Monday, 2 April 2012

Interview with Laura Dumbrell

Image - Laura Dumbrell
Whilst searching for inspiration for the animal fair paper cut I am planning I came across this fabulous illustration by Laura Dumbrell. I was intrigued by Laura's decision to work solely in black and white and loved her drawing style. I got in touch with Laura to find out mor eand she very kindly agreed to do an interview for the blog. So without further ado... 

Tell us a bit more about yourself.

 I'm a self-taught freelance illustrator from Brighton who recently returned to the seaside and decided I'd like to focus on getting my doodles out and about.

Can you tell us more about your scenic paintings?
During my gap year I spent some time studying at a college in Houston, Texas where I joined the Theatre Production course. In the first class I was asked by the tutor what I enjoyed doing so I replied that I liked to draw and paint. I didn't have any experience of painting on a large scale but she decided I should be the Head Painter on the next show so I was pretty much thrown in the deep end!
I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot during that time so when I came home I applied for a course studying Theatre Design and Production Crafts. Throughout the course we had to try each aspect of design and scenic painting quickly became the subject that I enjoyed the most. After the course, I very luckily got to do some work experience for the Arundel Festival and some freelance work in the scenic studio at the National Theatre in London. For the last few years I've been more interested in illustration as it gives me a bit more freedom to create my own style rather than working to a specific brief but I'd be keen to return to scenic painting if the chance came up.

Image - Laura Dumbrell

You say that your work tends to veer towards the spooky side of things. Tell us more....

From a very young age I was drawn to spooky things - one of my first drawings was a skull! I loved stories about ghosts and gruesome monsters and this seems to have followed me into adulthood but had been diluted slightly by other interests. The idea of something unknown hiding in the dark or just around the corner has always been inspiring so I tend to incorporate that general uneasy feel into subjects that may usually not be that sinister. I'm not sure where that comes from - it just seems to happen naturally!

Images - Laura Dumbrell

You collaborate with Kerry Curzon to create items using your fabric. What are the highlights of collaborating with another artist?

I love collaborating with Kerrie! She is incredibly skilled at sewing and fabric design and though we've been friends for years we've only recently managed to combine our interests to work on a range of items. The main highlight of working with her is that she comes up with some brilliant themes for me to draw which I otherwise wouldn't have thought of and this inspires me to create other work so it's very stimulating. We also give each other a lot of freedom to interpret ideas so it's a good mix of different styles.

 Images - Laura Dumbrell

What's your workspace like? Do you have a good view or a favourite piece of furniture there?

 At the moment my workspace is my bedroom and my bed is my desk! I'm moving into a new house soon so it will be good to change things around a bit and have another environment to work in. I don't necessarily have a good view but that doesn't seem to be something that I need when I'm drawing and I tend to listen to music or have a film playing in the background. I like to work from photographs on my laptop which lets me zoom in on pictures and study the details more closely so that's always close at hand. If I'm working on a small piece I like to go down to Hove Lawns or the beach and draw outside.

Is there a reason you work in black and white?
 I'm interested in how you can use the white space on a page to create designs in a similar way as paper cutting, so I've naturally stuck to working in black and white as I think it gives me a better way of focusing on the negative spaces and creating precise patterns. I've been experimenting with adding colour recently using marker pens and Photoshop and that's something I'd like to explore further once I've found the right technique.

Image - Laura Dumbrell

 I notice that a lot of your images feature Brighton - can you tell us more about your relationship with the town (or is it a city?)

In the past I've generally steered away from Brighton-based images but as I've recently returned to live here after living and working in London for three years, I thought it would be good to do a small piece focusing on the fairground at the end of Brighton pier. I was exhibiting some work in a gallery on the seafront during the summer which had a lot of Brighton-inspired work so I thought it would be a good way to link into them too. I grew up here and though I've lived in other places over the years I've always loved the pace of life and the relaxed attitude of people that live here - you can tell the difference as soon as you get off the train! I also feel really lucky to live somewhere that has such a strong culture for the arts and there's always loads of exciting events going on throughout the year.

Image - Laura Dumbrell

Can you name three things that inspire/influence your work?

Three things that inspire me are:
 1) Literature - whether that be folklore, fairy tales, ghost stories or graphic novels

 2) Nature - the flora and fauna theme has slowly crept into my work more and more over the last couple of years and it's something that I'll never tire of as there's always so many directions it can take you in

Image - Laura Dumbrell
 3) Detail/Precision - I'm always striving to make my work more intricate and seek out other ways of filling the page with patterns and tiny marks/lines

Image - Laura Dumbrell

 Do you have favourite tools/materials that you use in your work?

I use Pilot drawing pens in size 0.1 and Letraset ProMarker pens mainly in black! I've been using those pens in other colours to experiment lately and would like to find a way of using them to add more variation to my work so I'm trying to figure that out at the moment. I like to clean things up a bit in Photoshop by removing pencil marks and changing the contrast so it gives it a smoother finish. I've also used biro pens in the past as a way of adding shading and creating a different style in my work. I wouldn't rule out using Rosco scenic paint again if I was working on a larger scale as it's highly saturated so it gives you great scope in a similar way as acrylic paint. I'd like to improve my scalpel skills too as I'm keen on including some paper cutting into my work in the future.

Image - Laura Dumbrell
What can we look forward to seeing in your shop this year?

Myself and Kerrie are currently working together to produce more items so there'll be underwear and vests made with our fabric designs as well as new purses, tote bags, lavender bags and pin cushions. Eventually we really want to include a range of scarves so we're just trying to figure out a way of doing that in a way that's sensible financially!

Image - Laura Dumbrell

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