Artist Interview: Danielle-Louise Watt

In a conversation with London-based artist Danielle Louise-Watt we learn about the inspiration behind her abstract aesthetic and what motivates her to pursue her art.

When someone asks you what you “do”, how do you answer? I would always dance around the answer to this question. I would usually tell someone what I did for my full time job – project manager, studio manager, etc. – and leave it to my other half to butt in and introduce the idea of me being an artist. Then one day, I just took the plunge – one night at a party someone asked me the dreaded question, “so, what do you do…?” I told them I was an artist.

One night at a party someone asked me the dreaded question, ‘so, what do you do…?’ I told them I was an artist.

I read Grayson Perry’s Playing to the Gallery recently, and he tells of the moment all artists finally become an ‘artist.’ He believes the moment one becomes an artist is usually when they say out loud to an actual person, “I’m an artist.” He describes it as the moment all artists remember as ‘the moment’, and he’s right. Just over a year ago, I answered that question with the word ‘artist’ and I’ve felt like an artist as opposed to a practicing student ever since. That party was pretty average, but I’ll always remember it for that moment.

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What influences your abstract aesthetic? I mostly like to draw women. I take real pleasure out of making the female form from one fluid line, or out of a few graphic colours to hint at where certain curves go. This comes from my undying love for the female form. I have lots of curvy women in my family (me not being one of them). I loved going home from school and getting my head stuck in my mum’s comforting ta ta’s (which I still do now from time to time), and seeing the resilience of these bold curvy women gives me a sense of pride to be a part of such a wonderful gender and culture (not that men aren’t fabulous, as well).

Also, living in Peckham gives me amazing insight into the different cultures of these women. My background is predominantly white, small town and humble, and slightly timid. Then I moved to London and suddenly I see women walking down the street with 100 bags of food, possibly a baby strapped at their backs, and still time for an animated conversation with a friend whilst shouting at the butcher asking how much that goat head is; I was totally captivated. It’s fantastic!

Women are incredible – spiritually, and physically. I try to incorporate the two which is why my images aren’t so literal all of the time. They’re exaggerated, or symbolic, but they all have the same purpose – to praise the female form.

Women are incredible – spiritually, and physically. I try to incorporate the two which is why my images aren’t so literal all of the time. They’re exaggerated, or symbolic, but they all have the same purpose – to praise the female form.

What mediums do you work with? Why have you chosen those in particular? I work with mostly ink, and these amazing pastels called Neocolor. Sometimes I work with ceramic, or screen print or mono print, but for now ink and pastels do what I need them to do.

I just moved from my flat into my partner’s temporarily, and I used to work from home so I don’t have a studio at the moment. Until I move in a month, I can’t just grab some paint and make a mess. So, having materials that are more contained and concentrated means I have the freedom to draw wherever and whenever I can, with the vibrancy I need but without taking over the whole living room.

Also, years ago I got told off for using wet materials in the British Museum (I like to draw in museums for inspiration if I get stuck) so I’ve learnt that brush pens and pastels are my friends in those situations.

What is your creative process like? As I said, if I’m stuck I’ll go to the V&A, or the Tate or BM and draw some of the artifacts. I do like to translate 3D into 2D so I’ll usually draw the sculptures. I also have a pretty decent book collection that I’ll have a gander at. Once I latch onto an idea, I’ll just run with it.

I draw almost obsessively in my sketchbooks, so I’ll draw and draw until I don’t like the idea, or see a way I can develop it. My most recent show ‘MONUMENTS’ was structured this way. I started to think of my subjects as these sculptures – unmovable objects, and the rest went on from there.

From which artists do you draw the greatest inspiration, and why? tumblr_nl3nirMUm41qczw9eo1_1280If you hadn’t guessed already, the Holy Trinity – Moore, Matisse, and Picasso.

These guys made art that was not only relevant to the political and current affairs of their time, but also appropriate for their surroundings, and drawing on their personal experiences. They bypassed their physical barriers, social situations, family responsibilities, and made what they could with the resources that were available to them. Plus, all three of them enjoyed the female form, and showed this in their work.

In the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Musée Picasso Paris, and see the Matisse retrospective at the Tate Modern. Having the luxury to be face-to-face with the work that inspires me has really made me hit the ground running. It’s made me believe more so than ever that being an artist isn’t an impossible task – it just takes a little time to get to the point you might be aiming for.

Having the luxury to be face-to-face with the work that inspires me has really made me hit the ground running. It’s made me believe more so than ever that being an artist isn’t an impossible task – it just takes a little time to get to the point you might be aiming for.

Seeing so much great art in galleries, museums, and even fields has installed a belief that one day, I will have a piece of work hanging in the Tate, the Turner, or even the MOMA.

How do your life and art intersect? I work full-time to allow myself the freedom to make my art. I left University in the mindset of being a commercial illustrator (I studied Illustration and Animation BA Hons at Kingston University), and I very quickly saw I wasn’t making money from what I did – I wasn’t very good at it – and any work I was being paid for was the opposite of what I enjoyed. I started to resent my work for not making me money and I stopped working.

I got a job in a pub, worked as a commercial screen printer, and then I was offered a full time job in a tech startup. Once I began to earn money, the pressure was lifted from my work. Once I was able to earn my money independently from my art I started drawing again – almost religiously, every night. Now I draw whenever I can, but it never feels like a chore and if I get stuck, that’s okay because there’s no pressure.

The only time since I’ve had this realisation that I’ve struggled with working is when I recently agreed to have my first solo show. It was the first time in three years where all the pressure was on me, and the work I produced. I must admit I freaked out a bit, but with perseverance and some wonderful support I have made a body of work I’m very proud of in a very short space of time considering the hours I work in my day job. It’s a constant juggling act, but in the last year or so I’ve been getting the balance of work, art, and play almost right.

It’s a constant juggling act, but in the last year or so I’ve been getting the balance of work, art, and play almost right.

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work? I went to a show recently at the Barbican based on the record label Strata East. It’s Jazz music but really funky (not the abstract kind) it has so much soul and history that since then I’ve been listening to a lot of the stuff they put out. I also have a bit of an obsession with (not sure if I should admit this) Nicki Minaj… I think it’s that big bum of hers and her sass.

I read quite a lot. I’m currently reading a lot of books but my favourite for inspiration has to be Bruno Munari’s Design as Art. If you haven’t read it and you have artistic block, I highly recommend it.

As I said, my main inspirations for my work are the women around me. If I get stuck with a concept or an image I have in my head that I can’t seem to physicalise, I’ll go for a walk around Peckham or for a coffee in the local cafe. Observing the personalities in my local area always helps me to feel more present. I also like to go to the British Museum or the V&A and draw as many female figures (or pots!) as I can with my brush pen. I almost always come away from one of those kinds of days with a couple of pieces I like and could develop into something bigger.

tumblr_nkyg52UqtI1qczw9eo1_1280Purchasing info: http://danielle-louisewatt.tumblr.com

 

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