Above: Scribbles from a sketchbook relating to a previous sculpture I built and then destroyed. It served its purpose and was fun but is no more!
I don't think many people read my blog but for those who do, if you have read yesterday's blog post then you'll know that I'm giving myself a two week break as I have a lot of projects that need attention and plans to be made!
So if you have been following my artist interviews then please stay tuned for more beginning on the 10th of May, 2019.
In the meantime, here's a series of interesting photos of artwork I've created over the years......
Above: A paper pop up dragon I made.
Above: Faux litho made out of torn paper for the set of the TV series, "Dallas".
Above: A commissioned illustration for a baby.
If you've read my blog post for yesterday, you'll see that this week I'm giving myself a rest from being an extrovert so I'm offering you myself. Yesterday it was a tour of my creative space and today I'm answering a series of questions that my lovely friends, Juliana Graham and A. Michelle Young-Wilson have asked me.
(Images above - left to right - "Pagan Year" ink drawing, "Barnacle Pod" toothpick sculpture, me as a child, scaling a tree in the shadow of the castle in Wales.)
So I hope you don't mind the change this week, we'll get back to normal next week for sure.
Thank you lovely Juliana and Michelle for kindly putting forth some really good questions!
Michelle: What was it like being raised by an artist and a musician and how did that affect your decision to study the arts?
Franceska: I do feel fortunate to have had such a creative upbringing as I realise now how unique it was. Growing up, it was standard that my brother, the cat and I often spent afternoons under the grand piano while my dad practiced through Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Liszt. While my mother maintained her painting studio and exposed us to a universe of visual expression. I knew I was going to be an artist by the time I was three....I had a fierce determination to see it through and I knew without a doubt that my family would accept this so it was just logical.
Michelle: You often draw from your childhood memories. Can you tell us what keeps you delving into themes from your childhood in Southern Wales?
Franceska: Though challenging at times, (growing up dyslexic in a time when dyslexia wasn't recognised or supported by the Welsh schools), my childhood was full of magic. We lived in such a beautiful part of the world and growing up, I was guided by a wonderful imaginative grandmother who helped me see the world through different eyes. She definitely influenced my artwork.
My dad taught music at Atlantic College which was housed in a 12th century castle surrounded by beautiful countryside which we children explored in every way possible. When we moved to America, it was such a blow....it was before the internet and even making a long distance phone call was such an ordeal. It was so difficult being so far from the sea and everything we knew. I remember that I felt like our family was a little island in a sea of Texans. If we'd had the internet, it would have been so much easier. Adding what I remember from my childhood into my drawings was a way of coping with the transition, I think.
Michelle: Who or what sparked your interest in string theory, multi-verses, planet's orbits and other space themes that inspired your toothpick sculptures?
Franceska: Brian Greene wrote a book called, "The Elegant Universe" which I think was published in the late 1990's when I was just graduating from Kansas City Art Institute. I remember still living in Kansas City and being quite poor so I couldn't buy his book but I'd spend my free days at the bookshop and tried to read as much of it as I could in eight hour sittings....I was intrigued then because what he was describing seemed to fit with how I was sculpting so I developed a serious appetite for learning about String Theory even though I'm absolutely useless at mathematics! I also love science fiction and have always been fascinated by the universe. Once I discovered Sacred Geometry and applied it to my sculptures, I kept getting deeper and deeper into cross referencing patterns in nature vs orbital planetary pathways and now I've reached the point of no return, delving deeply into black holes, gravitational waves and light in the vacuum of space.
Michelle: How does synesthesia affect your art?
Franceska: I have many types of synesthesia. They're all part of my daily functioning as a human being so they affect my whole being as well as the art I create. I can't imagine how others without synesthesia can function so it's difficult to know how to explain how it affects me as I feel like it's like asking how my skin affects me......but I'll say that perhaps I rely very heavily on my visuals in shapes and colours when I see sounds as patterns to create structures to my sculptures. I use my youtube channel to "collect" specific colours of sounds so I can use that colour/sound combination when needed!
My experience of the passage of Time does affect how I map out my website or how I visually describe something to someone as for me, all dates in my history that are past are to my left and my future is to my right with each date in a specific position in space around me with their own colours. Hard to explain!
I learned to spell and count by mixing colours of the letters and digits and have an intense understanding of the colour wheel because each specific colour represents meaning in language and everything I know. I'm frowning trying to explain this! Ha! So not sure if it's making sense!
Michelle: What artist most inspires you today?
Franceska: Difficult to pick one......I'd say William Kentridge is fairly prominent in my inspirations currently though I have to mention, Richard Diebenkorn whose paintings consistently bring me to a standstill.
Juliana: Are there any techniques that you feel you haven't fully mastered yet?
Franceska: Gosh, loads.....I'm constantly researching, discovering and relearning and perfecting. Currently (for the last decade) I've been re-evaluating my techniques on understanding perspective in illustration and I'm never satisfied but completely obsessed with the process.
Juliana: Are there any artistic styles/movements that you personally dislike and why?
Franceska: Yes.....can't stand Brutalist architecture....I don't like the abruptness of the structures as it unsettles me. I'm too much of a traditional artist possibly! As for movements, I'm not sure because I'm fascinated by all.
Juliana: What is the painting that you would save if the gallery of all the world's art was on fire?
Franceska: A difficult question that I can't think of an answer for, except that I'd try to put the fire out and hope that all images were photographed before the fire broke out. I think my answer is greatly influenced by the deaths of older family members and a dear friend and items I've inherited that has put me into a conflicted place where I want to cherish precious things but that I'm also in favour of not seeing loss as an end but seeing rebirth from tragedy instead......remember, never forget, educate and create more and move forward.
Thank you so much to both for tolerating my daftness and asking me such great questions! I hope I've answered satisfactorily! Please comment below if you would like to share your thoughts.
Next week I'll return to normal hopefully but a rest from being an extrovert has been nice!
*If you'd like to see more artist interviews then please stay tuned every Friday at 9am UK time for more!
I first met my friend, Heather Scott when we were both on the MA Art & Science course at Central Saint Martins here in London. Out of all the students on the course, we were amongst a limited number who were keenly interested in combining our art practices with elements from the universe and outer space.
Heather intrigued me also because of her fascination in black holes and because of her keen sense of design in her work. Trying to weave together the complexities of everything that a black hole is to elements in the design world is a huge challenge to say the least but Heather knew how to bridge this and it was a fascinating experience being witness to her discoveries along the way.
Just below before we begin are some of Heather's images as they are fascinating and worth a look with fresh eyes before you get to know her work and reasons behind what she does:
So wanting to know more about my friend and her work and her life as an artist, I'm super pleased that she agreed to be interviewed for my art blog!
1. Franceska: When you were young, was there someone or something that inspired you in the arts?
Heather: At school I had a great graphic design teacher who inspired me to go into graphic design but I have always drawn inspiration from around me and my interests. I can’t remember there being a particular thing that inspired me but I know I have been making art since I was very young.
2. Franceska: When you need to create, what methods to you use and why?
Heather: I always need to be making or be creative in whatever form that manifests itself. My main go to is drawing, especially illustration, I like creating fantasy images or just drawing what comes to mind at the time.
3. Franceska: Where did you study and what part of your education has helped you the most in your career? Were there any teachers or courses that really got you going?
Heather: I feel like my whole art/graphic education has helped me in a roundabout way. At school it was something that I loved doing and was good at so I wanted to work hard and learn more about it. It also helped that my teacher was really good as well and had worked in the industry before teaching. He encouraged me by pushing me out of my comfort zones and made me want to be better. Undergrad helped me understand why I wanted to be a graphic designer and the style of my design. I also learnt how to explain my concepts and understand how my design could be applied in the wider world, to help people understand larger concepts or educate them on world issues. Doing my masters helped me with networking and freelancing, working on internal projects to help promote our course and external work from friends and opportunities from the uni. Before this I had not really exhibited my work so I learnt a lot and it was good practice in public relations.
4. Franceska: I’m a big admirer of your “speed builds” in the Sims, can you describe what enticed you to start creating these speed builds?
Heather: I started making speed builds in The Sims to work on my video editing skills and because I have always loved building and creating in The Sims but it was not until I started watching others on YouTube that I started to work out what I needed to do to create my own. It has also helped with confidence, as I have to talk about my builds and open up about my life and experiences.
5. Franceska: Do you have any Sims “speed builders” who you really admire and why?
Heather: My favourite Simmer is James Turner aka. TheSimSupply. He inspires me because he is a great builder and tries to build things that are realistic but also out of the ordinary and different. He always goes the extra mile and works hard to create something good and entertaining. I also find his Let’s Plays hilarious and ridiculous, which inspired me to start creating my own Let’s Plays and to work harder to create content.
6. Franceska: Where do you find your inspirations behind your “speed builds”?
Heather: I find inspiration from all over the place, quite literally sometimes. I love exploring places and seeing what different types of architecture there is around the UK. I love it when you walk down the street and pass a really interesting building and you stand there working out whether it’s possible to recreate it. I also like to recreate buildings from tv and films to see how accurate you can get with the limitations of objects and styles we have in the game.
7. Franceska: Do you have any advice for those of us just starting out on building in Sims or learning to do “speed builds”?
Heather: The advice I would give to someone thinking about starting to make ‘speed builds’ would be to find something you really want to make and something you think other people would be inspired by. Or you could think about a technique you do that could help other people with the game or to help them make something they never thought about making. I would also say that your videos don’t have to be perfect and no one expects you to be amazing straight away. Confidence and ideas take time to grow but as long as you are yourself and are genuine, you will be on the right track.
8. Franceska: Would you ever consider teaching a “speed build” workshop? If so, how would you structure it to help newbies?
Heather: I would like to have a workshop at some point in the future, as it would be great to meet other people who also love the game as much as I do. It would be great to be able to help anyone of any ability as I am still learning things about how to build so I’m sure I would also learn new ways of building from the people who would come, not just them learning from me.
9. Franceska: What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a Sims speed builder?
Heather: One of the biggest challenges, apart from the Youtube algorithm, is to create builds that have not been built before or to build something in a new way. This can be hard as there are only a finite number of styles and buildings in the world but the way that you build and think about how to recreate/create the build will always be unique to you. This makes it a bit easier but I still like to find out what builds are already out there and to create series that might use The Sims but also have an educational or story telling element to them to make them different.
10. Franceska: What is your favourite colour and has this evolved over the years?
Heather: My favourite colour has always been red and I don’t think it has ever changed. However, I am very partial to blue as well. I think I like red as it can mean a lot of different things - hot, fire, danger, love, brightness and it always attracts my attention.
11. Franceska: What are your biggest influences in your life now and how do they influence you?
Heather: The biggest influences in my life at the moment are places and the people I meet. I love to share ideas, stories and experiences to help understand this sometimes mad world we live on and hopefully I can, through my graphics or YouTube, inspire or help someone else to do this as well.
12. Franceska: Do you have a favourite creating method and why is it a favourite?
Heather: I think my favourite way to create, especially if something has inspired me, is to try out different ways to make something and just play with different mediums, methods and techniques to find the one method which I feel fits the subject matter. I love to try new things and don’t really get hung up on creating something in a practically why. I also like to be ambitious and if I have an idea for something, unless it completely does not work, I will always try to find how I can make it.
13. Franceska: Do you have any short or long term goals for yourself and your career? Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
Heather: My long-term goal is to have my own design studio, I would love to create a team of people with a wide range of skills to help other companies create designs they need. My short-term goal is to have another art exhibition and to learn more graphics skills to progress to higher levels and work on more creative and ambitious projects.
14. Franceska: We met in an art and science course and share similar interests. How have your art and science interests evolved since we first met?
Heather: The Art and Science course was a great way for me to explore my interest in finding what could be beyond a black hole. I got to work on and workout a few different theories about this subject and visualise some of them. I would love to explore some of the theories I didn’t have enough time to explore fully as each one has a different outcome to what might or would happen. I don’t feel as though my interests have changed but life has somewhat got in the way and I need to find sometime to indulge myself back into my research material.
15. Franceska: I love your reflective distortion drawings. Do you think you might do some more drawings like those in the future and if so what do you think might be an influence?
Heather: I really enjoyed making the reflection drawings and they were a large part of understanding and representing the possibilities of a multiverse or different dimensions. I would like to make a large-scale version or one that I could distort even more with mirrors; using three dimensions to create more of an experience than just a flat image.
16. Franceska: As a graphic designer, what are your main loves and hates in the industry and do you think there needs to be any changes for graphic designers?
Heather: What I love about graphic design is the possibility of being able to help others create something they need. In an ideal world I would love to create design that educates or informs, rather than selling or pressuring people into things.
From what I have experienced so far, there are a lot of people who think they can design, they may be able to create a nice bit of work but can’t understand the audience they are designing for or listen to what the client wants from the design and the humility to understand that there will always be someone that can create the design better than you but it’s the heart, soul and research you put into it that makes the design better. But that might just be me.
17. Franceska: Are there any graphic designers who you really admire and why?
Heather: There is one graphic designer that I admire, who also keeps popping up in most of my art or design research, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. My natural design style is similar to the Bauhaus and Moholy-Nagy but he too, took inspiration from science and mathematical ideas of the time. He was also forward thinking about social ideas and helped to form my own opinions about what we can do to help others and the world.
18. Franceska: Imagine you were at a dinner party and you could choose one famous person to sit beside you, who would this be and why would you choose this person and how do you think conversation would go?
Heather: If I were invited to a dinner party I would invite Stephen Hawking. I would invite Stephen because I would love to hear all this theories on Black Holes and test my own against him, even though he would probably tell me that they were not possible. I would also be interested in what he thought the new image of a black hole would lead to and whether he thought new ideas and theories would come from it.
19. Franceska: What is your superpower?
Heather: My superpower is to attack very slow moving people when I want to be moving quickly. I am also an empath so I can tell if someone I have a close connection to is upset or in a bad mood because it will flood me with that emotion.
20. Franceska: Tell me what a “Day in the life of Heather” is like?
Heather: A day in the life of Heather can be very different; on a working day I commute to London. The one good thing about commuting is that I get some dedicated time to read which is better than being on my phone or making everyone around me awkward by people watching. I get through the day by making jokes and trying to make the best out of what I have to do, it does help that I have a great person to work with on my team. On my days off, I like to spend time with family or friends. I like to cycle or do some yoga ie, falling over!
I also record my YouTube videos and build more houses. You have to have something delicious at least once a week and to try not to be too sarcastic towards other people. Adventure, fun and caring for others are essentials!
Thank you so much Heather for sharing about your life and your work! I have even more questions now which is just silly and I'm so excited about the possibilities of you making some more reflection drawings and explorations into your black hole research! Can't wait to see what unfolds!
If you want to keep up to date about Heather and her work then follow these links below:
See below one of Heather's speed builds from her Hevdonia Youtube Channel:
*If you enjoyed this Artist Interview and would like to see more like it then stay tuned every Friday at 9am UK time for more.
I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Joel Heires, who I met through a mutual arty friend. I remember Joel impressed me back then for his enthusiasm for fantasy art which is something I really love too!
Joel has always impressed me with his determination and his work ethic. When I see his regular drawing posts, I feel inspired to get to business in my own studio practice. His focus is wonderful and I wish I could keep focused as he does!
In particular for several years now, I've been intrigued by his figurative work and have been wanting to find out more for ages now. I wish he lived closer as I think it would be intriguing to see his work space as I too have to conduct my artistic practice in my bedroom so of course I'm curious how others have to adapt to working in a multipurpose space!
So I'm very pleased Joel agreed to let me interview him for my art blog and again I wrote far too many questions and had to edit them down from the 68 that I originally had! Sometimes my curiosity of my fellow artist friends is ridiculous!
I do hope you enjoy this interview and please note any red highlighted underlined words are links to related content. To follow Joel and keep up to date with his ongoing work, then please look below this interview for his social media links. Please like, comment and share!
Franceska: How and when did you get into the arts?
Joel: I have always enjoyed drawing. I believe my “What I want to be when I grow up” list was artist, firefighter, or paleontologist. Safe to say the interest has been present most of my life, but as I got older I would see images or sculptures created by others and just think “that” is what I want to do.
Franceska: Is there anyone who inspired or influenced you when you were young to get into the arts?
Joel: I can't think of anyone in particular, certainly my parents supported me, but it was usually a pretty solitary act that I committed on my own. Drawing was and is very much an escape for me. My drive really came mostly from art in magazines and comic books that had captured so much of my imagination. Fortunately, I had a string of supportive teachers that understood I was a bit more serious than most of the students who had to be there. So I got extra feedback or pushes from various instructors over the years and on occasion would have a professional artist see my work and relate the idea that I should keep at it.
Franceska: Where did you study and how do you feel about your educational experience? Do you feel it helped you in what you do now?
Joel: Art classes were offered from middle school on, and it was always nice to look forward to a class every day. I wasn't a bad student, but everything else felt like work. It could certainly be challenging, but the labor was usually pleasant, outside of the time constraints (still an issue today). I was incredibly fortunate to attend a high school with an amazing AP (advanced placement) art program. Double block classes everyday allowed me to really dig in with other like minded students and take risks. I also remember feeling as though the AP status placed the classes on the same level as English, Science, and Math for the first time. In no small part because of those courses, I had a strong portfolio ready when I applied and was accepted to Carnegie Mellon University.
By the time I graduated I think I was more frustrated than enlightened. Distance and time have led me to wonder if that was more due to my own social/personal issues and being so insanely naive about life and craft. The program at the time was in transition and many of the older more technical minded faculty were retiring or moving on and the newer focus seemed to be much more conceptual (which was less interesting to me). While that education has served me immeasurably over time, I felt as if my technical education was lacking. I wanted that magic bullet that would just make me awesome, but I never really connected with any of my professors and never locked onto a mentor figure. Of course I also made lifelong friends that have heavily influenced my career and life post graduation. In the end I think education anywhere is really what you make of it and I , frustratingly, feel as if I took for granted my time there.
Franceska: What is your favourite material to work with in the arts?
Joel: I like to draw. I like paper and pencil and ink, but I also paint digitally using Photoshop. There is an immediacy to traditional sketching that is more grounded, the line and the tone just feel more correct, and a pure stream of consciousness drawing devoid of purpose or direction can be meditative. Working digitally however, allows for speedy iteration. I can always undo or start fresh with another file, without fear of wasting materials, a fear that kept me from exploring much in college. Any color sense I have at all is due mostly to infinite digital paint.
Franceska: Do you currently have a specific artist or artists that you follow at this time and why?
Joel: On a daily basis it's really just about being on instagram and trying not to let the talent of so many incredible individuals extinguish my own creative drive. I would say, more than anyone else lately, I find myself continually returning to the work of J.C.Leyendecker. He is mostly known for his advertising work and an incredible run of iconic Saturday Evening Post covers. The more I look at his work the more I'm blown away by what he accomplished in every image. I'm a big fan of images drawn from my own imagination, but it's undeniable how much extra information is communicated when using reference. In his work I see both. Stylized realism with imaginative flourishes and editing resulting in a highly detailed, stylized, and nuanced final image.
Franceska: How do you find inspiration in your current work? How do you keep yourself motivated?
Joel: “Keep making stuff!” is pretty much my only M.O. I'm old enough to realize that the negative loop of trial and failure had stunted my ability to press on and just make stuff. Sometimes it's for fun, sometimes it's more directed, the way a musician practices scales or an athlete hits the gym. Keeping my brain and my fingers moving and existing in that higher plane of operating is my primary objective. I can always tell when I haven't done figure drawing or dimensional drawing in awhile. Like going for a jog after an injury, you lose progress or at the very least alertness.
Franceska: What is a typical studio day like for you?
Joel: I've been mostly on my own for a few years now, so it's amorphous by nature. Since I work in my room it's a constant struggle to not allow distraction from upending my flow. On a good day I get up late morning and try to do some observational drawing as a warm up and confidence booster. I usually do yoga, (a life saver when you spend as much time hunched over a computer or a desk as I do) and then shower and lunch. Then I settle into whatever my current task is. With freelancing being the bulk of my monetary income that work ranges from illustration, to ui design, and photoshopping. I try to work at max focus for a few hours. If I get into a groove I might work later, but if there isn't a deadline or staying on task is a real chore I let myself off the hook. I eat dinner somewhere in there and then will entertain myself in the evening, which many times now involves working in my sketchbook. This is of course a model day and not an average one, hehe.
Franceska: Do you find it easy to fill a sketchbook and is this something you embrace?
Joel: I've been using the classic black hardbound sketch books for the last 5 years now. It takes me a bit over a year to fill one. It's nice to have the singular object when it's done as opposed to piles of loose drawings. They also act as a timeline of the previous year, an illustrated diary. The sketchbooks become a powerful reminder of whether you are working or not, a tome of inspiration and frustration. The one piece of advice I have received over and over in my life is “Draw everyday!” It took me over a decade to really understand and embrace that message. I felt the idea was very unromantic, but in reality it is the practice that opens the doors so your ideas can freely flow into reality.
Franceska: What are your current challenges in your practice and are you finding ways to overcome them?
Joel: Every time I climb to a peak of skill or perception another 50 peaks become visible. I'm struggling with the subtleties of perspective and drawing figures and objects that really exist in the space on the page. My work is stiff and not only dimensionally flat but also emotionally flat. With observational drawing I really try to mentally picture the forms I'm rendering as I make my marks. Visualizing the edges and the shadow regions seems silly since I'm looking at the subject, but I've found that my hand makes subtly better marks when engaged at that level. Keeping my mind thinking in 3d helps as well when I render from my minds eye. The hope is that this will lead to more dynamic compositions and realized forms.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour or palette and if so how has it changed over the years?
Joel: My color sense is naturally quite poor, years of fooling around with color digitally has made me more fearless in experimenting, but it's still a struggle every time. I tend to rely on the concepts of unity and color relationships to fill my canvas. By the time my current project is finished, it will reflect the seven roy g biv colors. Because of this, as I get further into the series the color choices are less choices and more by necessity and design. I like using compliments and particular symbolic groupings adding an extra layer to the choices whenever I can. When I get a chance to attend figure drawing sessions I tend to work with ink washes, particularly an orange and blue wash in addition to black ink. There is a strange glowing quality to it that I enjoy. Other than that, I don't believe I gravitate toward anything in particular.
Franceska: Do you have any favourite books/comics that you refer back to often or that made an impact on who you are today?
Joel: My general visual curiosity flows from Greek mythology into Greek sculpture then the renaissance (Michelangelo, da Vinci), surrealism, and then dives into fantasy art in the vein of Frank Frazetta and smashes into superhero comics. By middle school I was hooked and knew fantastical art was what I wanted to do. As I've gotten older I've moved away from those figures and while digging into the lineage of comic books, movies, and videogames found new touchstones. I've started making connections among the various things that captured my attention and that eventually lead me into the realm of Jean Giraud Moebius. He has become a weird magnetic figure in my creative journey. I am much less attracted to raw skill anymore and find myself drawn to creators that have a very strong personal style. (Mike Mignola, Kilian Eng, Katsuya Terada, the list goes on)
Franceska: What are your goals for your future in the arts?
Joel: I mentioned this already, but really it's just “keep going, keep making”. In high school and college we would always have to make our artist statement and really the only thing I ever wanted was to make something cool, and that is still true. My definition of “cool” has changed, but I really just want to make stuff that ignites the same spark of creativity that I've been juiced with so many times.
Franceska: What projects are you working on currently and can you share what they are if possible?
Joel: As far as personal projects the main one is called “The Magi” It's a halfway complete series of paintings with accompanying music tracks provided and mutually inspired by my good friend Christian Kriegeskotte. Also, recently a children's book that I illustrated was published digitally on Amazon called “Robert the Robot: and the Ocular Resonators.” Instead of a moral or ethical lesson the goal is to give a lesson on socializing. Other than that, too many ideas that are nebulously waiting to be plucked from the ether.
Thank you so much Joel for agreeing to be interviewed! I'll continue to be a big fan of your work and probably you'll find more fans following this interview!
To follow Joel and keep up to date with his artwork then please follow these links:
If you enjoyed reading about Joel and would like to read more artist interviews then please check back every Friday at 9am UK time for more.
I met my friend, Carl Chapple when we were both exhibiting at Parallax Art Fair here in London in 2011 and I have been a fan of his ever since! I agree so much with his statement about art fairs in general too.
As a figurative painter myself, I'm drawn (no pun intended!) to his figurative paintings the most and of course I've been intrigued for a long time about his methods of working and what his studio is like and what types of colours he has on his palette and all sorts of other curiosities!
So I was really pleased when Carl agreed to let me interview him for my art blog! The biggest challenge with Carl and so far with all the other artists I've interviewed, is that I have so many questions that I have to whittle them down or I'm sure artists would be daunted by hundreds of questions! These questions in this interview, I think are the most pressing of the over eighty that I originally had to edit down from! I had so many questions about his materials but as a painter myself, I really feel that to understand another painter is to see how and where they work rather than what they produce! So I love the above photo of Carl's studio space with his work and all the interesting details surrounding!
I'm excited to share with you my interview with Carl and his fascinating work and practice. Please do check his social media links at the end of this interview to stay updated with his work, especially as he has upcoming exhibitions which is quite exciting! Any red highlighted underlined words are links you can follow. Please like, comment and share with your friends!
Franceska: When did you first know you were going to be an artist and what helped you decide this?
Carl: I’ve always been interested in painting, but wasn’t certain that I wanted to be a painter myself until the first term of my art foundation at Oxford Polytechnic. I’d spent the previous year working in a print shop doing bits of graphic art, and went into the course with a vague plan to go on to art school somewhere and study graphics, but that all changed after the experience of drawing from the nude and using oil paint for the first time.
Drawing from the nude and using oil paint for the first time can really shift your perspective on things. I found both impossibly difficult, and realised very quickly that they would be central to all that I wanted to do.
Franceska: How do you set up your palette? Do you have a specific system with your colours?
Carl: I think Whistler once said something about it being impossible for an orderly painting to emerge from a disorderly palette, and I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a long time to learn from that.
I start each session with a row of colours arranged chromologically (I may have just invented that word) across the top of the palette, with a dollop of white beneath, but it all soon descends into a kind of blur as work proceeds, colours are mixed, and more paint is added. There is a system, of sorts, and I always know where everything is, but the nearest I come to any kind of discipline is realising periodically that I need to stop and completely clean the palette and start again. I try to do this at least every few hours.
Franceska: Who or what inspired you to become an artist?
Carl: My mum encouraged creativity in me as a child (we always had paints and glue and a junk box full of toilet rolls and cereal boxes, etc, from which fantastic space stations could be built), and at primary school I was labelled as the one who was good at drawing, meaning I’d get pulled out of lessons to copy pictures (the inner workings of the human ear, a Roman soldier holding a spear…) onto other teachers’ blackboards, which was obviously to be welcomed.
I went on to really enjoy studying art at secondary school, and had a great teacher (Stuart Stephens at Tavistock Comprehensive) who had a very open and informal approach to teaching his subject. Under his slightly arm’s length guidance, pupils were given a lot of freedom to explore ideas and techniques, and to make mistakes, etc. I found this to be a fun environment to work in, and took it very seriously.
Franceska: Do you have a specific subject that you enjoy the most in your art?
Carl: People - most recently dancers. It’s the only subject I’m really interested in. Over the years I’ve painted a few still lives and the occasional landscape, animal picture, etc, but nothing engages me like trying to depict another human being.
There’s a Vonnegut story in which a character responds to a vast and impressive landscape painting, suggesting to the artist that for all that’s great about the picture, there’s something missing: a figure, an access point for the viewer to place themself within the scene, and to more fully connect with it. The figures in my pictures tend to be front and centre, but I’m probably thinking along the same lines as Vonnegut’s critic. With a few exceptions (much of the work of Cezanne, for example), my favourite paintings and drawings all involve people.
Franceska: How do you come up with your compositions and what are your challenges in this process?
Carl: I’m artist in residence with the wonderful dance company Ballet Cymru, based in Newport, South Wales. Over the past few years they have inspired most of my work - either as I respond to rehearsals and performances, or work more collaboratively with dancers in the painting studio.
After years working from the nude and later painting portraits, I think of my current practice as very much a combination of the two - though now created in response to and in partnership with other artists. As I’ve been discovering, dance and figure painting share many common themes and concerns - line, gesture, narrative, the exploration of relationships between figures and the spaces around them, for example - which has given me new insights into painting. It’s been an extraordinary experience.
There have been some challenges. Sketching figures as they fly around a dance floor is quite different from working from a motionless sitter, and I’ve needed to innovate a good deal in order to adapt some of my working methods. In rehearsals, for example, I now film sequences of dance which I later loop and play back in the painting studio, so I can work over a longer period and more closely study dancers’ movement, etc. These experiments are ongoing, and I’m now in the process of working out how I can scale things up and create more complex compositions.
The residency has been a great privilege, and I can’t imagine working with a more creative and disciplined group of people. If you get the opportunity to see Ballet Cymru perform, I would urge you to take it.
Franceska: When do you prefer to work in your studio? Do you have specific times that work best for you?
Carl: I try to be in the studio before eight in the morning, especially in winter when daylight is limited. The first few hours of the day are generally the most focused and productive, I find.
Now that I’m working on more larger scale pictures, I’m thinking of changing my routine a bit to end the day with making smaller, quicker pieces, to reduce the risk of making bad decisions about big pictures when tired. For me, painting can be quite precarious, and not stopping when I’m starting to wilt can be a big mistake.
Franceska: Tell me what a typical "Day in the life of Carl" is like?
Carl: The focus of my days tends to vary between work in the painting or dance studio, occasional teaching (life drawing, portraiture, etc), and admin.
In the past week I’ve had three days in the painting studio, two with Ballet Cymru (including the final rehearsals and premier of their show Ballet Cymru 2 - Made in Wales), and one entirely spent at a computer. Next week I plan mostly to work in the studio.
Franceska: Tell me about Bertie?
Carl: Bertie is a house cat/panther/ninja who can disappear at will and spring out of nowhere to mercilessly savage your ankles (or bring down a bull elephant) without warning. She’s a true master of camouflage and concealment, blending effortlessly into any (dark) surroundings, and has the discipline to remain completely motionless and invisible for seconds or even minutes at a time. Her only weakness is tuna. If a can of tuna is opened anywhere within a quarter of a mile of her she will instantly appear next to it with a pleading/entitled/threatening look on her face. In these circumstances, it’s best to acquiesce.
She’s named after the painter Berthe Morisot, though is more of a Gwen John fan. I still feel bad about getting that wrong, but hope that she’s forgiven me.
There are some photos of Bertie on my Instagram, though of course you won’t be able to spot her.
Franceska: What other types of creative practices do you really enjoy?
Carl: I like cooking. In the kitchen, as in the painting studio, I generally make stuff up as I go along, too often forgetting lessons already learnt though occasionally making something which turns out ok.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour and has it changed over the years?
Carl: For several years I painted with a restricted palette of three colours - Cadmium Red, Sap Green and Naples Yellow - before eventually introducing a fourth, Prussian Blue. These colours are still the core of my palette, though whatever changes I might make and experiments I may be doing, Prussian Blue is pretty much always there. It’s a beautiful and hugely versatile pigment, and is often quite dominant in my work.
Franceska: How do you feel about art fairs like the one we met at?
Carl: It’s depressing to think that there may be other art fairs like Parallax, though I imagine there must be. I feel pretty angry about them really, and would encourage artists - especially those less experienced or at the early stages of their careers, whom these people seem very specifically to target with their flattering advances - to steer well clear. I feel a right chump for getting drawn in on that occasion, and if I were to show at an art fair again it would only be after a good deal of research to be sure it was a legitimate, worthwhile event.
Franceska: What are your goals for the future with your paintings?
Carl: To make better pictures than I did before. That’s always my goal. I may return to working from the nude at some point, but at the moment I’m completely immersed in dance as a subject, and hope to continue with that for some time.
Franceska: Do you have any more exhibitions coming up?
Carl: I have a few, yes. The Arts Council of Wales recently awarded me grant funding to build on my work with Ballet Cymru and produce two big exhibitions later this year, which I’m hugely excited about. The first will be at Ffin y Parc, a beautiful gallery on the edge of Snowdonia, in September, and the second at the huge Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, in December.
Both shows will feature work made with the dance company throughout their 2019 season, with the funding enabling me to work on a much more ambitious scale than I’ve previously been able to do. There will be audio tours for people with visual impairments (developed and delivered by a great company called Word of Mouth) at both exhibitions, and the WMC show will be accompanied by a series of figure drawing workshops for children and adults, which I’ll be delivering with Ballet Cymru dancers.
Before then, in April I’ll be showing some of my earlier dance paintings in Basel, Switzerland, with a brilliant pop-up gallery called frontofbicycle, and there may be a couple of other little shows in the UK, though these aren’t yet confirmed.
Franceska: What are you working on right now?
Carl: I’m between canvases. I recently finished a painting with the snappy title Ann Louise Wall, Giulia Rossi and Colleen Grace (Ballet Cymru rehearsal 149, EX SITU), featuring three dancers with Ballet Cymru’s Pre-Professional Programme working on a piece choreographed by Jack Philp. It’s two metres wide (my biggest picture to date), and has given me a lot to think about. My immediate plan now is to spend a few days drawing, and hopefully to develop ideas for further large compositions.
Franceska: Do you have an artist who really inspired you?
Carl: The Greeks, Italians, French, Dutch and Germans, among others. Years ago I travelled quite a lot in Greece and Turkey making studies of Classical architecture and sculpture to try to learn about some of the principles which informed them and to develop my draughtsmanship. I later lived in Florence and continued in the same vein, though with a focus on Renaissance sculpture, painting and drawing. I’m constantly experimenting with materials and techniques, etc, and have developed wider interests in art history and practice, but this period of focused study of early European art remains the foundation of my work.
On a side note, I’d mention that although it’s fantastically inspiring to study great work by great artists, it can be tempting to overly romanticise the Renaissance masters as superhuman paragons from whom flawless, beautiful art effortlessly flowed to echo through the ages - though I’d suggest this would be a mistake. There’s something fundamentally reassuring in coming across a drawing by Michelangelo, for example, in which a hip appears dislocated or an eye’s a bit wonky. It’s important to set challenging standards for yourself, but also to keep failures in context, recognising them as part of the process. Wonky eyes are part of the process, and I’m constantly having to remind myself of that.
Franceska: Where did you study and has it helped where you are today?
Carl: After Oxford Polytechnic I studied at St Martin’s in London, which at that time may not have been the best place for a wannabe figurative painter. It had its moments though, and being within walking distance of the British Museum, Courtauld, National Gallery, etc, was pretty great. This got me into the habit (and over the anxiety) of drawing in public spaces, which led to much of what I did next and where I am now.
Follow Carl and keep updated on his work:
Website - http://www.carlchapple.com
FB - https://www.facebook.com/carlchapplepainter
Twitter - https://twitter.com/carlchapple
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/carl_chapple/
Ballet Cymru - http://welshballet.co.uk
If you enjoyed this artist interview and would like to see more then please check back every Friday at 9am (UK time) for more.
I'd like to introduce you to a really interesting sculptor friend of mine, who also uses toothpicks to build with! Bob and I came into contact because of our mutual love for creating sculptures with toothpicks so I've been really eager to interview him about his work since the subject is beyond fascinating for me! The way he creates his little buildings and rocks and terrain in his work will just blow your mind as he can do wonders with the very ordinary toothpick! I often wish I could shrink myself down to be very tiny so I could explore his creations as they're so gorgeous and so imaginative!
As per most of my artist interviews, I sent Bob a series of questions which for me was quite a challenge as I have soooooo many questions that I had to really edit them down or he'd have received a very long list from me as I'm far too curious about his sculpting methods especially in a subject area that I adore!
So anyway please enjoy below my interview with Bob and then see below for all the links so you too can follow and stay up to date with everything he is creating:
Franceska: What first got you started building in toothpicks?
Bob: About 40 years ago, I visited the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum in St. Augustine, Florida. There were several toothpick and matchstick sculptures on display including, various musical instruments, a Model A Ford truck, and replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge in London, England. I was very intrigued by these pieces and thought to myself, I can do this. Not long after that visit I started creating small toothpick buildings.
Franceska: When you were growing up, what types of creative projects did you enjoy working on?
Bob: I really liked to draw and paint pictures, still do. Also, I loved to build tree forts. Sometimes I would take them apart and start over with a better design. Music is another creative outlet I truly enjoyed. I started playing drums when I was 12.
Franceska: Has there been anyone in your life who has been a big inspiration to you?
Bob: Yes, my wife. She has been my number one fan, motivator, supporter and source of inspiration since we met as teenagers.
Franceska: What were your early sculptures like and how do they differ from what you do now?
Bob: My first pieces were very small and didn’t have a lot of details. Most were like the tree forts mentioned above. Over time, I started developing techniques that helped me manipulate the toothpicks in different ways. These techniques have allowed me to become more detail oriented in my creations.
Franceska: Tell me what you love about toothpicks?
Bob: You can create with them really quickly. Hahaha, I wish. One of the things that’s cool is using toothpicks not only as a medium, but also as tiny tools. They are perfect for applying and cleaning off glue.
Franceska: How do you come up with your sculpture ideas now?
Bob: Sometimes I’ll have a dream about an idea and jump out of bed to start working on it, or at least make a quick sketch so I don’t forget. Other times I’ll start by making a window or door, or just an abstract little piece, and just keep adding to it. I like to let the sculptures “build themselves” you know, coming up with new ideas as you create. I don’t sit down and draw a complete blueprint first. I also don’t enjoy making replicas. I love to just use my imagination for my pieces.
Franceska: Describe to me what a typical "Day in the Life of Bob" is like?
Bob: Get up and grab a diet Mt. Dew, I don’t like coffee, go in my studio, turn on the radio and get to work. Monday thru Friday I usually create about 5 to 10 hours a day. I try to get in a little work on weekends, but life is not all about toothpicks. hahaha. Also, being a musician, most gigs are on weekends.
Franceska: Where do you get your toothpicks from and do you have a preference?
Bob: I buy toothpicks in bulk from an online site. I usually order 2-4 cases at a time. Each case has 24 boxes of 800 count round/square center toothpicks. They are from Royal brand, but I’ve used Foster, Diamond and other brands in the past. While I mostly use round/square center toothpicks, I also use regular round and flat for certain applications.
Franceska: Have you had any big failures in finding your style and have you found good solutions to past problems?
Bob: Like most artists, I have some projects that just don’t have the right flow. So, either they sit around collecting dust or I change the direction. I wouldn’t say I’ve had any big failures finding my style, it’s just evolved for many years through trial and error.
Franceska: What do you enjoy the most out of what you do now?
Bob: Not only do I love to create through art and music, I must create. Creating is like oxygen for me, I need it to live.
Franceska: Who is your biggest influence in your life right now? How does your life experience feed into your art?
Bob: I was born in Naples, Italy and all the beautiful seaside towns throughout the country seem to be seared in my head. That’s the only explanation I can think of as to where most of my architectural ideas come from.
Franceska: What are your hopes and dreams for your art practice now?
Bob: I hope to continue to have opportunities to share my work through interviews like this, magazine articles, exhibitions, etc. Having my art out there for the world to see the past 5-6 years has been a dream come true. I’m very thankful...and lucky.
Franceska: Are you working on anything exciting at the moment and can you share a little bit about it?
Bob: I have a few projects I’m currently working on, but the most exciting one is, I’m working on a new section of my largest sculpture, Bob’s Toothpick City. When this phase is complete, the total toothpick count will be close to half a million. It will be approximately 10 feet wide, 2 feet tall and 2 feet deep. I hope to have it finished in a year or so.
Franceska: Thank you so much, Bob for letting me delve into your world and for answering my questions about your work and lifestyle as an artist! I feel so inspired by your answers and I want to publish this and immediately get back to studio to get on with my toothpick sculptures too! I feel like I related to so well of what you have said and I'm so pleased you were willing to share!
To keep up to date on all of Bob's work then please follow these links:
*If you really enjoyed this artist interview and would like to see more like this then stay tuned every Friday at 9am (UK time) for more really interesting artist interviews!
I wanted to interview my wonderful friend, Michelle Young-Wilson, as my next artist interview but because she has kept me inspired by how she leads a creative lifestyle. Also I wanted to offer this celebration of my lovely friend this week as this is the week of her birthday which works out perfectly! Michelle isn’t a practicing artist but her way of living, her daily activities, our exciting adventures together, how she cooks, her recipes, and her creative projects have kept me smiling and bright inside for several years already!
Michelle is one of the few friends who I can be silly with or have spontaneous adventures that seem outrageous but so much fun; or create imaginary worlds with just sticks and leaves! I have such fond memories of so many types of adventures we’ve already had and its rather exciting to think of the adventures yet to come!
So today is an interview with a creative in the way she lives her life and perhaps some moments into our adventures together!
Franceska: Do you have a morning routine before you start your day?
Michelle: Yes. Because I have a dog, I do.
Otherwise, I’ve never had much of a routine and I have trouble doing anything consistently. I rather invite change and transformation…I think I like the stimulus.
My morning routine, at the moment, is all about my dog, Hawkeye. He wakes me up at dawn and we go for a walk and I have come to love our walks together. I really get to observe the seasons change. I see the first flower buds and leaves on the trees in spring and get to watch the leaves explode into color in the autumn. Hawkeye is always living in the present moment and he is constantly reminding me to return my focus to the present. I love him for that.
After our walk, it’s time to make breakfast for him and myself and sometimes, my husband, Bob. Breakfast has become its own sort of meditation. I think I love cooking because it keeps my focus and attention from start to finish and since breakfast comes together quickly, it is almost a fluid dance. Just think about it: biscuits in the oven, bacon frying, tea kettle whistling, eggs scrambling and you are working for it to all be completed at the same time hot and delicious! With the right perspective even something as mundane as making breakfast can be artful. After breakfast and cleaning up, my day is entirely random. I get my work done as early as I can because that’s when I have the most energy and focus. I am always wanting to add yoga to my morning routine, but it just hasn’t fit in, yet.
Franceska: When you were young, how did you use your imagination in play?
Michelle: I remember playing alone a lot in my room. I liked setting up scenes with my dolls. I would make sofas from Kleenex boxes and little cakes from York peppermint patties. I made a circus trapeze once for a Barbie doll out of straws, string and scotch tape. Then when she fell from the trapeze, I made her crutches from straws and a cast from toilet paper and scotch tape. Something funny I remember, is that I set the scene as if to take a picture of them, I never was good at coming up with any dialogue. When I was playing with my older brothers, I was just trying to keep up and be tough. We did things like set firecrackers off under our GI Joe’s. It seems like the boys were always playing at war or car racing and I was always wanting to make something pretty.
Franceska: When you cook, do you have a plan or do you prefer to experiment? What have been the best experiments?
Michelle: It depends on who I am cooking for. If it’s just me, it’s an experiment. I may use a recipe for inspiration but I change it to use the ingredients I have on hand. But if I’m cooking for someone else’s pleasure, I take it much more seriously and strive for perfection. I recently made Christina Tosi’s (of Momofuku’s Milk Bar fame) Strawberry Lemon Cake for a friend’s 70th birthday. It is the most complex cake I have ever made. It has 6 elements that you must make separately and then you assemble it and freeze it for 12 hours to set. It was worth it! Absolutely delicious and everyone who had a slice agreed. If I ever make it again, however, I’ll do it as a trifle and not freeze it at all.
Franceska: In your work, how were you able to use your own creativity and was it often a challenge?
Michelle: I worked in the Art department in the Film and Television Industry for 14 years. I am truly grateful to have been able to use my creativity everyday in my career. When I interviewed a new potential employee I would tell them that being a creative problem solver was one of the most important qualities for any film-maker. And even though, I have moved on from that industry, I still use my creativity daily. Creativity can be utilized in all things. A mechanic can be creative about the way he repairs an engine. I think challenge breeds creativity. Isn’t all work a challenge?
That’s why we have this love/hate relationship with work. We want the stimulus but we resist the challenges. I believe we need challenges to grow and advance and become. Using creativity to overcome challenges is part of human nature. My dad, really inspires me in this respect. He is a creative problem solver, I learned so much from just being around him. If we had dropped something down a drain, for example, and couldn’t get to it, he would craft some device out of whatever was around to retrieve it for us and he loved doing it. He instilled in me a sort of confidence, that no matter what, we can figure this out.
Franceska: Are there any books you read growing up that you feel made an impact on who you are today?
Michelle: Absolutely, yes! There are so many books that I read in junior high school specifically that I believe shaped my moral character. Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry are the first that come to mind, though I am sure that there are more.
Franceska: Do you have any creative projects you have done in the past that you really enjoyed?
Michelle: I’ll be like Jesus and answer your question with a question: Are there any creative projects I have done in the past that I didn’t enjoy?
Even the hardest creative projects I have worked on, the ones that felt like a huge pain in the ass when I was working on them…looking back it all seems like great fun.
Franceska: What inspires you right now in your life?
Michelle: My focus for the last few years has been on the spiritual and mystical realm. I light up when pondering our infinite and essential nature. There is so much to explore and nothing is concrete, which delights me to no end. In a more tangible respect, I find a lot of inspiration in cooking. I am at home in the kitchen. The process of creating with food pleases me because I always finish (unlike many of my paintings and drawings) and once it’s eaten it’s gone….clean slate for tomorrow.
Franceska: What is your favourite colour and has it changed over the years?
Michelle: I love them all and I can’t pick just one and why should anyone ever have to? I am intrigued by birds because they have more color cones in there retina and can see a range of colors that humans can’t see. Isn’t that exciting. The idea of new never-before-seen colors!
Franceska: Do you have a favourite dessert and if so has this changed over the years?
Michelle: Oh, Franceska! I’m really not good at picking favorites. I struggle to think of a dessert I don’t like. If I have something sweet, I want it to be well worth the calories. I would choose buttery breakfast pastry over a cupcake. I don’t like things that are sickly sweet, I often go for something that has a hit of tartness to balance sweetness which is why I enjoy fruit in my desserts. But then there’s chocolate and who could pass up a good slice of chocolate cake? Not me. The choice is impossible. Absolutely impossible!
Franceska: What are your hopes for your future?
Michelle: I am a person who works hard at being present, but I do think that daydreaming and visualizing is a good tool to use when creating the future you want. I recently made a vision board for not only my current human existence, but also, for my next transformation. For my next life, I would like to be a Beautiful Bridge Builder who makes breathtaking bridges between planets and galaxies with her wand that works much like a 3D printer. (and I can fly effortlessly) How’s that for hopes for the future?!
Franceska: Oh my goodness! I've read through your answers with wonder, agreement, laughter and lots of lots of smiling! I know I completely relate to all and so love that you let me interview you during your birthday week about your life! That was lots of fun! Thank you Michelle for sharing!
- Please note that any highlighted words in this interview will send you to the items they are talking about.
- The images selected above.....
top left - "Candy Cobbler & Window Cobbler" sketch by Michelle Young-Wilson for a potential window display;
top right - set from the "Dallas" series created by Michelle Young-Wilson with her words about it, "It shows a huge piece of artwork that I created from colored torn paper. Of course i also selected and placed everything else in the photo."
bottom left - "Voodoo Bathroom" set from "Queen of the South" TV series with one of the drawings from me, (Franceska McCullough) of Jesus Malverde;
Bottom right - "i thought about the Save the Date pic I sent out for the Bob and Michelle wedding. I had run out of time and wanted to do something a little different so I just arranged flowers and leaves that I found in Costa Rica on my walk that morning….it was just plants I found along the road."
*If you enjoyed this interview then please follow this blog every Friday 9am UK time for more artist/creatives interviews!
Following last Friday's interview with my artist mother, Juliette McCullough please find below the 2nd part of the interview which I think is even more fascinating than last week! Having grown up with my mothers artwork all my life and heard so many accounts of her life as a young artist, I thought I'd learned it all but in taking time to further delve into her work and life as an artist it has given me so much more which is so very inspiring indeed!
I would encourage you to check out Juliette McCullough's website (listed below) and also follow her regular Instagram updates. She will inspire you guaranteed!
Here is part 2 of the interview. Enjoy:
Franceska: After finishing your studies, were you able to set up an art practice? What were your challenges at that time as a newly qualified artist?
Juliette: It was so very challenging to find myself facing only myself without any controlling incoming influences. It was terrifying, especially because I wanted to paint human beings, but had no models. That was when I first started pulling images out of my boots so to speak.
Because I had worked so much from life I was really surprised to find that I could create from memory which opened up so many possibilities. Suddenly moving (painting or drawing) across an empty surface became a journey in which the image came through me, in spite of me. It was, and still, when I am lucky, continues to be like dreaming while awake (a lot like the ‘Active Imagination’ practiced by Jungians. I had to submit to what the image wanted, and so each attempt became a sort of dialogue, a real push/pull between me and the surface. While the process itself was a deep experience, the resulting outcomes never satisfied me at that time. I don’t think I had any real identity until I faced and came through that difficult lonely struggle.
It was all intensified because I changed countries at the same time, so I left behind everything and everyone who knew me, everyone whom I could relate to artistically. I became an unrecognizable stranger in a new land, and a foreign culture. This was before the internet and everything that connects us globally today.
I read a lot, and looked to artists I admired for some inkling of how I could develop. I remember coming to the shocking realization that artists in previous generations had had a mythology to live by, even Picasso was born into a time when I think ‘myth’ and an imaginal world was still alive. I found myself struggling to give form to my most nonverbal ideas in the dead years of the end of the 20th century. I was hit by our collective loss of meaning through our reduction of ‘myth’ to mere fairy tale insignificance. Nietzsche’s idea of ‘the death of god’ seemed right on to me. It was only then that I was able to come to the conclusion that a ‘death’ would precede a ‘birth’, that the death of an old order was in fact the beginning of a new one! So, as a young artist I decided that my only hope was to follow my own nose and my own instincts in spite of the fashions of the day; to find my own personal mythology.
This was before I came upon the works of Carl Jung and his idea of ‘archetypes’. I have been learning from him and his ideas for many years now, and the journey still helps me understand my personal struggles in relation to the collective, and it all relates to my artistic journey.
Franceska: How does your art practice now differ from your early years after your education?
Juliette: I haven’t had time to practice properly since I was in art school. Working to keep a roof over my head (especially as an immigrant).
This is why young artists today go for ‘fame’ when they are at the beginning of their journeys, because they hope to make enough money to buy the time to be able to practice their craft uninterrupted. I have had to learn to carve time out of my life to get in the studio, and it does affect my output, and my rhythms of working.
Having said that, I now have a confidence and better awareness when I do get concentrated time to work.
Franceska: What artists had the biggest influence on you as an artist?
Juliette: So many really, but some that come to mind immediately are Rembrandt, Picasso and Willem de Kooning
Franceska: What is the best studio space you’ve ever had and how did you use the space?
Juliette: The one I have now - but then any space I have used has always been the best! I like to stretch my canvases straight on the wall. I like to be able to bash away on a solid surface so that I can push and pull the paint and scrape off too. Then, if an image ever gets to the state that it is ready to go out in the world, I do have the pain of having to stretch it after it’s painted. I have often enjoyed painting on the floor too. I found it necessary to get away from the typical canvas on the easel situation.
Franceska: As an artist, have you ever felt the need to react to the political climate? How did you react and how was it received?
Juliette: Yes, of course, how can I not be affected by what is going on around me! But, I have never considered myself a political painter. Mostly, those images will come out so strong that I don’t attempt to show them, or doubt that I would find a suitable venue for them. However, I started a series of images in 2016 which became my way of handling the stress of the political situation we were living through, and I was delighted when I got to show one of them in the inaugural exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Political Art in Washington DC just opened by Charles Krause. https://www.politicsartus.org/
Franceska: How did you manage to raise a family and maintain your art practice? How did you keep your focus?
Juliette: With difficulty, but I consider painting as a way of living, rather than separate from living.
Every experience I have in my life informs my images as it grows my consciousness. Nothing has been easy, but as long as there is a burning need to make images, somehow they will come out.
Franceska: If you could go back and give advice to yourself when you were just beginning your art education, what would you say?
Juliette: Trust my instincts.
Franceska: How do you arrange your palette? Can you describe how your palette has changed throughout the years?
Juliette: I think the changes have been small. I used to use a very limited palette using only primaries and a white, and that was a great discipline because I had to really learn to mix. Maurice de Sausmarez who ran the Byam Shaw School taught me how to sensitize my eyes to colour nuance, based on the studies of Johannes Itten and Hans Hoffman at the Bauhaus. I owe everything to Maurice’s intense education in experiencing colour.
I added to my palette very slowly and methodically - I remember the exciting day I bought my first tube of cobalt violet! Then learning about the incredible differences between cobalt and ultramarine blue, and cerulean - they are such very different visual energies, and after years of practice my brush (or whatever tool I use) knows exactly where to find the energies I need on the palette.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years?
Juliette: Now I just love yellows, paint as much of my house yellow as I can, but that doesn’t mean that this is going to have a huge effect on my painting
Franceska: How do you feel about how artists now have to exist in a world of constant online imagery? If you could change anything about how we as artists get our work out there, what would it be?
Juliette: Having felt totally isolated in my studio for years, I actually find that the online world can connect me to other painters in a way that has never happened before ! I love to see the work of young and not so young artists in Europe and Asia etc.
Seeing the real thing is always far more exciting and revealing, but I will take the world of digital imagery over the poverty of abject isolation, which is often the lot of the pioneering spirits who cannot afford to live in any of the major cities.
Even then, so much that is showcased in our cities is more about the response to ‘art as commodity’ which is dominated by a false market driven by the collections of millionaires. I believe this has very little to do with the real creative folk who are speaking with authentic voices and possibly really affecting our world. If we can only manage connection on line, at least we have that!
Franceska: Thank you so much for taking the time these last two weeks to answer my questions and letting me dig even further into your life as an artist! I found myself relating to everything and smiling a lot especially at your love of yellows (being that I helped paint your kitchen yellow a few years ago!) I know that other artists of all ages will find inspiration in these interviews!
To learn more about the work of Juliette McCullough please go to her website:
To follow Juliette McCullough on Instagram please go to: @Juliette_McCullough
To follow Juliette McCullough on Facebook please go to: @PainterOnTheEdgeOfMystery
If you have any questions for Juliette McCullough please do comment on this post and we both will try to answer the best way possible.
*If you really enjoy these very inspiring artist interviews then please do follow this blog for artist interviews every Friday at 9am UK time.
This week I'm introducing you to my mother, Juliette McCullough, who happens to have a long history as an artist and is an enormous influence on who I am as an artist too. I've grown up with her artwork and relate to a great many of her works which are as familiar to me as a loved family member so it is for me very interesting to interview my own mother because her own artistic practice helps ground my practice in more than just imagery but also in music, words, people and places. It is her teaching practices, techniques and shared knowledge that I find my own footing as an artist in this world.
Here is part 1 of a 2 part interview with Juliette McCullough.
Enjoy & stay tuned next Friday for part 2:
Franceska: When did you know for sure that this was your life’s journey?
Juliette: From my earliest memories I was driven by this passion to dance and draw, and it was when I was rejected by the Royal Academy of Dance at the grand old age of 10 years old, (the only way into a dancing career at that time), that I had the first inkling that the visual arts was going to be my life.
The real decision came at the age of 19 when I found out that the experience of making marks was more important to me than my success or failure at it. This was a real coming to terms with the limitations of what seemed to be my artistic potential at that time, and, the realization that the process of visual discovery and expression was more important to me than anyone else’s opinion of what I produced. I think I came into this power only when I was at my most unsuccessful in producing or showing my images
Franceska: Where did you study, who were your teachers?
Juliette: I studied at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Byam Shaw School of Drawing & Painting, and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England as well as one year at
der Akademie der bildenden künste in Munich, Germany.
The teachers I really appreciated at Camberwell were Joe Dixon and Theo Mendez who both taught fabric printing. My earliest experience of design and drawing came through those teachers and they were great. Also at Camberwell, Anthony Eyton, Raphael Maklouf, Henry Inlander, Euan Uglow, Anthony Fry and for art history the inspiring, Michael Podro. They were all important in my development.
However, I consider the Byam Shaw School to have been the place where I leaned the most. It was then run by Maurice de Sausmarez and his brilliant team of teachers; they were the ones who really taught me to ‘see’. At the Royal Academy my most influential tutors were Roderic Barrett and Peter Greenham.
I was so fortunate in that my whole adult education was free. I had to win scholarships which I had to work very hard for; I was the recipient of two Major County Awards and other smaller scholarships, so I benefited from opportunities that no students have today.
All the teachers I’ve listed here were committed to offering the best in art education that was possible at that time. They were paramount in preparing me for the life I have today.
I also could have studied with Frank Auerbach but I was so conscious of my own undeveloped artistic self and his already considerable fame that I somehow thought I would be overwhelmed by the experience; a decision that I sometimes now regret.
However, the culture in the first two years of Camberwell today would give the #MeToo movement a heyday. My respected professors did not fall into that group fortunately.
Franceska: What was it like being a young woman studying art in London in the 60’s and 70’s?
Juliette: Some of my male contemporaries were happy to tell us that women could never succeed in art because art history proved to us that there were no women artists (it is only recently that women have begun to be included). The whole idea that a woman could succeed in the arts was thought impossible. One of my teachers told me, “Why don’t you go home and bake cakes.” It was such experiences that fired my determination to succeed against all odds.
For the first two years we enjoyed one day a week working in the London galleries and museums. Art history lectures were often given in front of the actual images, and teachers would sometimes just remove the class to the British Museum for example. In those days the museums were often almost empty….there were far fewer tourists, and we felt that the art world was there just for us! The vestiges of the second world war were still in evidence around the city, and I remember drawing on a bomb site. Architectural studies were often conducted sitting on cold London pavements looking up at ancient facades. We got to know and draw all the oldest churches. At that time they all seemed to be very quiet uninhabited places steeped in history, with Southwark Cathedral being one of my favourites.
Franceska: Compared to today’s young artists, what opportunities were there for you to get into the public eye?
Juliette: Luckily I don’t think we had to seek celebrity in the same way that young artists do today. For right or wrong it was accepted that life was going to be hard and that success in one’s craft was not the same as commercial success. There was a belief that early commercial success was detrimental to the development of the young artist. Opportunities to exhibit came through our schools, but being in the heart of London, even those exhibitions were open to large informed audiences. Of course there was no internet, or Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Reputation was built through word of mouth.
Franceska: What successes as a young artist did you have?
Juliette: The first time my paintings gained any recognition was from a small prize at the Byam Shaw School. The Royal Academy of Arts gave us many opportunities to compete for exhibition opportunities in the main galleries during that time. Initially I had a lot of rejections until my last year when I won a silver medal for life painting and sold a painting to the artist, Francis Bacon.
Franceska: What was that experience like, selling to a famous artist like Francis Bacon?
Juliette: One of my tutors told me that Francis Bacon had been in the galleries and liked my painting. The following day, he came down to the studios to meet me, unbelievably I was away teaching on that morning “so I missed my chance with one of the Lords of this life”. When I returned, my friends who were in the studio with him, told me about the encounter and relayed to me that he had said, “This girl is a painter”. Apparently Bacon asked what I was like, to which one of my tutors replied, “she is a feminine little thing”. This seemed to me at the time yet another little reminder of how we as women were not taken as seriously as we would have liked to have been.
This was the 1970’s and I was making figurative paintings at a time when it was very unfashionable. I felt as if I was swimming in the dark and didn’t know which way was up, so Francis Bacon’s words gave me hope that I might somehow be on the right track after all. It helped me come to the awareness that the only road for me was to follow my own intuition regardless of the fashions of the day. Apart from this I knew that this experience would not bring me any further opportunity, and indeed it has not. The act of making meaningful images remains the most difficult process I know, regardless of what might be considered successes, it is still always an intense struggle to pull the images out from my boots!
Franceska: Thank you for answering this first series of questions and I look forward to part 2 next Friday in which we will delve further into your life as an artist and learn about your current artistic practice.
Juliette's artist website: www.juliettemccullough.com
Juliette's instagram: @Juliette_McCullough
Juliette's Facebook Page: @PainterOnTheEdgeOfMystery
*To read more artist interviews and to follow up with part 2 of this interview please return here every Friday 9am UK time.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.