art

Marti Illustration

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We take the chance to talk about music, cartoons, techniques, influences and inspirations with Michaela Pointon of Marti Illustration, whose work is featured in Lodestars Anthology Canada (which you can pre-order here). For more of Michaela's illustrations, visit her website at www.martiillustration.com and follow her on Instagram @marti.illustration. Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained, how you learned, and what inspired you to become an artist and an illustrator when you were younger?

I’ve always been passionate about storytelling – creating something magical out of something not so magical seemed to be the thing I found most exciting when growing up. I grew up in Southport, which is a small seaside town in the North West of England and there was just something about it that fascinated me and made me question what was out there beyond the water.

I originally studied Fine Art in Southport as a diploma, and went on to specialise in Illustration as an A-level equivalent.  From there I went on to The Glasgow School of Art to do my degree in Visual Communication, which was the perfect course because it wasn’t tied to any specific skill and allowed me to explore different ways of working.

I was so lucky to be placed in a class full of really great and talented people, we were all very close and I’d say they were a huge influence on me throughout the four years I was there. It helped so much to belong to a group who also lived and breathed the things they were most passionate about.

Briefcase

You’re based in London – do you take the city as an inspiration?  Does it feature in your work?

I adore London, living here certainly has its ups and downs, but the energy of the city never stays still and I really enjoy that. There is so much see, and everyone you meet will have a story to tell about how they came to be here or their experience of the city and I find that so inspiring. There’s a real sense of determination and strength of character, which I love.

I wouldn’t say the City of London is featured in my work, but most certainly the journey I’ve had since living here and the people I’ve worked with along the way have influenced how I work.

You’ve mentioned that you’re inspired by mid-century design and travel – what is it about these themes that drew you to use them as an inspiration for your work?

For me, mid-century design is the perfect example of something being able to function in a beautiful and simplistic way. I love how bold and charming it can be just through its use of form and colour, I find that method of working very inspiring!

I wrote my dissertation on The Festival of Britain and just adored the psychology behind how things were designed for the purpose of healthy living and happiness. I think there’s so much to take away from that in our own lifestyles.

Terminal

You’ve travelled to some interesting locations, and produced work relating to travel – have your travels influenced you significantly?  Do you have a favourite country that you’ve visited?

Travel has always brought a change of scenery and a new experience. Everywhere you go people and places have a different story to tell.

I love the East Coast of Spain and have had great adventures in Greece, but I also feel a real connection to Blackpool and Glasgow, which are very contrasting!

I also enjoy illustrating places that I haven’t seen. The idea of creating a journey you haven’t yet experienced is a nice way of travelling on a budget!

India

You’ve worked across a number of different mediums and techniques, such as pen and ink – can you explain a little about the mediums/ techniques you use? Do you have a particular favourite?  Do you find that working with one medium/ technique helps, or feeds into working with another?

I think the medium you use can really alter how you express the things you’re working on.  I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories for my final year of my degree and found the words alone weren’t enough by themselves, so I began building installations to allow the reader to experience the sequences I played out in my mind when creating these stories.  Since then I’ve become much more confident in illustrating and realising that you can tell a story with just as much meaning and expression with the stroke of a brush and some ink.

Illustrating with a tablet has become second nature, but I’d hate to lose touch with my ever-faithful brush set and pastels, so I try as much as I can to keep that up.

Studio

Some of your work has a lovely, Picasso-esque feel to it – has Picasso ever served as an inspiration to you?  Do you have a favourite artist or illustrator?

That’s a really lovely complement!  His used of big bold colours and exaggerated shapes have always been huge win for me.

Satoshi Hashimoto’s work is incredibly beautiful, and I just love the subjects he illustrates. They’re very clever and a real treat.  I could also look at the works of Paul Rand, and Miroslav Sasek all day, every day and never get bored.

Mary Blair has also been a huge inspiration for story telling and vision. I could go on!

Peace, Doves

Your website mentions a fondness for Tom and Jerry, and your work can be quite playful – have cartoons been a significant factor in your work?  Do you have a favourite cartoon?  Is working in animation something you’re interested in?

Cartoons have played a huge part in my work. The further back you go the better they get! I’m fascinated by the work which was being produced in the 50s and the 60s because it adapted so much of its style to reflect design trends at that time. I’m still a big kid at heart and love that so much of what you find in the animation industry is created by people who are also living out that part of their imagination to entertain the masses, it’s a really lovely thing.

Disney’s 1953 Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom and UPA’s 1951 Rooty Toot Toot get a regular screening at home, not to Mention Ren & Stimpy!

Animation is something I’ll always be interested in, I’d love to be clever enough to make my work come to life, but I think I’d need some help from the pros!

You’ve mentioned Kryzsztof Komeda – do you find that music helps you produce your work?  Do you have a particular piece that you enjoy?

I love listening to music when working, it’s a healthy way to free your mind a little more when it’s rammed full of day-to-day admin. More recently I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts, they’re so great for learning on the go, especially if you just want something easy to tune into in the background. The Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast is top of my list.

Piano and Jazz

You’ve worked for a number of publications as well as producing personal work – do you have a favourite piece out of all the illustrations you’ve made?

I feel really excited about the things I’ve been lucky enough to work on so far, Lodestars in particular! The world of illustration is so exciting, and seeing your work in print is always a really special moment.

The great thing about working on editorial pieces is that it allows you to work on subjects you wouldn’t necessarily think to explore, so I’m learning all of the time, and that’s super rewarding.

Moonlight and Lipstick

Love, Mascara

Pollo

Dapper

 

Manhattan in the Springtime

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Words by Sarah Kelleher, Photographs by Liz Schaffer. Armed with a list of recommendations as long as my arm and travel companions who were already familiar with New York, I stepped off the plane at JFK.  My first glimpse of the city was suitably fitting – late at night, through the window of a yellow taxi cab I could see the outline of towering buildings and neon lights.  Exhausted by the flight, I had just enough energy to register the glorious eccentricity of the lobby at The Jane Hotel, originally built as a hotel on the banks of the Hudson River for sailors on shore-leave, complete with bellhops in maroon outfits with brass buttons, dark wood panelling and a pair of antlers.

Rising much refreshed from my bunk the next day (the rooms at The Jane were built to resemble cabins on a ship) I breakfasted in Café Gitane, next to the hotel’s lobby.  The décor is French, as the name would suggest, and the European/ North African/ Middle Eastern cuisine is delicious, perfect fuel for urban adventurers.  I was surprised by the continental flavour of the café, but came to realise that this is very typical of New York, a city that simultaneously wears its immigrant heart on its sleeve whilst remaining distinctly American.

After that first meal my feet hardly touched the ground.  I was lucky enough to be in New York in the spring when the city is at its most romantic, the square lines of tenement builds softened by the pink and white blossom hanging from the roadside trees.  A lifelong bookworm and confirmed geek, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to visit some of the city’s bookshops and took in the Strand, an enormous family-run independent bookstore, and Forbidden Planet, a famous comic book emporium.  Having satisfied one appetite I turned to another, and had lunch at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant and New York institution that serves tasty pierogi and sweet raspberry pancakes.

A visit to Central Park was in order, so I found my way to this oasis in Manhattan.  Central Park is just extraordinary – a long rectangle of green space carved out of New York’s urban jungle.  You can see the city’s skyscrapers closing in from almost all points in the park, but they seem curiously far away when you’re surrounded by so much nature.  A quiet wander up and down the paths, past New York joggers and tiny dog-walking Manhattanites, followed by a trip to Café Lalo of You’ve Got Mail fame blew away the last cobwebs of jet lag.

My first taste of the city was short-lived, as I had another plane to catch to New Mexico and a road-trip to complete.  Late at night, tucked up in my cabin bed at The Jane, I consoled myself with the thought that I’d be returning to New York in a matter of weeks on my way home.  When I closed my eyes, all I could see were skyscraper lights.

Two weeks later, and New York had progressed from the chill and damp of early spring to the first hints of summer. Returning to The Jane felt like a homecoming of sorts, and I wasted no time in ensconcing myself back in Café Gitane for a coffee and plotting session.  My first stop was to meet up with a friend who was serendipitously in New York at the same time as me; she suggested the High Line.

The High Line is a remarkable piece of New York history – a living monument to the city’s transport past.  Originally a railroad running on an elevated track through the Chelsea district on Manhattan’s West Side, it closed in 1980, only to re-open in 2009 as a public landscape.  Carefully planted with perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees, the planting design is based on the wildlife that sprang up after the tracks fell into disuse.  After ambling through Chelsea Market we ascended to the High Line; on a sunny spring Saturday locals and tourists were out in force, wandering through the trees and tracks and enjoying the views over the city.

If attractions such as the High Line and Top of the Rock demonstrate anything, it’s that you can always find a fresh vantage point to enjoy New York from.  There are so many ways to see this city, whether you’re at the pinnacle of the Rockefeller Centre, matching up the buildings with your map, or down on the streets, wending your way through beeping yellow taxi cabs.  In the evenings, though, I was after a different kind of spectacle.

At the top of my list for New York was written ‘must see the New York City Ballet’.  This world-famous, and world-class ballet company was founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948 and resides at the Lincoln Centre.  Balanchine, who served as Ballet Master of the company until his death in 1983, choreographed numerous ballets in which he pioneered a new, athletic style, such as Jewels, the one I’d chosen to watch.

I’d picked Jewels for a number of reasons: partly because it was typically Balanchine, energetic and thematic instead of having a traditional plot with a happy or tragic ending, and partly because I was drawn to the story behind the ballet.  Enamoured with the jewellery on display at New York stores like Harry Winston, Balanchine envisioned a ballet where the acts were named after jewels: emerald, ruby and diamond.  Each act embodied different types of music and ballet: the Emerald act was set to Fauré and was choreographed in the French manner, the Ruby act featured Stravinsky and a spiky modern American technique and the Diamond act was danced to Tchaikovsky in the Russian style.  Of all the sights I saw in New York, this was one of the most spectacular – the dancers leaped higher than I thought possible, and danced in formations that did indeed look like glittering ropes of jewels strung together.

I could continue to wax lyrical about everything I saw in New York – tea at the Plaza (decadent, luxurious), a trip to the Tenement Museum to learn about New York’s immigrant history and lunch at Tableau One followed by a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, where I stood, transfixed, in front of Picasso’s ‘Starry Night’ for a good twenty minutes.  At some point though, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything the city had to offer, that I had simply run out of time.  In the end it didn’t matter too much – after all, it wasn’t a case of if I’d return to New York, but when.

Ellis O'Connor

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Scotland Photographer Ellis O'Connor has an eye for the dramatic - soaring peaks dotted with snow, valleys that appear endless, gunmetal seas and a grey scale you can't help but adore. So it's rather fitting that she frequently makes dark and dramatic Scotland her subject. We had a chat to Ellis about her work, Hebridean focus and love of travel.

Can you tell me a little about your training and artistic background?

I am a Fine Art graduate with an honours degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. I am currently studying my Masters Degree in Art and Humanities based in Dundee, Scotland, where I grew up. I am a visual artist and specialise in photography, painting and drawing. I have exhibited widely and have recently undertaken artist residencies in the Northern Isles of Scotland, Iceland and was selected for the RSA Scholarship to Florence last year.

How would you define your style?

My style is based on the aesthetics of remote landscapes. It deals with different elements based on the land; the spirit of place, traces of the land and the sublime. All explored through a series of prints, photographs and paintings.

Within certain remote places there is a powerful atmosphere and through my work I invite the viewer to feel the [landscapes] presence ... and the textures and marks that we do not necessarily notice. My process of mark making, the washes and layers explored through my work are a direct way of showing how the unforgiving elements wear away the land. It all ties together to highlight the underlying meaning of the landscape and elements these vast places are exposed to. I also would say that my style is very bold in terms of capturing the overwhelming presence of the landscape and sublime mountains.

Scotland

Scotland

What inspires your photographs?

My photographs are inspired by travelling, mountains and remote lands. As long as I am travelling and venturing out to places that are unknown to me and far away from cities, then I will constantly be inspired. The intricate detail of the land, the atmosphere of the remote places and the feeling of being surrounded by nature and the wild environment is the main motivator that fuels and enriches my work.

What do you love about your job?

I love being able to go out to new places and capture them. It is a great thing being able to connect new people to a place just by the visual imagery that I put across in my work.

There is a certain drama to your work - is this intentional and where does this come from?

Is this intentional? Yes and no. I aim to capture the drama found within overwhelming landscapes, being out there surrounded by the mountains I feel a sense of heightened intensity and powerful atmosphere so I aim to put this across to the viewer. Also because these places are so staggeringly beautiful and present, it happens naturally that the photos end up with such drama; the place overall determines the outcome of the photograph.

Scotland

Scotland

Does travel influence your work in any way?

Travel is the only thing that influences my work. Without travel I cannot capture. As my studio is in the city, I find that every now and then I go on a road trip of Scotland here and there, to get new images, a new perspective free from the constant stimulation of being connected in a city and create new work! The wonderful thing about Scotland is that most of it is still very much untamed land up North, you don't need to travel far to get away from a city or even civilisation.

You've shot quite a lot of work around Scotland - is there something special about the scenery here?

Yes there is definitely something special about the scenery here. I was lucky enough to grow up in Scotland and with it's dramatic peaks and mountain ranges, layers of dramatic history embedded within the places and the magnificent lochs and valleys, it is simply stunning. I travel a lot to other countries and parts of the world and find a lot of inspiration to make work there but I am very much connected to Scotland.

Scotland

Scotland

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

I've been involved in a lot of amazing and inspiring projects but one of the best projects I've enjoyed recently being a part of was working on the Isle of Eigg (one of Scotland's remote small Isles) as Artist in residence with The Bothy Project at the very start of January. You can read my article and find out more about the Bothy Project on the blog here.

I found this very engaging and an amazing place to work. I was located in a beautiful bothy right on the North tip of the Island surrounded by cliffs and looking out to the magnificent peaks of Rum, I made a lot of new work there and most of my new photographs have come from being within that place. The thing I found most important was being off grid. As I had no distractions, it gave me the chance to just fully explore and connect with the island and make a brand new body of work. Also as it was right at the very start of this year, right in the middle of Scotland's winter, the weather was wild and there was not much light so it really pushed me out of my comfort zone in engaging with a place. Simply stunning.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

My advise for aspiring photographers is to find your niche. Find what it really is you are passionate and inspired by and create a new voice for that. Capture what it important to you and find your own style so people will be able to recognise the work. It is also very important to have a level of depth and meaning to the work, find what the calling is. I have come to realise that work with a significant meaning connects and resonates more with the viewer. Lastly, never give up on something you are truly passionate about!

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland