Monday 15th June and the grand unveiling of the ‘Small Beginnings’ was taking place. Walking through the streets of London, the creative vibe was in the air. The gallery was a quaint space, just off Goodge Street called ‘Different’. A fantastic space, which was well suited to Alicia Gradon’s illustrations. Having taken a look around we felt it necessary that we say hello to this talented lady!
Hello! Congratulations to your ‘Small Beginnings’ Exhibition with your recent illustrations; fantastic exhibition, which had a brilliant opening and amazing turnaround of visitors. Tell us how this all came about?
It came about last November, as I had applied for an opportunity with IBIS, which is a budget hotel company. They had put an ad out for artists to submit themselves to their project. It was out of the box, but I went for it! The competition consisted of staying in one of their hotels around the country and producing a piece of artwork as soon as we woke up that was inspired by our sleep.
It was all to do with their new ‘Sweet Bed’ promotion. The competition prize, or one of, was the have your own exhibition!
That was the winning prize that was actually a surprise! We had a collective show of 11 artists including Carne Griffiths, the event was co-hosted with ibis and Beautiful Crime that was on for a week at Gallery Different. Right at the end they decided to pick one winner, which ended up being me! The company funded the week in the gallery for my solo exhibition but I was left to promote and organise the work involved.
It’s quite an interesting process setting up an exhibition, how did you find it all? What was the one main pro and con you found through setting up the exhibition?
Certainly the main pro was the network of speaking to people through the contacts I had made along the journey so far, pulling on resources and keeping the budget afloat. I had worked in smaller galleries before so it was a delight to speak to those contacts again.
The con would be that there was no gallery representing my work, so it was a case of pushing this independently. Despite this, it gave me a backbone to promote and send out my work to the contacts I’d made previously.
The exhibition itself was a fun journey for the viewer, dotting the order of your illustrations at random across the gallery ensuring that each corner was covered. This really does reflect your style of work and shows a great interaction with the viewer.
How do you go about a new piece of work, with the thought of the interaction with the viewer at the end?
A lot of the drawings I had produced come with a fun concept behind or I find writing the narrative often will help gauge the attention of the viewer. I always love to have fun with the pieces and pulling on little things that are relatable. It was a 6-month period of time that I had to collate and work on the selection that I had shown.
It’s the notion of it being like Easter eggs in the exhibition, hoping people will pull that recognisable factor out of my pieces through different spots.
Your work is based on experiences and on your own creation. There is one main element – the world of Perpetuia. This sounds so lovely so tell us a little more about this wonderful world!
It’s probably over a decade old now, which had begun by writing and making poetry. The main concept is that Earth is surrounded by parallel universes, which all rub against each other. This is all narrated through a character called Alasdair. He has the ability to see through the layers of the alternate realities, enabling him to jump through.
In a lot of things I have tried to persist, Perpetuia is from my own imagination and I think everyone has their own version of something similar in their heads.
Things like mythology – wizards, fairies and dragons etc.; they are so cliché and people don’t like talking about it but from a young age they’re great! Adults are a little more hesitant. There’s a point through growing up were you stop letting yourself go.
A lot of the work I do is inspired by when we were charting out the world, when people were sailing out to the new world and seeing elements of our own reality that were completely untouched. Adults were doing this and the stories they told of these new continents resemble those of fairy tales and ghost stories. It’s a lot about filling in the gaps and finding out new parts of the world. Take Darwin’s adventures for examples.
Where do you look for inspiration in your pieces? You’re a London based artist, so you have the city to feast your eyes on, but where else may your inspiration be fed?
I was very lucky growing up as I traveled a lot with my mum. I love being able to travel seeing different cultures. Books such as the Never Ending Story are a big inspiration: Tolkien’s entire collections, C.S. Lewis and a lot of American literature. It’s that idealism with the arts and tying this into the narrative that I admire.
London itself is incredible of course. My favourites are the Wellcome Collection – formidable exhibitions showcased there as well as The Hunterian Museum and the Horniman.
Tell us something not many people know about you…
Initially I had never wanted any of this work to be shown. I can be quite an introverted person and had actually only started showing it during my second year of university.
What is next for you?
I have applied for the Jerwood Drawing Prize!
I also plan to attempt to self publish some chapters of the book as well. There is one part of the world, which I’ve written so much about, which is the City of Gorgoria. I’d love to create illustrations on this more, as it’s an underwater city!
What is the one piece of advice you would share with freelance illustrators?
One of the biggest things is to have confidence.
The main part of the exhibition was that I lost a piece of fear as I had made my own direction through the experience.
To round this off, what is one quote that has remained with you?
Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”