Artist Interview: Sarah Beetson

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!

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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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.

The Pikaland Gift Guide for All Seasons: part 7

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The Pikaland gift guide for all season has come to the end – and to cap this year’s edition, I wanted to do a bit of recap of the books that I’ve featured here on the blog, which has been some of my favourites. They’ve opened up new horizons for me, inspired me and to a certain extent, changed my life. I still flip through them from time to time, and I do think that the ones here have stood the test of time. (P/s: this list is done in no particular order!)

Enjoy!

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Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

 

Lighter Than My Shadow (Amazon UK) is Katie Green’s first graphic novel – a tale of struggle and recovery; of abuse, betrayal and awakening. I’ve known Katie online for several years now and while I knew she was working on her first graphic novel about her eating disorder – I didn’t anticipate the range of emotions that bore into me as I turned each page. All 500 of it. I was curious, confused, shocked, angry – some of them all coming together in a flurry of emotions that caught me off guard as I devoured it in one sitting. It was beautiful, uplifting, and most importantly – incredibly brave of her to put her story out into the world.

Read my review here.

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Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists by Marion Deuchars

 

Marion Deuchars has done it again. In 2011 I reviewed her book Let’s Make Some Great Art (reviewed here) and it was a unique book which made me squeal with delight when I peeled open its pages back then. In her latest book, Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists, she reprises the original concept of inviting the reader (or in this case, the artist) to dabble their fingers into some paint and let loose in between the pages of her book.

You can read my review here.

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Birch field Close by Jon McNaught

 

The brilliant work of Jon McNaught is captured beautifully in Birchfield Close – a book that describes frame-by-frame of the suburbs in all its mundane glory. Each scene seems to blend into one another effortlessly, much as the day turns into night in places such as these – behind the subtle chatter of neighbours to the quiet unsymbolic passing of days. Throughout the book there’s no conversation; just sounds and noises against backdrops and textures of subtle color. Jon’s a genius.

Read my review here.

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An A-Z of Visual Ideas by John Ingledew

 

If you’ve been stumped for ideas on how to push the envelope in your work or to add context by twisting thing ups a notch, then you must, absolutely, get The A-Z of Visual Ideas:How to Solve Any Creative Brief. What this book does is to link, connect and inspire new ways of thinking and creative solving. From A to Z and start to finish, the book not only outlines how to breathe new life into your ideas, but show you many examples of how others have done them.

Read my review here.

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Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

 

Malcolm’s mind is like a giant repository of ideas, questions, answers, and the magic lies in how he tells and links all of them together. Facts that I never thought of learning are brought to life so vividly; facts that never crossed my mind and facts which seemed insignificant at the time — all of them were carefully dissected and presented in simple, layman terms. And in Outliers, he talks about success and the makings of it.

You can read my review here.

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Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

 

Thought provoking and written in a conversational style, you’ll feel as though you’re sitting down with Youngme herself for a chat about the topic of how to differentiate yourself from the crowd in Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. While the title sounds like a business how-to, she mentioned that this was precisely why she set out to write a book that eschewed the norm of dishing out one-liners and pep talk. Instead, she manages to maintain the interest of the reader to delve into the subject matter further to decipher for themselves the points she puts across so eloquently in her book.

Read my review here.

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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it for Life

 

First, a little background. Twyla Tharp is a choreographer who has created 130 dances for her company and many others like Joffrey Ballet and London’s Royal Ballet. What shines throughout The Creative Habit, is how Twyla talks about creativity in the way she knows. Although choreography is a different way of expressing one’s ideas through art, the formula to achieve creativity in all levels of your life is a common thread that binds all creative types together. Drawing, writing, performing, singing and even business — she doesn’t discriminate what field you’re in. Rather, she offers learning through her eyes and opens up the reader’s mind via her experiences.

Read my review here.

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How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees

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I first reviewed this book  in 2010, and a second updated edition was just released this year which contains updated information about the field of illustrations. The past 4 years has seen big changes in how artists market themselves (which is reflected in updated interviews), and they’ve added in sections on social media presence as well. \

You can read my review of the first edition here.

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Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? by Mark Todd & Esther Pearl Watson

 

As a simple start off point for wannabe publishers, making a zine is surprisingly simple, yet effective. Staple together (or fold) a stack of papers with your idea in it and you can get your message across to any audience you wish! As one who came from the glossy publishing world of magazines, I loved the smell of paper hot off the press. I loved flipping through pages of my hard work and seeing the eyes of others lit up as they consumed each page. As I struck out on my own however, I thought that would mean the end of publishing for me as I knew it. Boy was I wrong.

Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine opened my eyes to a world of zines and you can read my review of it here. It’s easily one of my most favourite books ever.

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How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith

 

How to be an Explorer of the World is Keri’s fourth book after so many other inspiring creativity-inducing books such as Living Out Loud, Wreck This Journal and The Guerilla Art Kit. I was always interested in the topic of creativity, and its many manifestations throughout my daily life, but Keri brought clarity to my thoughts and inspired me with one of the articles from her blog that first caught my eye: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.

Read my review here.

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And that brings an end to The Pikaland Gift Guide for All Seasons 2014! Thanks so much for sending your recommendations – you guys are amazing!

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