Artist interview: Sarah Dennis

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I was attracted at once to Sarah Dennis’ paper-cutting work when she sent me an email – and so I invited her to talk a little bit more about her process! I enjoy seeing how others interpret their style in various ways, especially if that means going for your strengths instead of measuring yourself against other people’s standards – like what Sarah has done.

Name: Sarah Dennis
Location: Bristol, United Kingdom
LinksWebsite | BlogShop

Tell us a little more about yourself!

Well, I have red hair and I feel like the red fox is my spirit animal! I  love orange, green and turquoise and seeing these colours together makes  me just so happy. If you were to take a peek into my wardrobe you would  find only these colours in different combinations. I feel like I can  speak fluent french but in truth I can’t speak a word, I just like to  pretend. I also like eating, cycling and dancing!

Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what  is your daily schedule like?

I live in Bristol and I love it here! I have just bought my first house  with my boyfriend Tom, so it looks like I’ll be sticking around these  parts. I moved in just the other day, so my daily routine is a little  unsettled. In the flat where we used to live, I worked from home. I had  turned the downstairs dining room into a studio, which was great, it was  a nice big space with loads of light. Tom also worked at home some days  so I didn’t get cabin fever too badly. Our new home is quite old and in  need of some serious love, and I keep getting distracted sanding  floorboards and digging up the garden, so I’m currently on the look out  for a studio in Bristol. It will be really nice working around other  artists again. Bristol is the perfect place to be a freelance  illustrator, there are lots of artist studios and support networks with  lots of opportunities to collaborate with other people in the community.

 

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Are you a full-time illustrator? How did you begin finding work/commissions?

I am. It was initially quite hard to find enough work but in the last  few years I’ve been managing to get by on my illustrations, which is  great. For the first few years I had a part time job as well, but I  never felt like I was fully applying myself as an artist, so I got my  portfolio up to scratch and decided to dedicate all my time to making it  work. I put a great deal of effort into sending out postcards, writing  emails and connecting with as many people as I possibly could. Slowly  the commissions started to come in and it all snowballed from there. It  was a great feeling to be finally working on projects that I had dreamt  about while at university. I still have the occasional quiet patch, it’s  the nature of being freelance but it always passes and it gives me  valuable time to set myself personal projects and work on my artwork.

Your portfolio is filled with paper cuts as your medium of choice – what  led you to it, as opposed to other medias?

I have never been great at working with paint, I would always end up  with more of it on my hands and on the floor than I would on the paper.  I’m capable of making quite a mess so I like working with a materials  that won’t drip or spill. The good thing about paper is you can make a  mess but it doesn’t stain the carpet! And the result is very neat which  I like. When I was at university I did more collage based work, I used to  collect envelopes, wallpaper samples, old books or whatever I could find  and would make my illustrations either digitally or by hand. It was  after I saw a great exhibition at the Bristol Museum on oriental  artwork, where I discovered Chinese paper cutting, my head exploded with  inspiration. After this, I started adding more and more detail to my  work and using a paper cutting technique within my art and illustrations.

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What’s your favourite project so far?

Last year I was lucky enough to publish my first children’s book  ‘Cinderella’. This book is like no other I’d seen before. I designed the  book so that between each double page spread is a delicate paper-cut  page which interacts and cast shadows over the background illustrations.  It has always been an ambition to publish a children’s book and I was so  thrilled to be able to combine my illustration’s with my paper cutting  skill. Its was very satisfying to hold the final book and to see it in  shops.

Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

I do, although for my more detailed artwork I normally develop ideas on larger bits of paper to get the sense of scale right. But the sketch book for me is about about keeping a personal doodle diary and sketching  down ideas that emerge at random times.

 

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What or who inspires you?

I love nature, sometimes just watching a documentary will inspire me to  create a new piece. I’m really interested in the natural patterns that  emerge in nature: from the fractals in Romanesco broccoli to the  flocking of birds and fish. I also love to think a lot about the  incredible journeys that creatures make to survive. I have recently  discovered an artist, philosopher and professor called Enest Heckel. In  the 19th century he discovered and named thousands of new species. He  has hundreds of detailed illustration of marine creatures. I have  recently bought a selection of books all about his work, the detail,  composition and alien nature of some of these creatures just blows me  away. His work has inspired me to take an even deeper journey into the  ocean.

What keeps you motivated?

I have done a few different jobs in the past, and I know that working freelance as an artist and illustrator is what I want to continue to do.  I believe the harder you work on what you love the more likely you are  to land your dream project and have success in your career. I also read  a lot of design blogs and talk to other artists, friends and family who  help me keep focused and motivated.

What’s your favourite tool?

The scalpel, can’t live with out it.

 

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Where do you see yourself within the next few years?

I see myself in my new home, hopefully not surrounded by boxes but in a  lovely space that I have created to live in. I hope to a have a new  studio space thats large enough for me to start making large paper  sculptures. I have recently started running paper cutting workshops and  would love to have my own space where I can run classes and even have a  space that other artists can use to teach their own workshops. I hope to  be working on new and challenging illustration project’s as well as  having my own shop on my website, not just selling prints, but lamp  shades, cushions and cards.

What will be your dream project or collaboration?

I have starting planning a project where I work on a larger scale on a  theme of jellyfish and light. My dream is to develop these ideas as part  of an artist residency in Japan, I love paper and have begun a journey  into finding the perfect paper to work with. I’m really interested in  Japanese washi paper, I would love to learn the process of making my  own. I feel that making the paper from scratch and knowing more about  the material and its history would really benefit my practice and feed  my knowledge of working with paper and progressing as an artist.

 

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Tell us something random about yourself!

One of my favourite creatures is a kakapo, its a flightless bird which  almost looks like a cross between a parrot and an owl. Its only defence  mechanism from predators is to stand still pretending its invisible.  Unfortunately this tactic has not worked out very well for the poor  kakapos and they are almost extinct. I adore them, I have made myself a  kakapo plush toy which sits in my room and looks after all my things.

Thanks so much Sarah!

Work / Art / Play 2014: Registration opens next week!

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Folks, it’s time to hang on to your horses.

If you’ve been wondering when my Work/Art/Play online course will be opening its doors again, wonder no more – the date is set, and it’s going to be next week. The 25th of August, to be exact. The inaugural program we did last year was a success, and I can’t wait to re-live the experience with new students! For those of you who sent me emails asking when it would come again (there’s quite a few of you!) the nail-biting waiting period will be over soon. To make sure that you’ll be among the first to know when that happens, head over to the Work/Art/Play website to sign up to be notified. It’s going to be a good one, I can promise you that!

Watch this space for more details, and until then, have a great weekend folks!

Inspiration: Optical illusions

I have a love for optical illusions. Maybe it’s the fact that I like to figure things out a little – a sense of mystery behind a piece of art is a great thing. But when you add a surprise factor into it, a work of art can truly be an engaging experience.

I’ve been spotting amazing optical illusion works of art lately and these are a few that caught my eye:

Felice Varini

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What’s amazing about the Swiss artist Felice Varini is that he started creating optical illusion installation/in-situ paintings in 1979. If you think that his work is mind-boggling right now, think of how it must have looked like in the 1980s. He uses a projector and stencils to create perspective-localized paintings in rooms and other spaces. [Via]

From Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. Varini argues that the work exists as a whole – with its complete shape as well as the fragments. “My concern,” he says “is what happens outside the vantage point of view.”

OK Go – The Writing’s on the Wall music video

With perspective as its theme (both in it’s music video and the meaning behind the song), I was glued to this music video from start to finish.

From NPR:

The one-take video was done on a single handheld camera, with 28 different illusions set up in the giant workspace in Brooklyn. The setup took about three weeks to build, involving over 50 people.

Alexa Meade

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Art is when something old is made new again, and in this instance, Alexa Meade’s work of art is alive, and well, breathing. Instead of merely painting portraits onto canvas, she’s turned people into works of art by painting on them directly – I liken it to a reverse artistic take on the movie “A Scanner Darkly” (in which live actors were re-rendered in digital form to create the movie). [Via]

Oleg Shuplyak

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Ukrainian artist Oleg Shuplyak creates oil paintings that feature the portraits of famous figures hidden behind a seemingly normal scenery. It’s not hard to decipher though, and these portraits are easily recognizable – I found myself trying to piece together the entire picture after I’ve picked out the faces instead. It is during this time that I can truly appreciate his work although unseeing things can be tough! [Via]

Damien Gilley

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Portland, USA-based artist and educator Damien Gilley reconfigures built environments by giving an alternate view of what could be. Empty walls (along with their fixtures) become a pathway into a whole new world; one that can be seen but never entered. His style – though simple and plays on the depth of vision created by lines – is one that offers a mysterious scaffolding to be filled in by thoughts of one’s own. [Via]

What about you? Have you seen any interesting optical illustion based art recently? Which are your favorites?

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