this week we are talking to the wonderful susan farrington. her magical mixed media collages use vintage paper, fabric and paint. her work has been published in countless magazines, books and newspapers. i am so happy to have her on the blog, and i am sure that you will be inspired just as much as you are encouraged.
what is your background?
i have been an artist for as long as i can remember. as a child i was encouraged by my parents to explore a wide variety of ways to be creative: taking classes in decoupage, quilting, ceramics, woodworking, papier- mâché, drawing, and painting, to name a few. these childhood experiences form the foundation of my love for working with mixed media. i studied at Massachusetts College of Art and, after graduating, worked in the travel industry, living in europe, south america, and the caribbean; soaking up foreign cultures; and starting my enormous postcard collection.
how did you start designing and selling?
after i returned from my travels, i rented a studio where i made small mixed media works. a friend suggested that my work would be a good fit for illustration assignments and encouraged me to bring my portfolio to local newspapers and magazines. i did this and started to get illustration jobs right away. since then i have been developing my personal style as well as ways to reach a wider audience. a few years ago i started selling my prints and originals on etsy, this has and given me a direct link to those who enjoy my work, which has been wonderful.
can you tell us about your process for illustrating a new piece?
i keep sketchbooks and will often go back to them for the start of a new series. i love working in series. it allows me to enjoy the process and not be too precious about one image.
i also love repetition, you will notice in many of my pieces i have multiple versions of a theme; birds, cakes, faces, cups, flowers, etc...
also, i adore hunting for materials to incorporate into my work: estate sales, white elephant tables, antique fairs... these are places where i find inspiration and perhaps the heart of my next series.
play is important. seeking out materials that inspire me, arranging them, reworking the piece, taking it to finish.
one thing i often do in the creative process is to prepare my work space. i have a small studio and because i work with a lot of materials it is often a bit messy (understatement). in preparing the space i give myself time to think about next steps. when i have an area where i can work i am ready to jump in.
what inspires you?
inspiration can come from anywhere; for example, i was recently in the museum of fine arts in boston, in a small display case there was a sailor's sketchbook, this little book was the jumping off point for a series of personal pieces.
i believe that inspiration is ubiquitous. i am constantly collecting images, either in my sketchbook or in my current obsession 'pinterest'. this library, visual or written, is usually where i turn when starting a new piece. there is never a shortage of new work i would like to try.
having said that i want to include one of my favorite quotes by the artist chuck close:
'inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work. and the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will - through work - bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art [idea].' and the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. today, you know what you'll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. if you hang in there, you will get somewhere.'
so, yes, be open to inspiration because it is everywhere but also commit to your work and be disciplined about making it.
what accomplishment are you most proud of in the past week?
i was asked to speak on a panel about public art at the Society of Illustrators in new york last weekend. i talked about my illustration of robots for the MTA NY arts and design program (which was in trains for the whole of 2014) and what has happened because of this opportunity: the piece was accepted into American Illustration, it won the silver medal for advertising at the Society of Illustrators, and it got me a children's book deal with Balzer and Bray- an imprint of HarperCollins.
it was thrilling to talk about how this piece has changed my life and to discuss the importance of public art.
what advice would you give to makers who are just getting started?
i always advise folks who are starting out to embrace the fact that they want to create and to not compare themselves to other artists. there is a fantastic quote that says 'comparison is the thief of joy.' you have a unique vision, celebrate that.
susan will be giving away a free print to a lucky reader! this giveaway is open internationally. enter by leaving a comment with 1) your favorite piece in susan's etsy and 2) your e-mail. giveaway ends at midnight on tuesday, july 14th pst. good luck!