Colin Stewart, a recent graduate from Camberwell College of Art in London, answered some questions about his budding career as a visual artist!
Could you talk a little bit about your process?
I think ideas are the most important thing so I research my subject thoroughly (both in terms of reading up about it and finding visual stimulus). I make initial drawings to establish how i want to portray individual elements/concepts within the illustration, and then try and draw out rough compositions hopefully hitting on something vaguely satisfactory, but sometimes it’s best to move straight on to playing with cut paper, arranging and rearranging it. Once I have a rough I’ll move onto refining each element – I tend to draw/paint/cut into each part of a collage (e.g. an individual figure) before it’s put in its place so actually the exact composition often isn’t decided until the very last stage. Sometimes at this point an element is the wrong size and becomes too overbearing or too insignificant, in which case I’ll make a new version or scrap it completely. I’m not precious about materials and will use whatever is to hand/”feels right” – I’m trying to get my head around the final image being something that is printed and different from the original i’ve created which can therefore be quite disposable.
What does collaging offer that other illustration methods do not?
Collage is exciting because there’s lots of room for happy accidents. I find meticulous planning quite difficult and frustrating so to be able to play around a lot without committing myself until the last moment when everything is stuck down is nice – I suppose at that point it’s a bit like flattening all the layers in Photoshop. And I like that collage is tactile, or I guess I would be doing everything in Photoshop.
How do you choose your subjects? It looks like your work depicts everything from sports to philosophy?
I definitely view myself as an illustrator as opposed to a fine artist so ideally the original idea would be a brief from someone else. However in our final year at college we had to set all our own briefs so I did a project about my relationship with football (something I at least initially thought I had no interest in). I like the challenge of finding interesting aspects of/ways to portray things that seem uninteresting.
About this Football Piece
Could you please talk about the JG Ballard piece that is on the Camberwell site?
Yes, i was illustrating an article that I initially found in an issue of Another Man magazine from about 2006 but which seems to have initially been published for the Tate – I found this article(the article i was using was an edited slightly differently.) It’s straight-up illustration really, pulling out the key points in sequence and generally working with the theme of traditional urban centres being redundant as creative places as opposed to the vital, relevant suburbs.
If you are illustrating Ballard’s work, what elements of your work relate to his?
The first image works with the idea of cities being slightly depraved and only of interest to tourists and the young. The second is mainly a depiction of an artist working with the theme of money and urban living which Ballard finds so limiting. The third image depicts Ballard himself and some of the elements of suburbia he finds so interesting. The fourth is about his longing for a Rimbaud and a Warhol of the shopping mall.
Do you see your work as commercial or as fine art? Do you think it can be both, or are you going one way or another?
I would like my work to be commercial and i don’t think being an illustrator (or a ‘designer’) is necessarily of any less value than being a fine artist. I think fine art is too often assumed to be the more challenging or intelligent of the two, when in my experience fine art sometimes seems to try and hide behind a vague suggestion of ‘deepness’.
One blog posted about the distortion of body parts in your work. Can you talk about how enlarging or distorting body parts informs your compositions or what you are trying to depict?
This could be for a number of reasons – drawing attention to a particular body part might help the viewer ‘read’ what action the image is trying to depict, or emphasise the overall idea. Sometimes it’s just part of a kind of idiosyncratic idea of perspective.
Is there anything you want people to know about you and your work?
Can’t think of anything in particular that I haven’t covered. I guess I try to be concerned with producing something that’s not just decorative.
Colin’s work is for sale HERE.