KS: This is a question that has been surrounding my thoughts a lot recently, especially coming towards the end of my time at university where I have explored so many different things. I do take a variety of approaches to my work, applying techniques of collage, printmaking and digital manipulation and processing. Predominantly however, my medium in its raw form is drawing. I’ve always found myself applying a sense of minimalism and subtlety to my illustrations – a running theme in my work regularly follows this sense of space and considered simplicity which I sometimes contrast to granular details and textures. A favorite medium of mine is ink, particularly Quink (Parker) typically used for handwriting. The dark media reacts in unexpectedly beautiful ways when applied with water, bleeding into colors ranging through from a deep blue to a warm orange. Through my choice in composition and medium I like to create visuals which have a sense of deep, thoughtful reflection.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
KS: A lot of my inspiration comes from my natural surroundings and musings on the past. I’m a pretty nostalgic person and so much of my work influences come from some sort of emotional source. My current work has taken considerable inspiration from East Asian Ink Wash paintings and Zen Calligraphy, both in terms of the drawing approach and the spiritual and meditative expressions. I draw upon an extensive amount of symbolism within my image-making, taking on elements of gesture and avoiding direct and potentially too ‘obvious’ communication.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
KS: It clearly varies from project to project, but starting off I will often research deep into my subject and surrounding areas – sometimes to the point of going off-topic! This process is really important for me; however, as it enables me to take on a broader picture and create stronger and more unique ideas through unexpected connections. Word-play and symbolism often drive my project forward. I’ll make notes but find special connection when making preliminary primary research through taking photos and making observational drawings in my sketchbook. I often develop or come back to these later in the project when I notice something exciting or applicable. Sometimes, when ideas begin to form, I’ll set myself a brief or set of limitations so I can steer through a clearer route of development.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
KS: A sense of calm. I am not typically bold or brash with my work. Graphic elements are rare and I’d like to think people will see the intensity within the reflective nature of my work. I hope to stir an emotional connection to my subject. My work in progress explores a sensitivity to introversion and relationship to the natural world – I hope to encourage a desire to escape and take pleasure in solitude and mindful disconnection within nature.
KS: To get things done, I like to make a ‘to-do’ list every evening for the following day, but every day is different of course. Some days I’ll spend reclusive at my desk in my room reading, researching and collecting together ideas… others I’ll be out with my sketchbook and camera on an initiated ‘field-trip’. My studio-space at university is beautiful and I really wish I’d spent more time there, being surrounded by other creatives is a real pleasure and source of feedback and new ideas. I’m there most days for several hours followed by a short walk back home or the nearby bar if I need new surroundings and to relax.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
KS: I’ve learnt that having a set plan is something I aspire to have for a stable mind, but it rarely follows that direction. I now allow myself the option of spontaneous decisions – these spur-of-the-moment experimentation will often lead to my more exciting ideas and outcomes. Starting out, I would say acting on impulse and letting ideas come is more effective – but there comes a point, depending on potential deadlines, that a more rigid route has to be set to focus my mind.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
KS: Don’t be precious. Try not to overthink. Simplifying things can make the work stronger.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
KS: In short, no. Thinking about ‘style’ can make your work narrow-fielded at times. Where there is undeniable strength in honing a style, there shouldn’t be pressure to stick to it – take your inspiration and visual outcomes to heart and have confidence in your own work. We create our own individual realm – we are all undoubtedly unique.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
KS: Comparison. Competition is fierce with other artists to ‘do well’ and gain success. But what is success? We are constantly bombarded with visual information and inspiration from the world and it can really obliterate self-esteem if you regard other’s work higher than your own. Talented individuals are everywhere, but its about subjectivity. Sure, you may not have the same skills as someone you admire – there is nothing wrong with that. But you are your own person, with your own talents, with your own admirers. You cannot aspire to be something/someone you are not.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
KS: As an artist, you see the world in a different way. I love how we can pick up on the beauty in things and critically analyze and obsess over details in a totally creative way. You see art forms everywhere and I love how the seemingly mundane can have the possibility of driving a new imaginative idea.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
KS: I am constantly inspired by my creative peers but I’ve found particular inspiration from figures who defy the mainstream: Photographer Ansel Adams and the pioneers of self-publishing and zine culture in literature and art – people who go about what they do and disregard the pre-conceived format or approach.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
KS: It’s an entirely new medium and developing creativity in unexpectedly innovative ways. I really appreciate it as a tool for my practice. I can see it both as a competitive threat and a way to also promote and add value to the more ‘raw’ and traditional art forms. Technology is great, but something textured and real can be lost through making work digitally for example. Virtual images have no physical presence and could be argued as losing some emotional connection to us.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
KS: Definitely. The amount of times I have stopped to look, photograph or draw something a regular person would not have noticed/appreciated are uncountable.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
KS: I love escaping to somewhere new. Typically, I’ll get away from people and into the British countryside. I love taking trips to London; however, despite its demanding and busy atmosphere – it’s a buzz. I haven’t actually traveled much outside the U.K., but following university, that is set to change….
KS: I really admire the work of Rebecca Solnit, especially her book ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
KS: I’m in the process of making my own prints and publications to sell on at fairs and art markets but I hope to extend my reach freelancing as an illustrator and graphic visual communicator. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at album cover artwork and design for publishing, but I also have plans for collaboration and adding scale to my work.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
KS: Creating and freedom of expression and a way to share a voice and visual message. I feel like art can touch people in a way that words can’t – we construct our own meaning.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
KS: Small Memory –Jon Hopkins
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
KS: Stay calm and reflect on it. Thank you.