Friday, 13 December 2013

Computer Arts Design Classic in Coney Island!

A little while ago, Computer Arts Magazine asked me to talk about what I considered to be my design classic. I chose the delicious signage at Gregory & Paul's eatery, now named Paul's Daughter, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. You can read the article in full below. Take a look at how you can help me return to Coney Island in 2014 here:

Friday, 6 December 2013

My Coney Island Dream

Next summer, I am planning to live out a dream. I am hoping to spend 3 months in Coney Island, Brooklyn USA, in a self-initiated artist residency. I am planning to stay in an artist loft, and travel down to Coney on the F Train every day, to photograph, sketch and paint all the things that I find there, from decaying amusements, hand painted signage, seaside delicacies like fried shrimp and saltwater taffy, to the colourful community, curious tourists and beach oddities that populate this most inspiring place. Please take a look at the link below and share it via your social networks to help me live out my dream:

Interview with 1968 Magazine, Canada

Check out this interview I did recently with Fashion Magazine 1968 in Canada. You can see the full issue online here:

Sarah Beetson’s resume is as full, colourful, and diverse as her illustrations. The Manchester, UK-born illustrator has a style of her own that has attracted many clients, from magazines, newspapers, and personal clients, to Trader Joe’s in the US. She graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall in 2002 with 1st class honours, and spent the next four years living and working in London as an illustrator and graphic designer. There, Beetson worked in styling, and created fabric prints for Stella McCartney, who then commissioned her to decorate the walls of the shoe room in her Burton St. shop. Since then, Beetson has curated an extensive list of clients like The Telegraph and the Times (UK), The Globe and Mail here in Toronto, The Wall St. Journal, Diesel, La Perla, Reader’s Digest, Scholastic Books, The British Fashion Council, IKEA, and Continental Airlines among many, many more. She relocated from the UK to Australia in 2006 where she created works for numerous exhibitions.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator? 
When I was 8 I had three ambitions: to be a professional tennis player and win Wimbledon (until I realized I wasn’t too good at tennis), to be a rockstar (I even made my first failed attempt at learning guitar), or to illustrate children's books like Quentin Blake. I got close to the third one.
Why fashion illustration? 
Fashion has always provided a huge inspiration to me, particularly in my youth as I was beginning to find my own personal style. I wondered why people in the street did not dress as the models did in fashion shoots; often bizarrely themed with many layers of clothing, eccentric styling and heaps of colour, so I started to do that myself. People often tell me I look like my work, as it became a natural progression that I would draw the things I loved to wear myself.
Were you ever interested in moving into the fine art world of oils and canvas?
In recent years, as a diversion from commissioned illustration, I have widely exhibited my personal work via galleries, showing in solo and group exhibitions in London, Paris, New York, Portland, Ottawa, Melbourne and The Gold Coast, Australia. I was never tempted by oils, though I often work on raw canvas or linen. Almost all of the materials I use are water-based, with the exception of spray-paint, and my favourite painting medium is Acryl-Gouache.
Your work contains lots of diverse subjects; where do you tend to get your inspiration from?
I find much inspiration from my travels; I live between Australia and the UK, spending 3-4 months a year in London and often stopping off in between. I love typography and collect photographs of examples I love the world over. I particularly like decaying signage on shop fronts, amusement parks and neon signs. I read widely into the subjects that interest me and will conduct much research when working on personal projects or without tight deadlines. Apart from the fashion industry, I’d say my greatest source of inspiration comes from film. I watch at least 1-2 movies per day from all kinds of genres/time periods, and when I am in the city I’ll often take an inspiration day, hoping between cinemas, and taking in 5 movies.
Your work is full of balance between line weight, texture, and punches of colour, but how did you refine this signature style?
Whilst I was at art school in Falmouth, UK, I was initially using a number of techniques to create work, none of which I was really in love with. During life drawing classes, we were taught the blind contour drawing technique, in which you place your pen/pencil on the paper and look at the subject, drawing ‘blindly’ without taking your eyes from the subject. This technique can be totally haphazard with moments of clarity; a mess of abstract lines with a perfect hand or eye within it. I decided to combine this technique with the bunch of other materials / styles I liked to work with, and hence my style was born.
How would you describe your work?
A very well planned, carefully executed accumulation of chaotic colourful madness?!
How has living in London influenced your work?
In so many ways, from the people I lived and worked with and the city itself, to the general poverty I lived in when I first moved there. I do think the London streets have the most daring fashion statements of any city in the world. When I first arrived I was forever accosting brilliantly dressed people into letting me draw them. I have lived in other cities (Melbourne in Australia possibly being my favourite, it has an alternative arty feeling very like Portland in the US), but I think what sets London apart, and keeps me returning, is the self deprecating character of The British. We can look at things like art and fashion with irony and humour and not take ourselves too seriously.
How did it feel to get your first big client?
I was ecstatic when I was commissioned by Tank Magazine whilst I was still finishing my Illustration Degree. They asked me to produce 12 illustrations centred around food for the OXO book. A couple of those pieces are still in my portfolio today. My next big job was a teen fashion editorial for Fashion 18 Magazine in Toronto. It was a graffiti inspired piece about the Barbie girl in school who the girls dislike and the boys want to get with.
Looking back at your clients, how does it feel to see so many esteemed names/brands?
I have been really lucky to work with some fantastic people, and even luckier that some of those clients believed in me when I was 21 and straight out of art school, and really provided me with that step up onto the illustration ladder. Getting representation with 2 agencies in my graduate year played a huge part in this, and I count Shelley Brown of i2iArt, Toronto, and Harry Lyon Smith of Illustration Ltd, London, as the key players in shaping my career.
What got you interested in exploring so many different mediums in your work?
As I mentioned previously, the combining of all the existing materials in my work with the blind contour drawing technique was the catalyst for developing my style. And as I began to travel around, I started to collect more and more materials that I could use to paint, draw, collage, create backgrounds with, etc. I really began working on tissue paper pasted on wood or paper, but over the years I have experimented with working on canvas, photographs, and fabric. When I first moved to London, I spent one year interning in the fashion industry, and to make rent as well as working in bars and nightclubs, I started experimenting on fabric and creating t-shirts and sneakers to sell on my stall in Camden market. That has evolved to digitally printed capsule collections today. I still create every element with my work by hand, but over the last 5 years or so, I have developed techniques of creating different elements within each piece separately, and scanning them individually in order to be able to create layered files in Photoshop, and accommodate changes for clients on their every whim. This has enabled my work to be animated, and I was hired for a campaign to prevent drink driving during Perth Fashion Week, Australia.
If you could move to any city in the world to work, where would it be and why?
I think New York would be my ultimate, having visited it so often, but never stayed long enough to feel like a New Yorker. But for now, I am quite content floating between Australia and the UK, and all the travels that happen in between!
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement so far?
Among these have been working with Stella McCartney in the early days of her label, working with Mary Portas at Yellowdoor, illustrating for major newspapers including The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Times and The Telgraph (UK) and The Miami Herald, winning the Creative Review (UK) Best in Book prize for illustration in 2011, being shortlisted for the 2012 Metro Award (a $50,000 Australian Art Gallery Prize), exhibiting at Somerset House, London, as part of Pick Me Up 2012, and being invited to exhibit “Rainbowspective” in Paris earlier this year, showing the best of the last 5 years of my work.
Do you have a favourite artist (illustrator or otherwise)?
There are so many I don’t know if I could pick one favourite, but here are some: Keith Haring, Antonio Gaudi, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Julie Verhoeven, Cary Kwok, Henry Darger, Grayson Perry, Yoshitomo Nara, Aubrey Beardsley, Robert Crumb, Alan Moore, Antonio Lopez, Vaughan Bode…. and many more.
Is there someone you dream of working with or for?
I would love to create a fashion illustration spread working with John Galliano.
What is it that you like most about working in your industry?
I do love working from home in my own studio on the farm where I live in Queensland, Australia. It is a huge space which enables me to create large scale paintings, and unlike in a shared office, my pet chickens get to come in and hang out. I also love the excitement that comes with the anticipation of an enquiry or the arrival of a brief; a few days prior to Christmas, 2012, I was poised to potentially fly to New York for an illustration project during fashion week which didn’t come off, as projects often don’t, but that kind of spontaneity is something I really love about being an illustrator. When an enquiry comes into one of my agents, the terms, deadline and brief are discussed, then we go ahead and I begin researching, gathering references, making sketches, and working with the client to create the realized illustration; all of this is rather exciting, challenging and fun!
Do you have a favourite piece amongst your work?
I think often my favourite piece is the one I have just finished creating. But I would say that the piece I always think is one I created back in 2002, which is the profile image on my Facebook Fan Page, and is called “Miss Sherbet Dip”. It was from a drag queen; inspired photo shoot from the Falmouth days, and features my first muse and good friend, Knud Kleppe in full drag. Knud is now a successful animator working for a major Oslo TV network, and is also in the rockerbilly band “The Lucky Bullets” who were finalists to represent Norway at Eurovision 2011!
Many have said that illustration is a dying art form; what is your view on the subject?
I would strongly argue quite the opposite. I think for almost ten years now, illustration has been having a major resurgence, and is currently in its heyday this century. I am a talent scout for my UK rep, Illustration Ltd, and I think there are more fantastic artists out there right now than there have been for a long time. Illustration is widely used across advertising, publishing, TV, web and digital media, employing a very diverse range of styles and artists. When I first left art school 10 years ago, there was nowhere near as much illustration usage clearly visible at all levels of media as there is today. I feel like in some part the financial crisis helped illustrators, as clients potentially had to cut their photography budgets back, but saved on using illustration in its place. Photographers need to hire models, locations, etc, whereas illustrators require a small setup and are often far more cost-effective to commission.
Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Get your work out there, approach clients and agents, and expect knockbacks. Keep contacting the right folk, and keep developing your style and portfolio. Even if you aren’t getting work, you need to keep creating and moving forward, don’t stagnate. Aim to create a style and voice of your own; innovate, don’t imitate. Seek advice from the industry and respond to it when you receive it. It can take years to build a career and gain industry recognition. Make sure you have a great website with a simple, user friendly design that lets the work speak clearly. Tumblr, Blogspot and Wordpress can be great vehicles; you don’t need to spend lots of money on flashy web development. Utilize social media. Enter competitions. Email the clients you want to work for and send them your samples. Don’t give up!
Do you have a favourite motto?
I like: “Do or do not, there is no try” (Yoda)
And: “There’s no fate but what we make” (Sarah Connor, Terminator 2)
What are your goals for the next five years?
In February 2014, I’ll be taking part in Supergraph Melbourne, a graphic Arts Fair in which I will exhibit prints and originals, and sell printed clothing, cushions and my illustrated naughty playing cards, as well as creating Live Portraits of visitors. Later in the year, I plan to take a summer sabbatical and spend three months in the place that has inspired me most over the years: Coney Island in New York. I will take my travel easel, A3 moleskine and art materials, and just thoroughly immerse myself in the place, sketching all that I see. Upon my return to Australia, I’ll be developing this body of work and will also focus on similar themes in my hometown of The Gold Coast, also a classic seaside resort with many amusements and signage to inspire. Over the next five years I plan to return to Japan, which has been the source of many ideas since my last trip, and I’m hoping to get to South America with my boyfriend and taking in the culture and colours. All the while I’ll continue to develop my illustration portfolio, and I look forward to discovering the jobs and commissions which may come my way.

New Fashion Illustrations

I have been spending the last few months working on developing some new images for my fashion illustration portfolio. A few of these are commissioned editorial pieces, but the majority are self-initiated works. I have been really lucky to have the help of my boyfriend in photographing shoots for me, and have enlisted the help of some good friends to model for me. Here are the results:


Yippee! Here are my brand new Sarah Metamorphosis Print leggings! They feature illustrations from my "All of The Places That I Have Lived" series, and form a timeline of self-portraits from birth to date.

Currently, there is ONLY 1 PAIR AVAILABLE! I am giving them away as a reward for helping to fund my 3 month artist residency in Coney Island NYC, summer 2014. The pair would be custom made for the buyer to fit size XS - L. Here is where to find them:

And here's how they look!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

SNEAK PEAK! Fabric repeats for leggings!

Here is an exclusive look at the pattern repeats which have already been printed onto stretch 100% cotton jersey - and will be made into a very VERY limited collection of leggings and tees. More info about where to grab yourself a pair coming sooooooooon!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Q+A and Media Release about my latest solo exhibition: "All Of The Places That I Have Lived" by 19 Karen

Below is a piece written about my latest solo exhibition by 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace:

Ever wanted to know what it’s like trying to break your way into the big time as an artist or illustrator? British born and Gold Coast based artist Sarah Beetson knows all too well of the hard work and sacrifices that need to be made in the pursuit of success in the industry. Sarah puts her plight to paint in her new body of work All Of The Places That I Have Lived which explores her sense of upheaval of moving 17 times to eight different towns and cities across two continents.
“My life is ever more transient these days, as I divide my time between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and I wanted to create a body of work which draws upon the displacement and disconnection I so often feel as a result of living and working globally, and how this has in turn shaped me as a person and as an artist,” says Sarah.
Sarah has moved around quite a lot in not only her adulthood but also as a child living in three different family homes by the age of 16. From there she found refuge in numerous flats, houses, apartments and squats whilst using her illustration skills to grind away at a career in the competitive British fashion industry. All Of The Places That I Have Lived draws on Sarah’s experiences and how they have impacted her life and her work as an artist.
“All of this has affected my work in different ways in terms of workspaces within each dwelling and the kind of work I was able to create due to spatial and financial restrictions, the area I lived in, the people whom I lived with and the events that happened within each set of four walls,” says Sarah.
Sentimental details are peppered throughout each of the works for All Of The Places That I Have Lived. Using her signature style of playful bright colours with a hint of rock ‘n’ roll Sarah has created one artwork for each place that she has lived in. Self portraits are employed to best portray the nomadic tale.
“Each work features a rough grid template of the layout of the home itself, and when put together, the works form a timeline of my life thus far,” says Sarah. 

And here is the original Q+A session we did about the project:

Q Hi Sarah! Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and what has led you to what you are doing today...

I’m a British artist and illustrator who has been living in Australia for 7 years. I graduated with a First Class BA Hons in Illustration in 2002 from Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall, a beautiful English seaside town where fellow students of many nationalities inspired me – I initially lived with A Norwegian, a Swiss and an Argentinian. After Falmouth, I moved to London where I interned in Fashion for 2 years, working for Mary Portas @ Yellowdoor, Pop Magazine and Stella McCartney as she setup her own label, researching collections and creating designs for fabric print as well as helping to illustrate the shoe room of her London shop. I spent 2 impoverished years selling my own illustrated clothing in Camden Market, whilst grafting hard part time in bars and living in squats when I couldn't make the rent. Around 2005, I began to find more and more illustration work having secured two agents in Europe and North America. In 2006, I discovered I could cut my living costs by moving to Melbourne, where I lived and worked for 3 years and began to exhibit my artwork widely. In 2009 I moved to Queensland to my boyfriend’s idyllic family farm. I have a fabulous setup with a large studio visited daily by my pet hens. I am still in awe of the luxury of space we experience in our homes in Australia, having lived in shoeboxes for years in London. I still spend around 3-5 months per year overseas, in the UK and North America, exhibiting and working.

Q What can we expect to see from your solo exhibition? What were the inspirations behind this body of work?

My life is ever more transient these days, as I divide my time between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and I wanted to create a body of work which draws upon the displacement and disconnection I so often feel as a result of living and working fairly globally, and how this has in turn shaped me as a person and as an artist. I’ve moved around quite a lot in my adult life but also in my childhood – we had lived in 3 family homes in the north of England by my 16th birthday. At 18, I moved down to Cornwall for University and high-tailed it to London upon graduation. There followed the most transient period of my life up to that point – residing in numerous flats, house, apartments and squats and at one point moving 4 times in 6 months! Then of course I relocated to Australia. All this has affected my work in different ways, in terms of my workspaces within each dwelling and the kind of work I was able to create due to spatial / financial restrictions, the area I lived in, people whom I lived with, events that happened within and around each set of four walls, etc. I have spent a lot of time in preparation for this show reading studies on nostalgia, and indeed revisiting the era spent in each place and looking at what was going on culturally at the time and how this was infiltrating my world and affecting me. I decided to create one artwork for each dwelling I have lived in. The size of the artwork is informed by the period I lived there, for example, somewhere I lived for only a couple of months might be a small work (perhaps 25cm x 25cm) and a house I resided at for 7 years might be huge (1.5m x 1m). Each work features a rough grid template of the layout of the home itself, and when put together, the works form a timeline of my life thus far. I decided that the best reflection of constant change was to focus upon self-portraits – the series features more than 30 of them.

Q What was it like to be constantly on the move or always in a different home? Scary? Fun? Exciting?!

It is a constant process of change and evaluation. I generally manage to contain my life into a large suitcase, complete with a pack down of essential art materials, laptop and travelling scanner. I think however this minimal baggage encourages me to collect things on my travels – everything from old books to vintage clothing unique to my new location, to art materials and goodies which are hoarded back to my permanent home back in Aus on the farm. I am lucky that I have Gold frequent flyer status and can carry 45 kilo on long haul flights! I fluctuate between feeling a profound sense of freedom within my transient lifestyle to feeling quite alien, both in my home country of the UK and back in Australia – I feel I am neither 100% British nor Australian, as my accent, appearance and identity are sculpted between nations.

Q How did you remember all of the layouts of each home?

My father is a chartered surveyor back in the UK, so he was able to produce very detailed plans of our 3 family homes (right down to the location of the bidet and the airing cupboard in our 1st house!) The rest, I was aged 18 or older, so my memory, my housemates and Google maps have all helped inform me of the layouts along the way!

Q How would you describe your work?

A very well planned, carefully executed accumulation of chaotic colourful madness?

Q What is art to you?

I think art is outside of strict boundaries and definitions, but I do think more and more that for me, art needs to be more than just the simple, direct presentation or communication of an idea. The virtual presentation of an idea is to me, simply a piece of advertising or design.

Q What materials do you use?

The list is inexhaustive as I am always finding new things! In general apart from spraypaint, all of the paint I use is water based. Here is a list of current most commonly used materials:
Spraypaint (I prefer Australian Export, Plastikote Odds n’ ends and the cheaper stuff as it sputters and blobs better than the streamlined professional graffiti stuff)
Acryl-Gouache (Turner and Holbein Acryla are my favourite)
Pilot G-Tec C pens from Japan, the best detailed drawing pens in the world, who currently sponsor me!
Markers, Paint Pens, Etc
Collage materials, vintage adverts, tissue paper, plywood, moleskins, stickers, fabric, sequins, beads…. The list is endless

**** Bonus Questions ****

Q What is your dream project?

I would love to create a fashion illustration spread working with John Galliano for a major fashion magazine like Vogue, Harper’s, LOVE, etc
I would like to spend 3 months painting in Coney Island, NYC, which I’m hoping to do in 2014. 
Q What is the country/city you would most like to live in?

I think New York would be my ultimate, having visited it so often but never stayed long enough to feel like a New Yorker. But for now I am quite content floating between Australia and the UK and all the travels that happen in between!

Q Who are your favourite painters?

Not all of these are painters but artists in general: Keith Haring, Antoni Gaudi, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Julie Verhoeven, Cary Kwok, Yoshitomo Nara, Aubrey Beardsley, Robert Crumb, Alan Moore, Antonio Lopez, Vaughan Bode…. And many more.

Q What natural talent would you most like to have been gifted with?

I wish I could play guitar… I have tried to learn both guitar and bass but have never had the time and energy outside of my artwork to dedicate to learning. I’d also quite like Rachel Nagy’s voice (of the band Detroit Cobras) to boot.

Q What is your favourite motto?

“Do or do not, there is no try.” (Yoda)
“There’s No Fate But What We Make.” (Sarah Connor, Terminator 2)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Opening night of "All Of The Places That I Have Lived" @ 19 Karen Gallery, Gold Coast, Australia

Opening night @ 19 Karen on Saturday 31st August, 2013. 

Finished Works for "All Of The Places That I Have Lived"

Here are the finished paintings for my latest solo exhibition: "All Of The Places That I Have Lived". The series is a collection of 30+ self portraits from birth to date, encapsulated within the frame work of every house, apartment, flat, studio, squat, houseboat and dwelling I have lived in my life thus far. Each work explores the effect of my living space upon myself and my development as an artist, forming a timeline of my life and art. The works are a study in nostalgia, exploring my sense up upheaval and displacement via moving house 17 times, in 8 or so towns/cities, across 2 continents.