah, work is quite difficult to come by, especially when you're just starting off.

What is the weirdest thing you've done through Illustration?
I don't know. I'm not sure. So often the things that I draw are very common experiences of people in different situations, so when you say 'weird', that suggests odd. I think the drawings that I've done are a great excuse to sit in front of some things; the conflict in Syria was 'abnormal' in anything that we would know in our side of the world, I've sat in courtrooms in Germany and drawn there, a pretty fascinating trip to a North Sea oil rig, Gaza and therefore Palestine this year. The idea is that they're all situations that are different from what we know, so that's where they are interesting or 'weird' to use your words.

What would be your advice to someone thinking about making art for a living?
Not call it art? I think you want to be specific, I don't know if that's me being too cynical. Some good advice to me was to get a part time job to start with so that allows you time to do your own thing. I think you need to be prepared to work for 4 or 5 years to become established and build that trust up and get a list of clients and some regularity. I think that's a good place to start.

What artists or illustrators do you find particularly inspiring?
I find all the ones that can draw pretty inspiring. A lot of the illustrators that I find inspiring are dead; Paul Hogarth and Feliks Topolski. A couple of war artists, not too many; Mervyn Peake. Then there's photographers like Don McCullin (an obvious one, perhaps). But also some journalists such as John McCarthy, Frank Gardener, they've gone out of their way to try and understand a different part of the world. People like Grayson Perry, questioning some of the conceptions we have about our society.

If you were to start all over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
None of it. I don't think it changes anything, I think there's always more than one solution and I don't think starting again would give you a different result.

And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island with someone, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 
Who would I pick? I'm looking at my bookshelf for inspiration. I'd probably pick one of the great explorers, someone like Richard Burton, [John] Speke, someone who's adventured to a lot of places that we now see and wonder what they were like 100, 200, 300 years ago. 

You can find out more about George Butler and his work on his website.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Thimble and Thrift - a Lesson in Following Your Passions

I found out about Thimble and Thrift a couple of weeks ago when a friend of mine and I had a stall at the local Christmas market and I absolutely fell in love with her quirky little items. I managed to get in touch with her and ask a few questions about her and her work.

Please introduce yourself and your work.
I am Fee Fraser and I use my sewing machine to draw. I create quirky and amusing (hopefully!) pieces to make you smile!

When did you start making art, and at what point did you realise that you wanted to do this for a living?
I have been selling for 5 years, and making for...50+! I was brought up by a mum who thought there was too much to do in the world to ever get bored...she was creative and imaginative and I guess some of it rubbed off!
I created 50 pieces of work as a project and the deadline was the Surrey Artist Open studio event (great to visit if you are training as an artist in surrey - Artists across the county open their studios to the public so that visitors can see how they work and purchase their art work). It was just for fun, 50 pieces the same size depicting 'My favourite simple pleasures'; picking peas, barefoot on the grass and so on...I never imagined they would sell, but they did! This spurred me on to make more...and sell more!

This is not my 'day job', I am a Hypnotherapist and Reflexologist...I work from home and make between clients.

And how would you describe your working process?
My work has a graphic style but I like the tatty edges.

What would you say inspires your work?
I just get ideas...inspiration is all around. Customers are often inspiration so i like to chat to them and listen to their reactions...people expect a lot for nothing!

What is the weirdest commission you have ever received?
Weirdest commission was from a dutch friend who thought i had meant secret (not simple) pleasure and asked for erm...Smelling my own farts under the duvet!

What would be your advice to a budding artist?
Always do the art for yourself...unless you want to become commercial! Stick to your own gut feelings. Inspiration is everywhere! Just look for it.

I would start more confident (I was told at school that i didn't have a creative bone in my body!)

And finally, if you could have lunch with anyone, dead of alive, who would it be and why?
Other than the obvious Johnny Depp? It would have to be a whole dinner party; Victoria Wood and the Two Ronnies for their humour and clever use of words, Darren Brown as we could talk hypnosis, Nick Butterworth as I admire his work and have read his books dozens of times to dozens of children, Audrey Hepburn because I think she would be lovely, and finally my great dad who we lost on my birthday this year, just because there are so many things I never got the chance to ask him - soppy huh!

You can find out more about Thimble and Thrift by visiting their Etsy page or following them on Instagram

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Welcome to Aoife Bears All!

Hello and welcome to my blog, Aoife Bears All! My name is Aoife Bear, I am a second year Illustration student, and my aim with this blog is to shine a spotlight on working Artists and Illustrators. Each blog post will focus on a different person and feature an interview that I have conducted with them.

If you are interested in being interviewed for my blog, or have any suggestions of someone I should interview, please feel free to contact me or write a comment in the comments section.

I hope that you enjoy my blog!