Your Story | OhBones Illustration

posted by on 09/02/2015

Not far from the busy weekend streets of Brick Lane, with its determined shoppers and queues for cereal, we found a wonderland. The location, which will remain secret at the request of Brit, was filled with wonders from years gone by. Magnificent tattered chairs, large wooden tables and a variety of antiques sat below a mist of incense. A musical duo performed in the background and an interesting chap repeatedly entered and exited to light his cigarette on the candles. The scene was set to delve into the mind of a curious illustrator with a knack for poetic one liners.

Would you like me to start?
*giggles* Can’t wait.

How would you describe OhBones Illustration? Considering your medium, subject matter, themes and the name itself, OhBones.
I would consider it an anthropological analysis of the human psyche, OhBones is inspired by my studies in archaeology and my work across the world. I worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and India, which led me to explore the different characteristics of human nature throughout not only different cultures but different periods in history. So I think OhBones represents the human psyche within and the idea that underneath we’re all skeletons.

One recurring theme is hands. Hands tell an individuals story and under archeological study they provide an interesting in depth analysis of a person. I often remove hands and face’s so that I can remove the individuality from my art. I replace them with a line that represents human nature on a general scale, something everyone can connect with. I hope to represent a mass human emotion, so for example in one of my illustrations it says, “I gave you every fucking piece.” The idea here it that when in love people give somebody everything and if it gets ripped away, you feel like you’ve lost a piece of yourself because you’ve given it to somebody else. I think this is something that at some point happens to us all, we give ourselves to people and this particular illustration is a representation of that feeling. My work draws from the human psyche, which I feel isn’t restricted to individual minds, it’s an intertwining force that connects everyone.

What is it about illustration that attracted you over other artistic forms and do you ever experiment with different styles?
With art I think it’s all about self expression. I think artists have in some cases perfected self expression, I love reading artists biographies for this reason. You get to find out how they use self expression… what was your question? *laughter*

So at first I got into writing folk music, my first EP was called Bones and it’s about losing the flesh of who you are but retaining the scaffolding of a skeleton beneath to allow you to constantly recreate yourself. Songwriting created a foundation for my artwork because I wrote the music so that I could share the lyrics and now I hardly ever draw without a piece of writing in the art. So I’ve just changed my medium through which I share my writing. If you write poetry people have to be interested in what you’re doing and make an effort to pick it up and read it but with visual and auditory media it’s simpler and quicker to absorb. Then they can take the time to relate to the words.

The words always come first. In this way I can secretly share my thoughts on life.

If you’re doing it secretly, is your work deceptive?
Enlightening. I guess sometimes my dark jokes could be a little deceptive if you didn’t get them.

Do you have quite a dark sense of humour?

You mentioned some video project ideas earlier on today, could you tell us anything about these?
I want to capture peoples body movement and expressions, specifically artists, using shots that focus on certain aspects of the body. Similarly to my other work, I want to deconstruct somebody to remove their identity and focus on the details that make them human. I think artists need to create art to live, it’s not something they choose to do, it’s something they have to do and because of this I want to analyse their behaviour and patterns when creating.

I think some people feel ideas randomly appear into the minds of artists when in fact it requires work to come up with a concept. How do you start each piece?
I’m not going to lie to you. When I draw, I don’t consciously think and I don’t have a conceived piece in my head before I start. It’s more of an organic process. I begin with a phrase, a phrase that connects with me in regard to human nature and work from there.

There’s a piece of my artwork that says, ‘Don’t bother coming back anyway,’ and it’s about people abandoning each other. With that phrase in mind, I connected the phrase and the concept with children because in contrast they’re the most innocent of humans but also the most unfiltered. From there I create an illustration but I don’t think before I start turning it into a drawing, I just start doing it. It’s organic, it’s not preconceived or overthought.

If illustration is your creative output, what is your creative fuel? What are you currently reading, listening to or consuming to inspire you?
Emotionally my creative fuel is pain and frustration. Literature wise I’m currently reading a fictional piece about an artist called My Name is Asher Lev, it’s about a Jewish artist who goes against Judaism to produce art. He channels the pain of the Jewish people when he creates his art and I find that fascinating because I’m interested in religion and belief patterns. You get to delve into a religious psyche and watch how artistic practice can cause pain to people of faith and disrupt their religious practices.

I’m also reading Salvador Dali’s diary, The Diary of a Genius, modest man I know. Dali explains that when lecturing he would wear patent leather shoes that caused pain when he stood up. He believed this pain made him speak better to his class and I love the idea that a human can channel pain into a source of creative energy. I’m a very happy person but I think a lot of people are fuelled by pain, everything is fuelled by pain and love.

So does what you create soothe a sense of pain within you?
Yeah. It’s weird. There are two people in my life who have broken my heart. One I only draw about, one I only write songs about and they never cross, they never have and I don’t know why.

Where do you currently create your art, describe the environment and then describe your ideal creative space?
Usually because I’ve travelled so much in the last few years my point of contact has always been coffee shops. I love to look around and have peoples behaviour fuel my ideas. I also thinks it’s a great way to meet people because when people see you drawing they want to start talking to you. Sometimes they’ll take a card or ask for my website and it’s amazing to see significantly different people connect with one piece of artwork. It makes me realise that what I’m doing is having a positive effect and that my attempt to portray a sense of collective human emotion is working.

Maybe I shouldn’t generalise but I think artists love attention and working in a public place attracts a little bit of attention. I think artists that say they don’t like attention are probably lying to themselves a little bit.

Do you listen to music while you work?
Yes, I work a lot with bands and when I do band projects I listen to their music on repeat. Tiny aspects of the illustration can be inspired by their own music, so it becomes a very original project. I worked with a band recently, Orlando Seale and the Swell, and we created something really organic. Sometimes when they had band practice I would sit in and draw, so I got to watch as well as listen to them perform. I think I got to produce something far more exciting than I would if I’d sat alone in a room.

Some would describe your work as “dark”, do you see it this way and is there light to be found in the darkness?
It’s very dark. But most of my pieces utilise dark humour and are quite ironic or have puns in them so that they’re not too dark. They’re dark with a happy or ironic edge, so people can laugh. Not hysterically but a little ha. *giggles*

Off topic perhaps, but you have a very attention grabbing sense of style. What influences your sense of style and what do you hope it projects about yourself?
Thank you. There are many aspects to my style, for one I literally consider it my soul. I’ve discovered myself and I’m able to show it outwardly.

As you’ve seen in my work a lot is based on religious imagery. I’m inspired by the devout, be they Amish, Mormons, Quakers or Hasidic Jews. That is reflected in my style in an unintentionally intentional way. My sense of style is a project.

Creative endeavours can involve risk and sacrifice, what are your experiences with these two things?
I’ve discovered in life, and this is purely based on my beliefs regarding the world which I’m not saying are correct but they’ve proven true in my life, that if you tell the universe what you want and you put positive energy out there, the universe will respond. I think it’s important to show the world what you want. I worked for six months drawing by myself with no audience, everyday I would put positive energy into my work and it flowed naturally towards those who would appreciate it.

I think success is coming simply from my attitude to life. If you surround yourself with positive energy then positive people come into your life and positive people feed each other. I’m grateful that I’m succeeding but it doesn’t come from me taking a risk or sacrificing anything or pushing it as a career. I’m just going to keep enjoying the ride and see what happens.

What are the biggest challenges you confront with yourself and those you work with when creating?
When people approach me with a project, they don’t give me a detailed brief, they tell me to do whatever I want. The bands that I work with give me their lyrics and from there I have creative freedom, which is amazing because it’s like a playground for my brain. So I don’t think there have been any unexpected challenges in regard to those I work with.

When it comes to myself, if I don’t feel like I can start a piece, I simple won’t. I won’t sit down with the intention of drawing if I don’t feel I’m ready. I don’t doodle either. I generally start a piece to finish it. I also share everything online, I think it’s an important part of the process to not hide what you draw. It teaches you to be confident with the pen.

How do you escape the creative mind space and get away from your work temporarily?
I don’t. I don’t think I do get away from it. I think my artwork is my mind and my experience of the world. I can never escape it. It’s not like a prison, it’s just how my brain is and I live within it.

So it’s a bit like the way Harry Potter is connected to Voldemort?
*giggles* Yeah, but my art hasn’t tried to kill me. Yet. There’s still time.

What are you working on right now?
At the moment I just finished a big project with a band and I’m starting another project, I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a collaboration with other illustrators and the title is The Philosophy of the Curious Minds. I’m interested in other artists philosophies, so we’re getting together and creating something that explores different artists views of the world.

If we interviewed you again in a year, what new things would you love to be able to tell us?
I really want to give you an answer but I don’t think about the future, I just think about the moment.

A year ago I met a girl in Amsterdam, we lived together and we created a project together called Living in the Moment. Humans seem to find this particularly hard to do but we did and it changed our lives, it created a feeling I’ve never experienced before, we were both so happy and free. At the same time I started to produce my art and I think that’s because I was living in the moment. I don’t have expectations for myself which is why I’m happy with where I’m going. Day to day happiness is perfect for me. I’ll be happy with where I’m going as long as I’m happy in the moment.

I think thats a perfect way to wrap up and I couldn’t agree more on the importance of living in the moment. Thank you Brit! *high five*

With my first interview wrapped up, I may have left with more questions than I began with but I think provoking thought and questioning is exactly what art should do. Not only this but I may have lit a fire intent on studying more artists, so get in touch if you’ve got something wonderful to share and maybe I’ll pick your brain next! Until then…

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  • Photos by: Adam
  • Special thanks to: Brit (OhBones Illustration)