I do love a bit of collage and it doesn’t cease to amaze me that everyday I either get pointed to or find a new creative who is producing amazing wok.
One recently? Sarah Breese. After introducing myself with a rush of love for her collage work we got chatting… and chatted a little more. We really did chat a lot but one good thing to come from it for you? An interview!
With a collage passion in mind we both set to happily chatting about collage, typewriters, found objects and even a cheeky little collaboration.
So, what is it about collage that really captured your attention Sarah and why?
SB: To me, collage allows a physical bridge between art and life that other disciplines don’t.
My work has always, to some extent, centered around the human condition, and by using things from the real world (be it photographs, hastily written notes or just pages from old books) I am able to give these once meaningful items a new significance. In terms of the physical attraction of collage, I love the act of layering and concealing, reworking, ripping and cutting. For me collage is the perfect medium to attempt to connect with the viewer on a deeper level.
That’s really quite beautiful that you see collage as a bridge between art and life, where other disciplines may not. As a collagist who works predominantly with the human form as a response, where do you find your materials and what drives you to create?
SB: I source my materials from a wide variety of resources- for the photographs I mostly find them in flea markets or old antique shops. There’s something quite bittersweet about the whole experience…I imagine most of those photographs have been bought by the shop owners in bulk from auctions after house clearances. So whilst it’s awfully sad that someone’s treasured memories have wound up in a dusty shop, I like to think that by using them I am giving them new purpose and reclaiming them from obscurity.
With regard to other materials I use, they can literally come from anywhere. A few years ago an old man who owned a bookshop gave me a box of old books that were too worn to sell – I found some of the most beautiful things between those pages, old love letters, photographs from the war, hastily written notes and children’s drawings. I have no set process, I just use anything and everything I find inspiring.
As for what drives me, it’s really out of necessity I think. In part because I find my subject matter so fascinating, but it’s also therapeutic. Now that I’ve started using PhotoShop and illustrator in my work I’ve found that it adds a new dimension, so I’m currently enjoying exploring how I can integrate the two processes!
I love that feeling when you find a gem in a shop – something that does have that sense that it belonged to someone else but is ready to take on a new lease of life.
As you mentioned Photoshop into your work it leads on quite nicely to my next question. How do you perceive the relationship between the digital and practical? Do you find that you’re working with both or predominantly one more over the other?
SB: I think as a result of technology and the advances in recent years it’s opened up lots of possibilities for artists. There’s that belief held by some that digital art is somehow less relevant and ‘artistic’ than hand made work…I don’t really have an opinion on that but I believe providing something has been created and it has the power to convey the idea that began as a thought in the artists head then the medium isn’t hugely important.
Up until about six months ago I was definitely working predominantly by hand. Now that I have the skills to be able to tidy up and manipulate my collages digitally I’ve found a whole new and exciting dimension to my work. So much so that recently some of the pieces I’ve produced have been mostly done on the computer, using images and photographs I’ve scanned in.
That’s certainly the way that I like to think – the digital has completely opened new possibilities but there will always be a pure beauty with what can be produced solely through print.
Having studied Fine Art at university I’m going to ask that almighty question – to study or not to study and why?
SB: To study, every time. I think once of the most important things in a creative subject is having lecturers that understand and ‘get’ you. Luckily, most of mine did and I had a great relationship with them, which allowed me to really flourish artistically. The beauty of university is that it gives you three years to really hone your craft and explore lots of different avenues. I became aware that collage, print and mixed media was the route I wanted to go down fairly early on, and the university environment really worked for me; I was able to really make the most of my strengths and talent and it gave me the discipline needed for freelance work.
Another huge factor is being surrounded by your peers and growing creatively with them. I found our weekly ‘critiques’ hugely beneficial, working through ideas with other artistic types is invaluable.
It’s always good to work with a group of peers like you mentioned at university – there’s definitely a beauty about seeing not just your own but other creatives style grow around you.
NM: How do you find working freelance as a comparison from working together at university? Does it have any major drawbacks?
SB: I think a lot of the confidence and ability to do freelance work stems simply from growing up, getting older and having confidence in your ability. I would’ve found it difficult to do freelance work at 21 as I wasn’t developed enough…in the same way I would most likely find the first year of university difficult if I went back to it now as I’m so set in my ways. So it’s difficult to compare the two, although one thing I do miss is being able to bounce ideas off fellow students and live and breathe art without having to worry about all the boring grown up stuff like bills and food!
Aah the perks of growing old right?! So explain where you’re at right now and how that’s working with your freelance illustration?
SB: Currently I’m head of graphics and visuals for a hot air balloon manufacturer, so I do everything from adverts to actually designing the artwork that goes on the balloon. A big part of this is using 3D modeling programmes and CS5.
This has really informed my own practice; it’s allowed me to approach my work differently and try out new techniques that weren’t possible previously. I still do a lot of my work by hand, but now I have the freedom to polish it up and build on it using photoshop and illustrator.
Cushty job right there! Have you been in a hot air balloon yourself? (silly question but has to be asked… right?)
SB: I have, when I first joined the Lindstrand team I went up with two other people, it was one of the most serene experiences of my life. I was pretty nervous to begin with as heights really scare me, but it’s so smooth and entirely different from any other form of air travel I’ve experienced.
The second time I went up was to test a new Balloon we’d built. I think this time there was about 20 people in the basket and I’d had a couple of G+T’s the night before (which I don’t recommend…!) We went up in January when there was snow everywhere so to look down on the vast expanse of white was really spectacular. I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it, such an incredibly inspiring, life affirming experience.
Sounds just a little bit beaut! It’s one of those experiences in life that does need to be done at least once.
So aside from being a designer for hot air balloons and an amazing freelance illustrator, what else do you tend to enjoy in your free time? Do you have any crazy hobbies?
SB: I’m not really a crazy kind of person, (unless I’ve had a few G+T’s…!) so, when I’m not busy with ballooning or doing my freelance work I enjoy reading, visiting galleries, watching films and going to festivals. I went to latitude this year and it was amazing! I’m also going to Green Man in two weeks to do a giant collage piece (which I’ve started working on tonight) so I’m really excited about that… it’s quite a challenge doing something that big (8ftx 8ft) as usually I tend to work no bigger than A3. To keep fit I do kettlebells and hulahooping, although I’ve been so busy as of late I haven’t had much time.
As we come to the end I feel we should end on a high note, as it’s been a lovely interview. What is your favourite pudding and why?