Michelle Harvey is WOLFSKULLJACK, an artist living and working in the United Kingdom. Michelle has a passion for drawing skulls, werewolves, and anthropomorphized animals. With a background in Fine Art, Michelle’s love and exploration of traditional folklore makes her the perfect artist to speak to in the lead up to Halloween. Be sure to support Michelle’s artworks at her shop.
“I find drawing teeth and fur really soothing, so spending all day inking a big brute werewolf monster is one of my favourite things to do!”
How did you get into making art?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember! I would draw constantly! The only time I ever got a detention in school was for drawing foxes during a history test and then my punishment was to stay behind and draw my teacher a dragon! She complained that the feet were too big which at the time I thought was rude, but now thinking about it the feet were too big.
I did an AVCE Art and Design qualification in my home city of Oxford, England, and then did an Illustration degree at the University of Gloucestershire. Then like the majority of new graduates, I fell into soul destroying call centre jobs for 6 miserable years to pay the bills and rent! I still continued to draw during this time, but staying motivated and creative whilst being dead inside was very difficult. It wasn’t until I was made redundant almost 2 years ago, when I took the plunge and focused on art full time.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Keeping continuously inspired and keeping your work fresh is not easy. An artist’s muse needs feeding and quite often I do find myself in an artistic rut! When this happens I find it’s best to seek out new artists and films or to actually go outside! My friend’s call me a “hermit crab” because I sometimes don’t leave the house for days because I’m working on art. I also prefer to work at night! This is great for productivity but it is slowly turning me into a socially-inept skull obsessed weirdo who hisses at traffic! This is really unhealthy and a habit I am actively trying to break!
Animation is a probably the biggest source of inspiration style wise. I am a huge Studio Ghibli nerd and epic films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke blew my tiny mind when I saw them for the first time! The level of detail and character development are outstanding. Every time I watch a Ghibli film I spot something new in the background! What I love about Ghibli films is that they do seem to question our relationship with nature and the environment which is a huge theme in my personal work.
What is it about wolves and skulls that you’re so interested in?
As a child I hated being human and used to honestly believe I was a wolf in human shape! I knew that we were animals but found it frustrating that other children didn’t seem to value the lives of other creatures. I remember crying once because another kid set fire to an ants nest and took pleasure in killing them. I don’t think I’ve ever really shaken that feeling of isolation towards my own species. As an adult I like to explore the hostile relationship with man and nature in my artwork. Once you strip away the skin and flesh of animals you start to notice similarities between the shapes of their skeletal structures. A tiger’s claw bones look remarkably like human hands. It’s this idea that we are made from the same materials that connects us to the world around us. I think as a dominant species we have a responsibility to look after the environment and other living things and although we like to think ourselves as above nature, we are still apes!
What’s your favorite animal skull to draw?
I like all skulls! Antlers are really fun, but I like to draw sharp teeth. I have a whole bunch of skulls that I’ve collected from various people who have found their remains, cleaned them up, and sell them online. I find this collection very conflicting with my morals as an animal lover. Part of me finds this disturbing and distasteful to keep severed animal heads on my mantel, whilst the artist part of me sees it as honouring the creature by creating artwork that’s been inspired by its death. It’s an on going battle in my brain!
"My friend’s call me a ‘hermit crab’ because I sometimes don’t leave the house for days because I’m working on art. I also prefer to work at night! This is great for productivity, but it is slowly turning me into a socially-inept, skull-obsessed wierdo who hisses at traffic!"
What is your process like?
My personal work doesn’t always have a plan! Most of the time I start of with drawing a face and the rest comes into being about 6 hours later! Quite often a piece will be determined by my thoughts and emotions at the time. Typically I make a loose sketch using a mechanical pencil on watercolour paper, and then ink away using a fine liner. The drawing will often divert and evolve from the original sketch and sometimes the final piece looks nothing like how it was originally intended!
Depending on how large the drawing is, it can take anywhere between 3 hours to 12 hours on a piece. Once the inks are finished, ill scan this into a computer and play around with the inks in Photoshop. Sometimes ill add flat colours but this can distract from the inks which is why a lot of my work is black and white!
I then have the option of selling the original on my Etsy store, and then making prints, clouting and merchandise on Redbubble!
I absolutely love “Brawl Like A Bitch,” where did the idea for this come from?
Brawl” was inspired by the UFC’s woman’s champion Ronda Rousey, who seems to be absolutely unstoppable at the moment! Her latest slogan “Dont be a do nothing bitch” has inspired hundreds of young girls and woman to strive to better themselves and I think that’s fantastic.
Although I’m not personally invested in mixed martial arts, you have to respect a strong woman who has an Olympic medal in Judo and can break your arm in under 20 seconds! Although the majority of my work is inspired by other themes, this particular piece is about female empowerment. Has drawing and creating artwork been empowering for you, and what’s your favorite thing about starting a new work?
Creating and drawing is more of an outlet and is certainly a huge part of my identity. It’s a good way to express yourself! My favourite thing about creating a new piece is the relief I get when it’s finished! Sometimes a drawing can take days to complete.
Okay, I have to ask can you tell us about werewolves, why do you like them and what’s your favorite thing about them?
Again, I think the werewolf obsession is another exploration of the connection between man and beast. Plus, look at them! They are kick ass! Who wouldn’t want to sit around and draw werewolves all day? I find drawing teeth and fur really soothing, so spending all day on inking a big brute werewolf monster is one of my favourite things to do!
Do you have a studio?
I do most of my work in my living room on the sofa! I don’t know what it is about desks but I despise working on a desk. It’s possibly the connotations to school and an office environment that I find so repressive! However this way of working is not fantastic for my developing mutantlike posture! I get terrible back aches! Right now I am renting a one bedroom flat so there isn’t exactly space for a studio, but one day I hope to get a big enough place where I can have an actual room dedicated to art. Right now, I have an art cupboard.
What are you planning on doing for Halloween? Are you going to celebrate?
Yes, my friend is actually planning an Octoberfest, Halloween, Octoberween party and I’m helping out with decorations.
A few of them may be dressing up as zombie Bavarian beer maidens and cooking up German food and drinking German beer for the occasion! I’m still trying to work out what my costume is going to be. His parties are the best. The last one I went to had a pole in the living room, a fire pit, and a paddling pool full of jelly. There is nothing more surreal than seeing a grown man dressed up as a bear, and another man dressed up as a banana, fighting in a children’s paddling pool. I was cleaning jelly off my boots for weeks afterwards.