Artist Interview: Sarah Beetson

Sarah Beetson

 

I’m heading up to Australia next week for Supergraph 2015, and one of the artists who will be heading up a masterclass over there is Sarah Beetson, of whom I had the pleasure of interviewing! Read on about what makes her tick and how she ended up working with the fun people of Supergraph!

Name: Sarah Beetson
Website |  BlogShop 
Location:
Wongawallan, SE Queensland, Australia (I spend 3-6 months per year in the UK / USA)

Illustration media:
An inexhaustive list of materials which I am constantly adding to, but often includes paper, wood, photographic prints or fabric, spray paint, tissue paper and collage, Pilot G Tec C pens, acryl-gouache, markers, gel pens, crayon, stickers, vintage magazine clippings, beads, sequins, letraset…. and more.

Tell us a little more about yourself!

I was born in Manchester, UK and grew up in Cheshire, Cornwall, and London before moving to Melbourne, Australia in 2006, then to my boyfriends’ family farm in 2009, where I live in a converted dairy and have a giant art studio next door. As a child, my ambition was to be a childrens illustrator like Quentin Blake, and I would make my own illustrated, hand written stories a little along the lines of The Munch Bunch and The Garden Gang, both of which were illustrated by young girls. My grandmother ran a pub, so my brother and I spent our weekends there occupied with colouring in books and sketch pads. I studied Illustration at Falmouth in Cornwall, where I developed my signature style, before moving to London and interning in the fashion industry, eventually securing 2 agents and moving on to freelance illustration.

Are you a full-time artist?

Yes and no! I earn 100% of my living from illustration, working part-time as a talent scout for my agent, Illustration Ltd, and the rest of my time is spent freelancing as an illustrator and creating art for exhibitions.

 

Sarah Beetson

 

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

I live on a farm, which means I get to eat homegrown organic fruit and veg like avocados, macadamias, mangos, sweet potato, rocket and watermelon (and so much more!) on a daily basis! I have pet chickens who free range and will often spend the day hanging out with me in the studio (sometimes they even lay eggs in there, it’s a very creative place!) There’s also Mr Hoppity the wallaby who drops by daily, and a whole host of other wild animals like kookaburras, laurekeets, bandicoots and even the occaisional koala (on the downside, we also get snakes and spiders!) The climate is sub-tropical so we get sunshine most days, we are surrounded by rainforest and palm tress and the beach is a 25 minute drive. We are also really close to both Brisbane and The Gold Coast, so I have the best of both worlds in terms of city inspiration and uninterrupted peaceful working envoironment. My living costs here are low, which allows me to travel for 3-6 months of the year, usually to the UK but I also spend a bit of time in the US and Europe. My daily schedule begins with a yoga class, then I tend to work on my agency scouting job in the mornings, going into the studio in the afternoon to work on commissions and art projects.

Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start on a piece or a project?

I begin by brainstorming ideas and researching the subject in question. If possible, I will then do a photoshoot to get reference material to work with, or I will source images from my catalogue of photos, books etc or the internet. I always work from photographic reference – never straight from my head – I like to give myself all of the available information before beginning a piece. I will then create sketches, if for a client, once approved I will then beginthe final art by creating a background, working on paper, wood, photographic prints or fabric, often using spray paint, tissue paper and collage to form a background. I will then create the line work using Pilot G Tec C pens. The rest is a combination of an inexhaustive list of materials which I am constantly adding to, but often includes acryl-gouache, markers, gel pens, crayon, stickers, vintage magazine clippings, beads, sequins, letraset…. and more.

Sarah Beetson

 

What’s your favorite project so far?

Among these have been working with Stella McCartney in the early days of her label, working with Mary Portas at Yellowdoor, illustrating for major newspapers including The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Times and The Telegraph (UK) and The Miami Herald, winning the Creative Review (UK) Best in Book prize for illustration in 2011, being shortlisted for the 2012 Metro Award (a $50,000 Australian Art Gallery Prize), exhibiting at Somerset House, London, as part of Pick Me Up 2012, and being invited to exhibit “Rainbowspective” in Paris in 2012, showing the best of the previous 5 years of my work. Recently I illustrated Wonder Woman for Smithsonian Magazine which was a great honour, and completed a 3 month artist residency in Coney Island, New York. I am creating an ongoing body of work around Coney, my favourite place of inspiration, and I’ll be returning again briefly in summer 2015. I just finished a fantastic campaign for a very big client which I can’t disclose until July 2015 – but that one was also very exciting!

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

Sarah Beetson

I don’t usually have a sketchbook as such, I’m not quite that organised – things tend to end up all over the studio in parts. I did however keep one during my Coney Island residency, and some of the pages from it have been turned into a colouring boom which I’m launching at Supergraph in February (image above!)

Would you care to share your studio space as well?

Sarah Beetson

 

What or who inspires you?

I would say film is the greatest continual influence on my work. Particularly the films of John Waters have had a profound affect on my aesthetic, in that they have really encouraged me to find my own artistic voice and not be constrained or afraid to censor myself in any way. The 1993 classic True Romance has been very influential on me — I even named my Camden Market clothing label ‘Clarence & Alabama’ after the lead characters, back in 2003. It is the candy colored, sun-drenched, palm trees and cheap motels combined with Elvis, rockabilly and ‘white trash’ culture that has saturated my work the most. I try to take in two movies a day, and can often spend a day in the city cinema hopping and taking in five or six films.
Growing up in the 80s and early 90s definitely influenced my colour palette, saturated with rainbow, pastel and neon tones. I’m sure that the colourful cartoons and TV of the 1980s, like The Care Bears, Wuzzles, Popples, The Racoons, Teddy Ruxpin, Punky Brewster, Jem and The Holograms and The Garbage Pail Kids were a big influence on my later colour palette.
In terms of other artists, over the years I have enjoyed the work of Antoni Gaudi, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Julie Verhoeven, David Downton, Antonio Lopez, Jamie Hewlett and many, many more.

 

Sarah Beetson

Could you share with us your progression as an artist — compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?

When I first started out, my style was definately a lot more loose. I developed it by bringing together all of the different art materials I liked to work with, and combining them using the blind contour drawing technique. So early results were quite squiggly lines, and the drawing was much more rough. In the years that followed I have definately tightened up my drawing skills, and as a result, my work has a tighter finish. Here’s a then and now look at the difference:

Here’s what I did in 2001/2:

And here’s what I did in 2014:

Sarah Beetson

 

Sarah Beetson

 

What’s your favourite tool?

Hmmm, a toss up between Pilot G Tec C and Maica pens and Holbein Acryla gouache.

What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
I am happy for people to interpret it as they please, but I hope that it continues to stand out as fairly unique in an internet image led world of saturated same-same art and illustration styles.

Tell us a little bit more about your show for Supergraph 2015. What do you have planned? How did you initially get involved?

I met Mikala whose brainchild is Supergraph, a few years back through our involvement with L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Week. We met up again whilst I was exhibiting at the similar Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Fair at Somerset House in London, and we both mused that Australia needed something similar. I exhibited last year at the Inaugural Supergraph and it was a great success, so it is something I hope to continue to do annually. Last year I gave more of an overview of my work; this year will have a focus on my Coney Island project. I’ll be exhibiting painted polaroids, as well as creating bespoke versions for visitors to order onsite. I will have a Coney Island capsule clothing collection, more original artworks, and my onsite sketchbook available as a printed colouring in book, as well as postcards, badges, print leggings, scarves, saucy playing cards, and a plethora of other goodies.

What’s next for you in the coming few years?

More travel, USA and UK this year, possibly more exhibitions with a focus on graphic arts fairs both in Australia and overseas, hopefully some delicious illustration commissions with exciting brands and publications, and developing my Coney Island body of work further.

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Catch Sarah at Supergraph in Melbourne, Australia from 13 to 15 February 2015 at The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton – if you’re heading there, drop me a note and let’s meet up!

Artist interview: Mel Stringer

Mel Stringer

I had the joy of conducting an email interview with the lovely artist Mel Stringer recently – you might already be a fan of her work on Frankie Magazine, or her well-stocked and extremely popular Etsy shop; but if you aren’t, you might just change your mind.

Hi Mel! Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Are you a full time artist?

I am a full time artist, yes. It was a tad scary making the leap from part time to full time but every day is rewarding when you work for yourself. There are definitely days when I need to force myself to dig my feet into the sand on the beach or watch movies in bed though, a charging of batteries so to speak. There’s always so many possibilities!

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

I’m currently based in Brisbane, Australia. It’s a sub-tropical city with a healthy list of artists and musicians. I work from my home-based studio and I love it.

A typical day would be waking early, feeding my pug Grover, checking emails and clicking around on the internet. Checking my calendar and making a to-do list for the day. At the moment I’m really inspired to work when listening to 70’s R&B, so I’ll crank up some tunes and start working on packing orders, commissioned portraits or just scribbling and dabbling about – dreaming up new ideas in my sketchbook.

Then I’ll head out to the stationery shop to get supplies or the post office to mail stuff off. Most days I’ll bring Grover in with me but he won’t sit still.

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

Of course! Here are a few snapshots taken from my Instagram.

sketchbooks

I love your style – how did it come about?

I was brought up with such inspirational sources as my Dad who is a cartoonist himself, Disney, Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, Astro Boy, MAD Magazine, Sailor Moon, Don Bluth and those sorts of cartoons that most kids my age grew up watching.

As I got older my influences started to include artists like Robert Crumb, Yoshitomo Nara, Dan Clowes, Ross Campbell, Plump Oyster. A running thread throughout these artists was the way they depicted girls and women in their work. I really connected with it and identified with the shapes and figures they were putting down.

I started drawing my own body and face more and more after I left highschool. It’s a form of self love when I can be proud of what I see on paper and in my reflection.

You have a new book out – Cute Yum, published by Belly Books. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What was the inspiration behind the book, and how did it all come together?

Mel Stringer for Cute Yum

Mel Stringer for Cute Yum

I was approached by Belly Kids late last year about the possibility of working with them on a publication. I had a long think about what I would most like to make and what’s been bubbling up inside me for some time that I just needed to express. I decided on creating a huge collection of female fashionistas (both minimalist and ott) modeling their clothing combinations. That way I could draw my girls, my most favorite types of clothing and have it all in a big collection.

I was inspired by the Japanese street fashion book FRUITS when I found it in late highschool. Since then I’ve been so impressed by street fashion blogs and Japanese fashion. Cute Yum is my own version of street fashion photography.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

Girl Glue #2 is coming out soon, it’s a zine that’s focused on creative females that I put together. A few other projects being brewed too! I’m hopefully setting up a new studio in the near future soon, somewhere to spread out and get into my musical project Sparkle Gang as well.

In the next few years I can only hope to be happy and doing cool stuff that I love.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out as an artist/illustrator?

Stay strong, be brave. Everything else just happens naturally if you are truly passionate about your work. In saying that, I feel I’m still only just starting out so this advice is for me in this present moment as well.

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Thanks so much Mel! You can pre-order Mel’s latest book Cute Yum, published by Belly Books over here.

Silvia Celiberti: creating visuals for the brain and stomach

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I don’t get emails that pique my interests enough, but when Silvia Celiberti sent me one that talked about her illustrations for a new book called The In vitro Meat Cookbook – an intriguing publication about the future of laboratory meat and it impact on our society, culture and habits – I knew I had to see for myself what it was all about.

From Silvia’s description of the project:

In 2013 the world’s first lab grown burger was cooked. Nevertheless, many people still find it an unattractive idea to eat meat from a lab. And rightly so, because before we can decide whether we will ever be willing to consume in vitro meat, we must explore the new food cultures it may bring us.

The In Vitro Meat Cookbook is a project by Next Nature. I collaborated with the creative team in developing and visualising the wild recipes in typical meaty fashion (red ballpoint), with more than 40 “meta- illustrations”. The stylistic choice meant  to communicate further than what’s merely the pictorial aspect of the image; as somebody would when encountering something utterly new, foreign and mysterious, we tried tried to document the In Vitro Meat Cookbook future until its most idle details.

The In Vitro Meat Cookbook aims to move beyond in vitro meat as an inferior fake-meat replacement or horseless carriage, to explore its creative prospects and visualise what in vitro meat products might be on our plate one day.

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5432b9ac50bc361265fc3b35_dinosaur_leg_red_4

5432b9070282e4a60a0369bb_Pig_in_Garden_couple

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Her illustrations, using a red ball point Bic pen is detailed as it is beautiful in its outlandish suggestions (but is it?) of what the future might hold for such scientific discoveries. Her previous portfolio shows a mix of projects that shadows her passion in food, the environment, sustainability, and community that has led her to projects that somehow merge these topics together. As she so succinctly describes the intention for The In vitro Meat Cookbook:

The aim of the project was not to promote lab-grown meat, nor to predict the future, but rather to visualise a wide range of possible new dishes and food cultures to help us decide what future we actually want.

Go ahead and see her portfolio – and be wowed with not just her illustrations, but by her humour and yes, her brains.

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