June 3, 2011

A Long Way From That Shy and Anxious Kid

An Interview With Artist Lianne Booton

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any picture to zoomify

Lianne, in Part 1 during my rousing and chair-gripping introduction (acknowledging that most people are thinking ‘must escape, must log off’ when I go on like that), we talked about some of the interesting descriptions that have accompanied your work and portfolio so far. Based on these inputs, my first question then to these is simply: ‘why?’ Are you intentionally going for a kind of shock effect or is that just an expression of how your imagination rolls?
The country lane metaphor that you quoted is exactly how I see my creation process. I don't ever try and hide the fact that I do draw some pretty weird things alongside relatively benign pictures, but it's important to note that those images aren't a reflection of my mental state. Hence describing it as a neutral road winding through what is just harmless scenery at the end of the day is perfect! You look at it and you say 'oh that's nice' or 'why does this exist' and that's it.

I do have a very dark sense of humour though, so I wouldn't be surprised if it sounds like a shock tactic. To me though it sounds a lot more calming than describing my creative process as drowning in an endless ocean of haunting visages! On the other points though, well, the counselling thing actually happened... and I think a good friend of mine put it best when she said "Lianne, we all know your concept of cute".

I really do enjoy watching the facial expressions of my friends when I show them the stuff I make. For example, I was recently sitting in a local park drawing with someone and the topic of Dungeons & Dragons came up, particularly the really ridiculous monsters. I decided I wanted to make up a really ludicrous D&D monster and hid behind my sketchbook scribbling away. I drew a half-scorpion, half-elderly lady holding a bowl and spoon and labelled it the "Puddingiver" and gave it a back-story. I'd rank those kind of confused stares I get as being just as awesome as baby laughter is to parents.

How did your fascination with ‘slightly demented’ and ‘quirky and unsettling pieces’ arise?
I fully place the blame on this onto British Comedy. I absolutely love some of the old abstract humour. A lot of my friends know I have always had an unbearably sad crush on
Vic Reeves who is a very bizarre artist and talented comedian. I grew up watching shows like ‘Big Night Out’ and ‘Shooting Stars’ which has some really weird artwork and puppets (my favourite being a commander with a giant boiled egg for a head and a very long tongue for *ahem* impressing the ladies).

Aside from that I really enjoy outsider art/art brut. I also like the works of
Henry Darger, Louis Wain, and H.R.Giger. Other than art influences, I enjoy bizarre movies, where of course David Lynch gets a mention! There's something wonderful about seeing artwork that's untamed and ignores all our perceptions and expectations. I think in broader terms, I just enjoy people who simply don't care what everyone else thinks, no matter what area of life it shows up in! It's a very attractive quality in my eyes.

Having said all that, do you think that you have developed your own definitive style (singular) yet? You know, something that alerts everyone that, yes, here is indeed another bona fide Lianne Booton piece to enjoy?
This is something I'm still figuring out for myself. Unfortunately, I realised that those half-cyborg cat-girls do a real number on forming a style. I do think I'm getting there though. My picture "Don't Worry" – shown here – is what I would consider close to ‘my style’. Having said that, I'm still young and I don't foresee giving up art anytime soon unless I get into a tragic combine harvester accident and lose both hands! So I have a long time to develop and refine my style.

I can tell my artwork is still maturing though because there are huge leaps every year, even for me looking at it month-to-month, in terms of my skill and techniques. I have no idea really where my art will be at next year in terms of whether I’ll have a new found love for painting or get into speed painting landscapes, or go back to those marvellous doe-eyed cyborgs (just kidding).

Speaking of recognisable styles, do you even want to accomplish that?
Definitely! I don't think it's as important nowadays to establish your own style though. You're competing with so many other talented people that's it's impossible to not run across something similar.

For example, I use Facebook to network with artists mainly, and it's definitely shown me that nobody is as unique as they think. The most common style I see are people who are very obviously inspired by
Mark Ryden! And I was, too, until I saw how many people were doing it.

How are you promoting your work? You’ve just opened a very nice-looking new website and are listed among others in the
Pink Noise directory; however, it also seems you’ve tried perhaps with less success in the past with sites like Flickr or even your own blog?
I'm still in the process of learning about self-promotion but I can imagine things like interviews help quite a bit!

In addition, Pink Noise is a very important platform for me. I was directed to Pink Noise by a friend, and in turn Pink Noise directed me to a very good blog that laid out exactly how to go about marketing yourself online. From here I realised I needed a website to start with so I quickly got that sorted out. I also have a Facebook fan page which I regularly update with art and my adventures. Aside from that I have profiles on a fairly large number of art-sites like
Redbubble, Artst, Society6, Behance, Everycreative, and the NZ-based creative community forum, Big Idea.

I'm also experimenting with things like advertising through
Project Wonderful and also being a bit more vocal on art communities to spread word about my work. In comparison, back when I first started my blog on Tumblr, I found it to be really draining; I just felt completely detached from any sense of community. I am in the process of setting my Tumblr back up again though because I think it would be neat to keep a small record of my progress and look back on it in a year.

In general, I've shied away from blog sites because I was raised on the version of the Internet where privacy was number one and you didn't just go throwing personal information everywhere. It’s just I find that I still get very self conscious about what I write and I keep most of my ramblings to Facebook nowadays. Oh and Flickr only ever really served one purpose to me, namely, it was a place to post images before I had a website and didn't want Facebook cropping images and doing strange things to the colours. I've never explored the groups or community aspect of it, but maybe that can be my mini-project for the day.

I was interested as well to see that among your ‘digital’ methods that you employ Flash as one of your creative tools. Why Flash?
Flash has been like an old friend to me. I used it quite extensively when it was fairly new software and it was only used for monkey-punching banner ads. People said it would never be used for drawing, but I used to draw painstakingly detailed pictures in it.

However, I also used to draw with a laptop touchpad, so you can see I don't always have the brightest ideas. I only really use Flash now for pictures where I need ultra-smooth lines quickly and don't feel like yelling at Illustrator for ruining my day. I think Flash does cop a lot of flak though and it has come a long way as a drawing and animation tool.

How about your more traditional methods, including inks, watercolours, acrylics and more? Do you have a given technique that you prefer or is it merely a matter of choosing the instrument depending on the inspiration?
It's usually just whatever inspires me. I do have the tendency to have several sketch versions of pictures in different mediums so that I can choose what I think would look best. I think I definitely enjoy ink the most though, mostly because I have shaky hands and it gives me the thrill of living dangerously and not knowing if I'm half a second from tipping ink all over the picture.

I did very much enjoy the pieces you composed where you inked in images over the top of a randomly watercolour painted pattern. You mention that these were done as 'warming up' illustrations. What does that entail exactly?
I love those pictures, even though they have very undignified beginnings. ‘Don't Worry’ started out as a silly joke between me and a friend when we were up late one night mucking about on an online whiteboard. I can't exactly remember the original image but I think it involved the fairy being on a skateboard doing a flip off the nose of a huge crying head. Somehow I thought it would make a neat sketch and promised I would do a proper version. That and the crow painting were done on the same day even!

But these were the first paintings I had done in ten years! I really didn't know what I was doing and made it all up as I went along. I guess I was just warming up the brain to see what I remembered about painting. Usually for other pieces I'll do composition sketches and a lot of versions of the same drawing with different poses or faces etc. I'm fairly thorough even for relatively simple pictures.

You mention that you also enjoy writing, costume-making and creating custom-stuffed toys, having also learned how to crochet on your own. Have any of these other creative outlets yet found their way into public consumption or are these more hobbies to help balance out your creative and professional work?
Writing was my 'thing' when I was too shy about my artwork. In fact, I've been working on a book since I was 18! I have binders full of concept art, back-stories, world history, moral codes, and some pretty in-depth research to make sure all the contraptions in the story could theoretically work. It's a huge project and there was a few years where my entire time was consumed by it, but I don't feel I'm ready to write it yet.

The story is as fresh in my mind as it was when I conceived the idea, but I will need to focus on writing short stories for a couple of years before I'm confident that I can do it justice. I did write game and movie reviews a long time ago and have a published poem, so it's a hobby I've been happy to show the world. I've actually always felt I am a much stronger writer than artist, but I'm very much out of practice.

As for my other creative pursuits, unfortunately I don't own a sewing machine so my stuffed toys and clothes making remain a personal thing only. If someone wanted a custom toy though I would happily oblige of course! I did make a stuffed roadkill hedgehog for someone's Christmas present though, which was very... er... cute :) ! I really would love to sell custom-made stuffed toys though and would probably focus on that entirely if I could.

The one hobby I am extremely guarded about is music. I never allow anyone to listen to songs I make, I won't even mess around with music software if there's other people in the house. I can also play a few instruments and sing, but barely anybody knows that side of me.

For your toy creations, I understand you’re trying to incorporate recycled materials?
Yep, aside from any wool I use the toys I make are constructed 100% from old unwearable clothes, or other scraps of fabric that no longer serve a purpose. It's actually pretty fun making the toys when you don't know what textures you're going to end up having to use. I also don't use patterns so each one is unique. I produce some concept sketches and figure out the rough size of the components and in which order to attach things. Luckily I've lived my whole life 'making things up as I go along' so I'm pretty good at it now!

Looking at the piece you donated for the Christchurch Earthquake relief auction by Pink Noise: for those of us not completely in-the-know about NZonian current events, can you describe what you were trying to capture with your piece ‘Gerry Brownlee Riding a Pie’?
I don't think I was really trying to make much of a statement. I wanted to help out but I didn't have anything to donate, so I had a think about the Kiwi mindset and how they're always up for a good giggle.

Novelty items always seem to go down well on TradeMe and there was the potential of getting media attention for the appeal if it was ridiculous enough. Me and Katie of Pink Noise concocted a lot of ways to get it noticed through Twitter and emailing politicians etc. Unfortunately, we were upstaged by a
giant rock that sold for NZ$60,000, which is fair enough!

Finally, where would you like to see your art heading in the near and/or distant future? Do you have any special plans on the horizon?
Well, right now I'm in the phase where everything is a new step for me. It's quite exciting really.

There's a few very interesting exhibition ideas in the pipeline with Pink Noise, where there's been talk of a sort of bleak and crazy puppet show which we're aiming to do around Christmas time. As mentioned, I'm going to be doing some work on a collaboration comic, which is a fun new thing for me since it's unfamiliar territory. When I decided to make a comic I was under the assumption that having writing and drawing skills would make most of the work easy... but I was wrong! It's actually very, very challenging and gruelling.

As for what I see for the next year: well, metaphorically speaking I'm a small sapling in a huge forest of trees with well-established roots. I'm going to be spending a lot of time figuring out how to follow their lead. A year ago I didn't expect to be successfully pursuing an artistic career. So, hopefully a year from now I will be pleasantly surprised at how far I've come from that shy and anxious kid I used to be.


Lianne Booton is a freelance illustrator originally hailing from Birmingham, UK where she managed to eventually overcome the debilitating disease known often as being a teenager. She currently lives in New Zealand, where she lived both before and after spending a couple of years living in Canada.

Lianne tells us that when she’s not drawing, she’s quite often thinking about things she SHOULD be drawing. She unabashedly admits that she sees her artwork as a romp down a peacefully meandering country lane. Only this country lane is one of those that has on one side fields filled with horses, badgers, and small animals getting along fabulously; however, on the other side are disembodied heads and a palette comprised of colours that look suspiciously like bodily fluids. Sounds like New Jersey to me, but let’s not quibble.

Lianne has also stated that she is quite proud of the fact that she has never (?) been compelled to draw ferns or a tui coquettishly perched on a branch. According to Wikipedia, apparently
The Tui (with a capital ‘T’ and NOT pictured here) is an endemic passerine bird of New Zealand and is apparently one of the largest members of the diverse honeyeater family. However, since we learned long ago not to create definitions with words we do not understipify or fully comprehindsight, we’ll leave it at that. We also do not know why (a) Wikipedia wants us to notice the pollen on the heads of said birds nor (b) why they should be associated with a coquette, or ‘woman who makes teasing sexual or romantic overtures; a flirt’... but hey, by now, even we’ve stopped reading.

Just check out the following, okay?


Directory listings (examples, see other links in article)
‘Pink Noise’
‘Humble Voice’

Facebook Fan Page


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Lianne Booton, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly. The characters and images associated with ‘Brutemus & friends’ is copyrighted and trademarked by Chelsea Navarro.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!

1 comment:

bonzshack said...

Wonderful interview! A very interesting read, wishing you all the best with all your art projects Lianne!