"It’s funny, when I opened my Redbubble page I wasn’t expecting anyone else to show an interest in my work but it did give me a focus and a freedom to try producing new work, and also a sense of purpose for each final piece..."
AParry‘s portfolio is filled with meticulous portraits in soft pastel tones. Recently I had the opportunity in London to sit down and ask her about her influences, which include Edward Hopper, Francis Bacon, and filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s Stoker, whose sinister tone can be seen in Annette’s artwork. Join us below in discussion the darkest depths of Annette’s portfolio, with heavy doses of noir-surrealism and dark portraiture.
It appears there’s a use of 1950s and 1960s colours in your palette, could you talk about this? Do you feel as if there is a soft palette at work in your artwork? And has your palette choices always remained consistent?
It’s so interesting getting your perspective on my work—it’s something I’m not really conscious of but I can see the influence now you’ve mentioned it. I do lean towards that era, and a softer palette is my comfort zone. I’ve had a flashback of my art teacher telling me to use more colour and put more paint on the canvas. Softer and more detailed was always my preference but I do try to experiment outside my comfort zone now. I grew up around my grandparents and I’m still very close to them. They were teenagers during the ’50s and my mum’s childhood was the ’60s. I was exposed to that era and earlier from a very young age, particularly old Hollywood films. I think it’s definitely had an impact on what appeals to me today.
I’m thinking of “My Little Eye” but it’s also apparent in others, there’s a tendency towards gruesomeness in your work, or perhaps noir or surrealism, where does this inspiration come from? And what attracts you to surrealist works?
I do find myself drawn to slightly darker material and images with an underlying tension or quirk. I think the kind of artists we studied at school contributed, in particular I remember Magritte, Hopper, and Bacon. But even before that, growing up reading Roald Dahl and looking at books drawn by Anthony Browne, they are both dark and surreal. These themes lend themselves to cinema as well, which is a strong source of inspiration for me. “My Little Eye” was directly inspired by cinema as it is my interpretation of Park Chan-wook’s most recent film. It was originally an entry to a competition promoting the movie release, with a brief that included a short plot description and a trailer. Creating that piece was one of the few times I’ve had a clear vision of what I wanted to produce from the very beginning. The dark symbolism in the film tapped into what interests me and I felt inspired.
I enjoy how your artworks could potentially appeal to both adults and children, and that there is both wonder and sharp intelligence in single pieces – do you make work for any particular person or age group in mind as your audience?
The work I show on Redbubble is such a hotchpotch—quite a lot is personal experimentation, I don’t have one style on show because I’m trying out different techniques to learn something new. So in that sense the target audience is just me. But other work on there is specifically for someone else, such as gifts for friends (or their children) or discarded ideas I later revisit and adapt. It’s funny, when I opened my Redbubble page I wasn’t expecting anyone else to show an interest in my work but it did give me a focus and a freedom to try producing new work, and also a sense of purpose for each final piece—once something is uploaded I feel like I can move on and do something new because that piece is “out there” now. It still surprises me when other people take notice, whether commenting or buying something. It’s a nice feeling to know that others enjoy what I do. I think if I tried to produce work for “an audience,” if I tried to dissect what it is that appeals and to make work that fits, I’d end up second-guessing myself and getting nowhere.
I notice you’re also a production designer, which is very cool. Did you do formal training in production design? And could you talk about the bridge, or similarities between illustrating and production design?
I studied set design for three years at university. My degree covered designing for stage and screen, from an initial idea through to a finished set. I am now freelance and pursue set design as my main profession, working in collaboration with another set designer under the team name At The End Of The Road. As with any freelance job, work can be very inconsistent, so I also take on work individually as an illustrator along with part-time jobs. It gives me the best of both worlds.
When I was at secondary school I knew I wanted to do something creative with my life but didn’t have a clear idea of what that could be. I thought I would do an art course and go on to be an illustrator—I wasn’t aware of all of the options available to me at that time. I loved film and television but it wasn’t until a college tutor suggested theatre design that I looked into set design as a profession and found my degree course. The main similarity is that both set design and illustration are totally visual mediums. The process for set design involves lots of research before moving on to creating things like concept art, character and prop design, and technical drawings, which then moves on to 3D work like model making, all leading up to creating a fully realised environment via set construction and set dressing. Basically I turn my drawings into reality (hopefully, if it all goes right!). When you’re filming, however, this is all condensed into a 2D visual again on screen. Before university, I had never really used computers to create my artwork, I was very traditional, mainly sketching or painting. However, having to create concepts for set design meant I needed to find new ways of working that were quicker and easier to adapt.
I had to teach myself how to use different software and that has now fed in to how I create my illustrations, and vice-versa as experimenting with personal illustrations helps to improve my skills for set design. Also, set design is about incorporating other peoples’ vision for a project, which has helped me when working for my illustration clients as I feel I can more confidently interpret what they want.
What is one thing you think nobody knows about your working life as a designer and illustrator? Do you secretly dance in your studio? Drink 6 coffees a day? What is one secret in your daily routine of creativity that you could share with us!?
This is embarrassing, haha! When I’m illustrating I work from home, so I usually Liz Lemon it—my pajamas are daywear. I don’t have a slanket though so that’s something. And my headphones are a permanent feature—I spend my time listening to comedy podcasts like Harmontown while I work.
Could you tell us why you support Womb Cancer Info, specifically on your RB page? Have you been personally touched by Womb Cancer? I always like to ask when seeing donation or collaborative pledges such as your work for Womb Cancer Info.
My mum was diagnosed with womb cancer four years ago. Thankfully, she’s doing well now but we’d never heard of womb cancer before her diagnosis. From then on, we’ve been trying to raise awareness of womb cancer and our fundraising for research is ongoing. Four years later and a dedicated UK womb cancer charity is preparing to launch. Contributing my time and artwork is important to me as it’s my way of helping this cause.
Lastly, if you’re sentenced to life in prison (oh no!) and can only take three artistic supplies to make artwork with, what would you take!?
What did I do?! As I’m in for life I’m going to assume I’m not allowed a laptop and tablet, so I’ll go back to basics and bring pencils, a sharpener, and a sketchbook. Computer software has allowed me to speed up my process but I do feel sometimes that I’m neglecting the traditional way of doing things—at least in prison I’ll have time! Or I could take up sculpture and try to Shawshank my way out with a hammer and chisel.
Thank you so much, Beth and Redbubble for the opportunity to talk about my work. I love being part of Redbubble and am inspired by all the creative people who use the site.