I’ve been pondering a question somebody asked a little while ago that has appeared back in to my thoughts, “Do you ever get bored of drawing plants?”. I’m not sure why I’ve started thinking about this now, but maybe it’s something my own mind feels I need to answer now. The short answer is no. In a way, I’m not just drawing plants, I’m taking different elements of plants, insects, sealife, animals etc, and however loosely or closely based on their original sources they may be, I’m combining them into something else entirely. In another way, drawing plants is exactly what I’m doing.
For me this process is much more than studying and illustrating a plant in a way similar to botanical illustrators. While I adopt their methods to an extent, I’m giving myself the artistic license to go beyond illustrating an existing plant specimen, and allowing myself to graft various organisms together into a completely imagined specimen. By omitting real life and scientific limitations, it means I can delve more into the realms of the imaginary and the fantastical with the drawings. It isn’t completely clear if these specimens are plants, animals, or something in between. That is part of the process of creating these hybrids that fascinates me, and drives me to continue to draw and evolve these odd specimens. Considering how they may survive, feed, move around, gain energy, reproduce; these are all things I’ve really begun to think about while creating these drawings.
I started out with this idea by simply drawing them for their aesthetic qualities, drawing these specimens purely because they looked unusual and alien. I hope that during my residency that I moved the idea further along and started to think about what these hybrids are, and why I’m creating them to begin with. During my residency I did this by examining the hybrids as if I was an explorer, encountering these specimens for the first time, and these drawings are the first steps I have taken to study and observe them. How can I develop this further? I could continue examining them as this explorer, going into more and more detail with the specimen “studies”, what the habitat of the specimens could be and which adaptations correspond to which habitat and climate. I could also make this project into something that comments more on our existing world, using it to question our use of science to manipulate genes in plants, such as gene manipulation and modification ; whether its wholly good or could have possible unseen consequences. These specimens could be one of the unforeseen consequences, a possibility in the near future if we continued to genetically modify plants, similar to how Science Fiction is used to present possible futures, however likely or unlikely they may seem.
Recently some new studio’s have opened up at an old ceramics factory site within Stoke-on-Trent, which is great for building up the cities artist community that is currently expanding (exciting!). I am very happy with the studio I have now, the rent is so cheap I don’t think I could find a studio cheaper anywhere else; apart from the possibility of the attic at home, which needs a lot of work to make it usable. However I think it’s useful to have my studio away from home, so I have somewhere to commute to and get into the right frame of mind to begin making artwork. There are so many distractions at home that compete for my attention.
I find that I am still in the ‘settling in’ frame of mind, as I’ve moved the furniture around in the room quite a few times now. I just need to find the layout that works for me, and I think I’m almost there. I’m currently obsessively looking through images of other artists studios on Pinterest, to gain inspiration for my own as well as to admire and envy their spaces!
Here is a panoramic photo of my new studio. It’s a difficult room to photograph, with high ceilings and with it being quite small – although not too small! I took this photograph stood behind my work desk, that you can’t see in the image. The windows are great, a lot of natural light gets into the studio day round, and when it’s sunny the sun shines directly into the room from early afternoon onwards which is lovely.
I plan on installing some shelving to create a bookcase within the small alcove area behind the door, it’s currently space that I can’t really use and I feel that this is the best way to make the most of the features of the studio! I have a lot of books that need shelves, and this may be finally the place I can keep them all!
It’s been a long while since my last post here, I didn’t intend to leave it quite as long as I have to post an update, but as many here are aware life does have a habit of getting in the way of things sometimes!
After the residency at AirSpace Gallery I decided to take some “down time”, a month long break from creating work, and instead started to think about where I want my work to go next. The residency opened up so many different possibilities that I realised I needed to take the time to consider what exactly I want from my work now. I tried to jump straight back into creating work after the residency, but I noticed quite quickly that I felt as if I was creating for the sake of creating, with no clear direction or purpose.
Since then I have also acquired a new studio space! I am happy to say that it is still within AirSpace Gallery, as I’ve gotten to know all of the studio artists and directors so I felt it would be a great place to have my first studio space outside of the residency/university setting, a space that I can really call my own. Now that I am fully moved into the space, I have started to slowly get back into the process of making work. I started creating collages from existing materials, from photocopies of plates from Ernst Haeckel’s book “Art Forms of Nature”, and other books in my library such as “Biophilia”, and Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs of natural forms. I began simply cutting and pasting thee existing image sources together to create more hybrid creatures, as it may lead to more ideas and forms I wouldn’t have thought of myself if I started drawing from my own mind; since I started drawing the hybrids I have a lot of different forms ‘stored’ in my mind, but it is always essential that I keep expanding my ideas.
Since I moved into a new studio, I also decided to celebrate by buying a new studio mug! It’s rather fitting since I decided to stay within Stoke-on-Trent to continue my practice, as the mug was also created right here in Stoke by Emma Bailey Ceramics, sporting The Art Dept. Stoke logo!