In the first of our new monthly Q & As, we meet local illustrator Polly. She tells us about her artistic process, how lockdown affected her work and how she finds inspiration in the everyday.
What is your artistic background?
I originally trained in Fine Art and then went on to do a masters in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts.
What made you follow this path?
Both my parents studied Art in the 1960s, so growing up understanding the world visually was just part of my everyday life. It was a natural progression to go to Art School and just carry on being creative. There’s just so much to learn in the art world that I never really thought about doing anything else.
What is your creative process? What materials and techniques do you use?
What I most enjoy is mark making and mixing mediums. My process includes drawing with ink and oil pastel, painting with watercolour and gouache, printmaking and photography. I start by rooting through boxes of old textures and painted papers and selecting pieces that might be useful, then use scissors to begin cutting and arranging. It’s very messy! Generally tables and floors get covered in bits of paper, which eventually end up as physical collaged pieces, either glued down or scanned in and arranged digitally.
What inspires your work?
I’m interested in illustrating little moments found in the everyday - parts of our lives which might be rooted in British folklore and tradition, our relationship to nature and each other.
How did lockdown affect the way you work and create?
Before lockdown, my artwork had become secondary to my teaching roles . Being forced to slow down allowed me to really focus on developing projects that had been sitting in the pipeline. I finished illustrating a children's book which I began a year ago, and have taken the plunge to write my own children's book (about three children who creep down to the sea at night to celebrate the moon). I now come in and work in the studio every day and treat it more as a full time job.
Where do you work from? Tell us about your studio.
My studio is a converted shed at the bottom of our garden. I’m a hoarder, so it’s full of objects and materials. There’s often a grumpy cat lying about on top of all the bits of paper. My first studio space was a very small desk and light inside a built-in wardrobe: I had to shut myself in! So the shed is a huge luxury.
What is your favourite place to be for artistic inspiration?
The best ideas come when you’re doing something unrelated and quiet like walking. I get really inspired by seeing the work of other students, at exhibitions or reading books. The great thing about art is that possibilities are endless. You can spend your whole life discovering new ways of working.
Which artists inspire you, and why?
I’ve always admired artists who managed to cross over disciplines and produce work in illustration, painting and textile design. Enid Marx for her love of block shapes and interesting mark making. John Piper’s collages which have so much texture and energy. Edward Bawden for his bold, direct sense of line. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at the Omega workshops who managed to design, paint and live inside their artistic creations, merging life and art.
If you hadn’t become an artist, what would you have done?
I really enjoy mystery and true crime so I like to think of myself as a detective. Although I’m emotional and not logical, so would actually be terrible!
How do you find Frome, in terms of creativity and artistic community?
For a small town Frome is absolutely full of people doing interesting things. There really is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration that you can reach out and grab on to as people are so willing to collaborate.
Are there any artistic processes/disciplines which you haven’t worked in/with, but would like to?
Lithographic printing is something I’ve always wanted to try. It’s a very painterly form of printmaking, where you can explore mark making onto a stone plate. I am thrilled to have booked in to try this at Bat Print Studio at the Silk Mill, run by Michael Gill.
How can people see and buy your work?
Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/pollyalizarinharvey/
As well as tutoring on BA Illustration and Drawing courses, Polly runs local art classes for children and adults, which will return in the New Year: you can keep up to date with workshops and classes here: www.alizarinstudio.com