Friday, 27 November 2015

The Up and Coming | Interview | Dan Howden

Sometimes illustrations whisk you away to another place and make you daydream of unvisited locations. This week Yorkshire based printmaker Dan Howden had me fantasising of travelling alone and exploring more of my own city - his vibrant linocuts are full of adventure but charmingly 'normal' too. The London series focuses on his favourite but less-known spots in the city and if Wes Anderson did linocuts they would surely look something like this. Other series include inspiration from Kuwait and Cape Cod which have had me reminiscing of my favourite Pop Art period. These prints certainly iconify the standard. Dan is a recent graduate from Liverpool John Moores University and he's probably given me some of the most interesting answers to date so be sure to take it all in and check out his suggested illustrators. I'm SUPER excited to follow his journey and perhaps purchase a cheeky print along the way (the boy is a big fan too!)

Firstly, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you've got to where you are today?
I consider myself a fairly private person. I’m over-apologetic, awkward and often eccentric. I’m organised, a good runner, and I use hyperbole too much. I have an extremely small group of friends that I’m open with. This is perhaps one of the reasons why illustration has become such a prominent aspect of my life, as it presents me with the opportunity to create something tangible from my thoughts and get things off my chest to an audience who don’t know who I am. Hard work has been the vehicle that’s got to where I am right now. I’m happiest when I’m put to work and being creative and I strongly believe that boredom doesn’t exist. There’s always something that I can be doing and because of this, I make copious amounts of lists, which tend to litter my desk a lot of the time. 

You say you love the process of Lino cutting, how did you get started with this printing technique? 
In 2011, after sixth form, I did an art foundation year at York College. I arrived wanting to experiment as, prior to this, I’d only ever painted acrylic footballers. It was here that my tutor, Dan Bugg, introduced me to linocut. He had a fairly hands-off approach that I really appreciated. It took me a while to understand the basic technicalities of printmaking, especially the layering process. I didn’t have much patience but after weeks of bloodshed from catching myself on the blade and still without a firm grasp of the fundamental principles of linocut, I began taking off-cuts home to practice on. It was during this time that I taught myself how to etch and this laid the foundations for the technique I’m still using today, which I’d describe as unorthodox. 

Travel seems to play a large part in your work. Where do you take your inspiration for projects from and do you have a way of collating this?
Sad, I know, but I really enjoy traveling by myself. Some of my fondest memories are from doing this. Past experience plays a huge role within my work. Whether it’s being ridiculed at a party for playing Michael Bublè, an incredibly attractive waitress who I used to wait alongside, or simply gliding around Cape Cod on a chunky American bicycle, memories such as these form a rich pool of inspiration that I draw from. As a result, my work is often nostalgic and it is this, combined with my appreciation for western culture that steers my work. I consume an enormous amount of American content on a daily basis, from Beats 1, to NPC radio, SNL to Conan, through to Casey Neistat; all of these avenues mold my sense of humor and perspective. As is often the case with most creatives, ideas usually arrive throughout the day and as a result I’m often scrambling to write them down in the notes app of my iPod. This is where they’re collated in their rawest form before I transfer them into books, of which I’m currently on my 4th. But, that said, I’m not above taking a cheeky screenshot of something I see on Instagram that strikes a chord. 

How long does it take to create each piece? 
Naturally, the timeframe of each piece I do varies depending on its scale and the detail required. I’m obsessed with detail and therefore the duration is often closer to days rather than hours. But whilst this can take time, the biggest attributor is the number of editions I decide to produce. Due to the amount of colour I include, large editions are almost impossible as I use a reduction technique that gradually destroys the lino. Because of this, I usually manage 5-6 editions as overtime prints fall by the wayside and become practice sheets. It’s a large-scale process and on average each piece takes about 20 hours to produce, and that’s not including the time spent preparing the lino and drawing the crucial framework out beforehand.

Tell me what makes you different? Why should people commission you? 
I strongly believe that lino, as a medium, is becoming rather twee. It’s synonymous with folk art, Christmas cards, countryside landscapes, Hares and Birds. This was the landscape when I was introduced in 2011 and it hasn’t changed much, in my eyes, since. When I scroll through Instagram I see a lot of the same, and I believe there aren’t many people approaching the medium like I am, in a contemporary and adventurous way. I’m trying to do something new with linocut and hopefully people like what they see. As I mentioned before, I have a fascination with detail and this often culminates in me using a lot of colours and consequently, a lot of layers. It’s this aspect, along with my subject matter, that makes my work visually different from that of other illustrators. Because of the unorthodox way I learnt to etch, my work isn’t governed by many rules or boundaries. Those that are there, I learnt myself through trial and error during uni. Because of this, I feel my practice has a certain rawness to it. 

Although you got a first, is there anything you would do differently if you could start you course again? 
Having graduated in July, I find myself asking this question a lot! And the answer is yes, but only to feed my curiosity. I missed out on most social gatherings and events because I was too work-orientated. I could have been more present at times. In particular my first year. I must have been the only person who wasn’t aware that it counts for nothing as I’d been giving it my absolute all. Needless to say, when I discovered its lack of importance in January my effort eased up. This initial level of effort kind of set the president for my time at uni because I went with the intention of getting a first. 

Who would you advise that other illustrators and artists check out?
 I’d advise that other illustrators and artists definitely check out the work of Israeli animator and illustrator, Assaf Benharroch - his work with Studio Poink is fantastic. Chris Brown was a tutor of mine at LJMU and also teaches at Camberwell. His linocuts are ridiculous. Another Chris who’s fantastic is Chris Lyons. He’s been a big deal for a long time across the pond so I doubt he needs a plug, but he really helped me out with my dissertation and more recently gave me some great advice. His work, and moreover his ideas, are seriously good, and on top of that he’s a wonderful man. 

Finally, what is next on your agenda? Anything exciting coming up? 
What I do next has been the cause of much debate over the last month in my household. I had my heart set on doing a masters course in print at Camberwell, but they axed their one year course and I don’t want to be penniless when I come out so I’ve decided to commit everything to freelance. I did apply to the RCA on a whim but I’m keeping my hopes very low. I'll be exhibiting at the City Screen in York in early 2016 and there's the York Open Studio in April of next year for a fortnight which I’m really enthusiastic about. I’m also currently in the midst of doing some work for Intern Magazine which is exciting as f***, as it’s my first taste of proper "official work".

Thanks to Dan for providing all of the above images. You can see loads more on his website here:
Instagram: @how.den
Twitter: @NedwohNad


Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Interview | Skye Kelly-Barrett of Skull & Heart

Earlier this year I became pretty excited after discovering the unique online gallery Skull & Heart. I visited their last pop-up at The Print Space and came away with two wonderful prints that now take pride of place in my bedroom. I've had a bit of a girl crush on Skull & Heart founder Skye Kelly-Barrett ever since and was intrigued to find out more about her latest projects and hopes for the future.

Skull & Heart have just launched a kickstarter campaign to fund their latest project - an art book of their previous all female exhibition. Having already seen the talent included (but obviously not having enough dollar to buy everything) the book will be a welcome addition to my collection. There's a serious amount of girl power going on within the project and as a female in the art world it makes absolute sense to pledge to this worthwhile project. With all of the fantastic incentives on offer the only trouble should be choosing one but if you need any further persuading, just meet Skye below!

Can you tell me a little bit more about Skull & Heart?
Skull & Heart is an online & pop-up gallery based in London. We art direct and produce a limited edition screen-print series that is exclusive to S&H, as well as original and print based artwork. 

What about yourself? What's your background?
My background is in the arts - although it’s more theory based than practical. I studied Art and Design history [BA] and Visual Culture with Exhibition and Museum Design [MA]. Although I have spent most of my time in the fashion industry, I did work occasionally with artists, collectives and galleries during that time period to try and find a position that I could make a career out of instead of unpaid internships. I always knew that the art world was where I wanted to be and eventually I decided that if I was going to work in the field that interested me, with the artists that inspired me, I would have to start something myself - which is what I did and Skull & Heart was born.

You have a variety of artists on your roster, all with very unique styles. How do you decide what makes the cut?
The Skull & Heart ethos is to engage the public with artists and artwork that they may not have seen before, so I always make a concerted effort to try and have a good mix of emerging and established artists. I always loved the idea of fans from one style of artwork, or artist coming across the work of someone they might never have seen before and purchasing a piece of their work, or even just feeling inspired by that person and following what they do, that’s pretty awesome. 

In terms of picking artists, I suppose the reality is that all of them are artists whose work I love and want to show the world. Dealing with a variety of styles is always tough - We do work most prominently within the Lowbrow / Urban / Pop Surrealist / Illustration & Design world, and so we do have an aesthetic style to some extent, but I think we manage to make it feel broader and accessible to art fans of all styles. 

I love seeing work from new artists, and a few of the 'Hear Me Roar' girls were artists whose work I had stumbled upon, or had their work shown to me by chance ages ago - so it’s not really about "making the cut" but more about being the right artists for the right project! However, I will say, having a website is a must and will help me in considering you.

Your last exhibition 'Hear Me Roar' was female focused. What was the reasoning behind that?
The idea behind the show came from a conversation with one of my good friends and talented photographer who is featured in the exhibition, Shae DeTar. We were eating food, discussing life as a female in the creative industry, and she sort of said to me, “you know, you should be using what you have as a platform, you know all these great female artists; quit talking about what you want to do, and just do it!” 

The past projects and exhibitions I had done with S&H had been really 'male heavy' and it really bummed me out that I had curated the projects that way. I knew there were so many incredible artists out there, women who were killing it everyday in the business, out-pitching their male counterparts and producing beautiful, ballsy artwork. So I thought to myself, “right, if I’m going to do this, it’s going to be big and it’s going to feature the best artists but still stay true to our brand.” So that’s what I did, and 34 artists, 60 pieces later, 'Hear Me Roar' was born.


You've just launched a Kickstarter campaign to create an art book of the exhibition. Why Kickstarter?
We had previously used Kickstarter to help us produce our first book which was based on our first ever exhibition and screen print series 'The Colour Series' - During that campaign we found that it's a really great way to connect with like-minded people who may not already follow us or know about the work that we do! Kickstarter has this really amazing community vibe, were it feels like people really want to help out and see businesses do well with their projects. We have been lucky enough to meet some new customers and fans through our previous projects and hope to meet more with this one!

What’s are your hopes for the future and what can we see Skull & Heart doing next?
Our biggest hope is to have a permanent space in London - something we are always working on! However, until that is a reality we are currently about to finish the second artist led screen print series “Paradise” which is a black and white series, and we will be celebrating that by having an exhibition early next year (details to be confirmed) - There is talk about a second all-female show, which would be amazing and of course, a third screen print series!

Follow Skye and Skull & Heart on instagram here: @skullandheart @skyevkb and give all your money to the project here!


Monday, 16 November 2015

The Recommendation | Five best Christmas Workshops

With the end of November nearing it's probably time for me to have a little think about that little thing called Christmas. I'm  starting to get in the festive spirit; the glistening lights of Oxford Street are a welcome distraction when I'm stuck behind hoards of rather slow tourists (yes, I'm a Londoner.) After having such a great time at my last workshop I've pulled together the best of the rest to get those crafty fingers going as well as helping you with a little preparation. Click on the titles to see more!

1 |  Wreath making Workshop with One Flew Over at Another Country, 19th November, £45
Get your door Christmas-ready with Jess and Charlie of One Flew Over at Another Country's Marylebone store. The girls will show you how to create a fresh, natural and festive wreath and you'll leave with your winter foliage and the knowledge to do it on your own next year.

This one is a little less seasonal but I think it would make a fabulous gift as a workshop or if you give away your end product. On the day you'll learn how to craft a spoon from reclaimed timber and perhaps you'll be enjoying christmas pudding with your very own wooden creation!

So yeah, I'm kind of cheating here but what could be better than just one workshop when you can do loads?! Make your own geometric decoration for free or book in with Wool & The Gang to arm-knit a snood. There's plenty of other reasonably priced activities as well as stores to grab some prezzies for your pals.

4 |  Christmas Crackers with Paperchase, Tottenham Court Road, 2nd December, £10
We all know how terrible crackers can be so why not just make your own? This workshop teaches you how to make and decorate your own crackers adding your own handmade touch to the dinner table.

We know I'm a fan of this lovely lady and her mad scalpel skills so join her over a hot chocolate at charming cafe 'All You Read Is Love'. Create something truly crafty and impressive to give to your friends or just to decorate your own pad over the yuletide season.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Recommendation | Monotype x Eric Gill

Monotype is currently hosting an exhibition which presents the Eric Gill Series at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch - a must visit for any typography fanatics. The exhibition features material from Monotype’s archive as well as items from the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft and the Letterform Archive in San Francisco. There are ink drawings for Gill Sans Titling Caps (the first Gill Sans style), 10-inch production drawings used by Monotype to analyse and refine Gill’s drawings and a 1928 issue of Monotype’s Recorder magazine showing the first example of Gill Sans type. It's a dream for any budding graphic designers looking for some portfolio research or wishing to learn more about typography.

If you're not aware of Gill Sans then you must have your head in a bucket or just not be a type whizz (I forgive you.) The iconic font has been used by the likes of Penguin, the BBC and the Royal Society of Arts. You can also see it gracing newer brands such as  Net-a-Porter and Tommy Hilfiger.  The exhibition shows Gill's hand-drawn creations and his notes within the process which is delight to ponder over and something to get the mind whirring with ideas.

And it doesn't stop there. Monotype have remastered Gill Sans and Joanna as Gill Sans Nova and Joanna Nova - all to give them a little update and bring them into the digital age. They have also released a new typeface, Joanna Sans Nova, which combines the DNA of both of Gill's fonts to create a humanist sans serif. You can have a play around with all three of the fonts on the mammoth magnetic wall and be sure to hashtag #SetinGill

The exhibition runs until the 10th November with the last day featuring an event hosted by Monotype and Eye magazine. Described as an informal evening of type and conversation, Dan Rhatigan, David Hitner and James Mosley will present three different yet complementary aspects of Gill’s design legacy. Book tickets here.

Old Truman Brewery - 91 Brick Lane. T2. London E1 6QL GB

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Inspiration | November

There's nothing better than some Autumnal sun and last weekend left me feeling more than inspired. Who would have thought Center Parcs could provide such a sweet location for such seasonal colours? As well as riding the rapids and playing a spot of adventure gold I also took the time to be creative on the lake and to write in our cosy cabin. Maybe this will become a thing...

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