CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
JB: A celebration of urban life – almost everything, whether abstract or figurative, starts with drawing cities.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JB: I take my inspiration from the urban environment and draw with ink and collage directly on location. My interests range from architecture, streetscapes and the people who bring cities to life, to shop signs, vernacular typography and road markings.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
JB: I tend to work with torn paper and ink. I carry around my bags of scrap paper, sorted by color and use these directly on location to make collages. The starting point depends on the project – For Blackrock Sequence, which won the 2018 World Illustration Award, I started by making a series of collages and rubbings on location in Dublin. As I started to make and remake screen prints from these, a coherent visual language emerged and then I went on from that.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
JB: The pleasure in drawing from life and seeing beauty and inspiration in the everyday.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
JB: Lifestyle is an overstatement! I lecture in Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, 4 days a week, so that provides income and inspiration – it means I am constantly thinking about visual work, how to push it forward and of course seeing beautiful challenging work. Outside of that I out drawing on the streets or in the print room.
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?
JB: It helps to have a vague plan to get started, but the best work emerges from making, getting surprised and following instincts form there.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
JB: John Berger has said that “a line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen but because of what it will lead you on to see”. Irrespective of how any of my work turns out, the act of looking and drawing has enriched my enjoyment of the visible world around me.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
JB: No, certainly not style. However I think it’s important to be true to yourself and hopefully a viewer will understand what you found interesting.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JB: I see the world so much more vividly than other people.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
JB: So many – one of the best exhibitions I saw recently was William Kentridge’s Thick Time.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
JB: The tools we use change the way we see. For me manipulating materials with my hands is really important, but others use digital media brilliantly and inventively.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
JB: Yes, I love travelling – so many favorite cities I’ve drawn in – maybe Rome.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JB: Again so many – Raymond Carver’s Cathedral is a great short story for anyone who thinks about drawing.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
JB: Keep on making, keep on changing, keep on surprising myself. I take comfort in the fact that many of my favorite artists produced their best work in old age.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
JB: It’s something I have to do. I get a real sense of frustration after a few days if I haven’t made any work or started developing a new project.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
JB: John Prine – All the Best
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
JB: It’s all about thinking through making. There’s always room for chance, for accidents, for something to happen during the making that will surprise me and make the work more interesting.