23Magpies is a self-taught artist, her style is fluid and evolves along with her interests. She has explored everything, from illustrations and paste-ups to spray painting (stencil and freehand) and paper cuttings. Quirky joyous work. This year at Upfest she will be exploring environmental themes in her own gorgeous style.
Bit of background and how you got into art.
I was always a very private person, creating only for myself and becoming terribly embarrassed if anyone else saw what I was doing – even as a creative writing student at uni, the idea of sharing my work mortified me!
This all changed when I graduated and started working in a call centre – I was lost in a dead end job where doodling on post-it notes kept me sane between calls. Before I knew it my desk was covered in my creations, drawing the attention of my colleagues who urged me to share my art online. This was the first time I’d openly let others into my world and I couldn’t believe that people liked the critters I conjured up.
My confidence continued to grow and within a couple of years I’d achieved so much: I’d curated two solo art shows, took part in many live painting events, and finally got the opportunity to paint at Upfest in 2016 – I couldn’t believe that I was selected to paint alongside so many awesome artists! I love being part of the art community because everyone is super supportive and encouraging.
As a self-taught artist, I still love trying new mediums and techniques, so my style is fluid and evolves along with my interests. I’ve explored everything, from illustrations and paste-ups to spray painting (stencil and freehand) and paper cuttings. (All you have to do is scroll through my Instagram to see that!)
What I love most about street art is the fact that it’s unexpected – a routine walk to the office is suddenly disrupted by a little fennec fox staring up at you or a space man drifting off into space. It used to make me smile when I’d spot other artists’ works, and I’m glad I can share this feeling with others too. There are a few of my past ups still in Gloucester, London, Bristol and Birmingham, though I definitely need to get out there and put some fresh work out!
I love seeing people sharing photos of the pieces they stumbled upon, tucked away on a street somewhere. Who knew that some of these pieces secured onto a lamppost or utility box using only PVA glue could still be around years later making perfect strangers happy… It’s the best feeling.
Influences on your work
There are so many people I admire and who influence me that I wouldn’t even know where to start! I’m lucky to have an incredibly talented bunch of friends… (I won’t name them all, but you will be seeing most of them painting at Upfest!).
I admire imagination, good composition, and the ability to draw by hand, and to give you one example, most recently I am in love with the art of Iraville – here is her Instagram link. Her feisty girl with a backpack and pig toy is my favourite piece.
A bit about previous exhibitions / events / festivals / walls
My first solo art show, ‘How Many Magpies?’, was a huge gamble: I took a large white room in the Gloucester Guildhall where artwork was always hung in a straight line around the room at eye level, and I splashed blue paint over the walls with a messy roller effect and hung my artwork up intentionally wonky… and guess what – it worked! That show is my proudest achievement to-date, and I still don’t know how I managed to create 72 pieces of original artwork for it in only 2 months!
I have since had another smaller show at Pepper’s Cafe in Gloucester (it’s an amazing place – if you’re ever in the area you should check them out), as well as participating in a few group shows and donating work to charity auctions.
I overcame my fear of live painting by taking part in quite a few festivals over the summer of 2016 – these included painting a giant panda on the Crafty Teacup in Burnham-on-Sea (another incredible little cafe that I wholeheartedly recommend), foxes at Birnbeck Pier, a sparrow and a snail (inspired by Simon and Garfunkel) in my hometown of Gloucester, an aquatic scene with an octopus in Kidderminster (this was one of my favourites!), as well as a geometric fox and bee piece at Upfest. I absolutely loved creating all of these pieces and getting the opportunity to meet so many passionate and interesting people.
What do you do to challenge yourself in art?
For February I asked people to give me themes for each day of the month so that I could challenge myself to draw more as I was going through a dry spell… At first I thought that 28 pieces in as many days was an impossible task, but the experience proved to be great and I managed to do it! I tried to put my own spin on each theme, even if it was one which was totally outside of my comfort zone.
Indie Matharu (the best portrait artist I know) challenged me to draw a self-portrait on one of the days – now, the woman knows I really struggle with portraits! But I did it, and it turned out to be the best portrait I’ve ever drawn. I unearthed a new style of drawing and I really enjoyed it. My artist friends push me to try new things and to practice until I get better.
Tell me about the shows / events you have coming up this year
I will be hosting my third solo show at the Gloucester Guildhall again in December 2017-January 2018. My chosen theme is ‘Into the Wild’ – expect lots of animals and plants, with a bit of space thrown in. I’m working on pieces for this at the moment, though I expect September-November will be full steam ahead! I want to create a bit of everything for this one again; an amalgamation of ideas and styles
What is important to you about your art?
It’s important to me that my artwork is unique – each piece is one of a kind and I’m only willing to use an idea a couple of times (each with a little variation) before I move on to something new. You won’t get a hundred prints of the same thing from me. Anyone who has brought my art knows that they own something that no-one else can say “hey, I have that exact one too” – I think it makes it all the more special.
I’m passionate about the topics of space, animals and mental health; though they may seem like strange themes to combine, some of my favourite pieces have consisted of an amalgamation of these things. (After all, who doesn’t love a space fox?) I’m obsessed with geometric shapes, lines and stars, and love framing my pieces within a shape to make them stand out. I’d describe my style as quirky and I’m definitely a perfectionist, though I’ve been trying to teach myself to adopt a more messy style every now and then.
Through my work, I try to share personalities and a purpose – each animal is a someone, each thought shared is an intimate one, and each piece reflects my belief that this world we live in is an incredible place. We share this planet with so many fascinating creatures and it’s our responsibility to look after it.
Where people can find you at Upfest
I’m painting in North Street Green. I have a bigger board this year in a busy location with a lot of footfall – I can’t wait. If you see me, feel free to say hi!
Can you tell me something about what you will be doing?
I’m still toying with ideas for Upfest – I have a bigger board this year and have decided that I want to make a piece with a message. Having attended recently attended some incredibly interesting talks at the Cheltenham Science Festival, I’m particularly interested in exploring the idea of the sixth extinction because I do worry that one day many of these amazing creatures will be lost… watch this space.
What are you looking forward to about Upfest?
The people and the sharing of ideas. It’s a very inspirational festival, and a great place to pick up ideas, tips, and new techniques. It’s a great opportunity to see artists from around the UK and abroad coming together to create something awesome – you have to be there to understand just how good it is, so make sure you come along!
See 23 Magpies s work at North Street Green.
Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017