Letting someone sift through your old artwork is like letting someone sift through your old underwear drawer. It's personal.

I’ve been looking back through old drawings and paintings. CRINGE. My work is very personal; something I don’t necessarily want everyone to look through. Looking through old work makes me feel both nostalgic and slightly queazy… Nostalgic, because they obviously remind me of a certain time in my life; and queazy, because I feel like a very different person now. Although I feel my work has changed quite a lot, in essence my drawings haven’t. They have always tried to tell a story and they have always been led by detail and realism. They are based on what I see but I try to see things differently to what most other people see. 

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Above is a drawing of my room as a teenager. I couldn’t be bothered to tidy so I drew the mess instead. I’m not sure my mum was too happy! Below is a self portrait from 2000.

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My need to portray the ‘realty’ around me, however, became an obsession with 'copying’ my environment. My need to be perfect was not doing me any favours. Sure, I had some nice drawings to show for it but I would spend hours perfecting them - until I’d zapped every inch of life and enjoyment out of them. It got to the point where If anyone commissioned me for anything it would seem such a laborious task and I knew I couldn’t charge the time I took to complete them. Besides which, it didn’t feel very freeing to not allow myself mistakes. Here are some hideous examples of my paintings, aged 16. They’re blatantly copied from photographs and have no real 'life’ in them. They look like something out of the 1960s.

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(I think I would have rather shown you my knickers). 

My family loved my work, of course - so much so that they still have examples of my work all over their walls. This is very endearing but they may as well have replaced them with photos of my 80s basin-cut fringe. They are 'technically’ good but just didn’t reflect any of my personality. I was trying to be something I wasn’t: perfect.

At art college and university I still couldn’t quite let go of my perfectionism. The more 'life-like’ something was, the better. I did, however, decide to base my work more on the things that made me laugh and brought out the fun in the mundane. I survived my summer job working in 'Netto’ by going home and illustrating my day. Here’s an example:

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I started to gain a love of collage which made things more 3D without spending extra time on shading. It also helped to make my illustrations look like they were from this century (but only just). 

Towards the end of my degree my work looked like this: 

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I was using a mixture of digital, collage and acrylic paint. I loved the ease of the digital aspects (e.g. the pigeons because I could repeat them and save time). 

After uni I had several rejections for my illustration work which made me think that I needed to put it to one side for a while. I managed to land a few graphic design jobs until I got one in a design agency that gave me a lot of commercial experience (and I’m still there part time! www.leapdesign.co.uk)

I finally dared to pick up my pencils once more. I knew I just had to start drawing again because I don’t feel myself when I’m not drawing. The difference is that I had to start with exactly that - drawing, and definitely nothing overworked. I eventually started to experiment with watercolour but I didn’t allow myself to stay within the lines or create a 'perfect’ piece. 

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I like the 'freshness’ of this so I started to do more like this, adding on bits of collage until eventually I started adding digital elements to bring out textures. This is some of my current work:

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Working as a Graphic Designer has also helped me to develop my work so it sits well alongside the written word. I’ve gained a real love of design and typography and I like to use aspects of this within my work to bring out a particular message. I’m still on the journey of developing my work and, actually, the day I tell you I’m not doing so you need to tell me to stop being so bloody perfect and start experimenting. I’ll leave you with this one:

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To view more of my work go to http://www.behance.net/lisamaltby