I’m really happy to be continuing my series of interviews with creative people, and today it’s fantasy artist, Katy Jones. Along with her paintings of mythical creatures, I also love her drawings from nature. If you’re looking for advice on learning how to paint or even taking the step into becoming a professional artist, then please read on as she has given some really useful answers…..
How would you describe your art – do you have favourite themes and mediums?
I love stories, faerietales and folklore, myths and legends. Most of my artwork reflects this in some way. In recent years I’ve become increasingly interested in illustrating picture books – an interest which coincided with having a child of my own. My first picture book is due out in early November! (Pre-order here.) I mainly use prismacolor aquamarkers, with coloured pencil on top to add depth and detail. Sometimes I also add paint (watercolour, acrylic or gouache) and fineliners. For designs on wood I use a pyrography machine and sometimes a little watered down acrylic paint. When I’m making designs for others to colour I work with paper and pencil, but use the computer and a graphics tablet for the inking.
How did you begin; did you study artistic subjects?
I haven’t studied art formally since A level. Creative writing and art were always my favourite activities, and after graduating with an English degree (which did involve a small amount of creative writing) I wrote a novel for adults. At the same time, I was a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and I started sending some artwork to card companies, and trying to sell prints of my images. I’ve built up my business gradually since then. It has been, and continues to be, a process of trial and error!
Did you always intend to be a professional artist, or did it develop from a hobby?
When I was trying to decide what kind of career I wanted, I didn’t think ‘artist’ was a realistic option, which was one of the reasons I didn’t do an art degree. I’ve changed my mind about this since – I don’t think my English degree opened up more jobs to me than an art degree would’ve. Certainly not more jobs that I’d actually like to do!
What is your favourite thing about your work?
I really enjoy the process. I love it when I’m full of burgeoning ideas and they’re beginning to fall into a usable shape – but I also love just sitting and drawing or painting for hours. I listen to a lot of audiobooks when I’m working, which isn’t an option in most jobs!
What inspires you?
Beauty and novelty. It can be difficult to remain inspired if you’re sitting in a studio day after day, looking at the same things, so I sometimes just take a sketchbook to my local park and draw. Ideally I’d have a nice big forest near to my house and preferably the sea too! The advantage of living in the city, though, is that I’m within walking distance of several museums and art galleries, which are great places to draw. I especially like to draw historical costumes, or in the natural history section. When I’m travelling or visiting a new place I often get lots of new ideas. I’m drawn to funny little archaeological features, like gargoyles, stone animals, green men, dragons and carved angels. The stranger they are the more I like them.
Do you have a favourite artist or creator you admire, and why?
I couldn’t pick just one! I love Arthur Rackham’s instriguing and beautiful illustrations, and the design sense of Mucha and Toulouse-Lautrec…but my Instagram feed is full of hugely inspiring living artists such as Mab Graves, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Chris Riddell and Jackie Morris.
Have you had any challenges to overcome?
The more I talk to other artists, the more I think that most of us are battling feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. ‘The Artist’s Way,’ by Julia Cameron, is a really encouraging and practical book for anyone looking to develop their creativity, especially in the face of doubt, opposition and artist’s block.
I also find it difficult to balance creative time and time spent on promotion and practical tasks (website maintenance, listing items for sale on Etsy, researching craft fairs and events, social media, etc etc). I can sometimes fall into the trap of feeling I’m doing ‘well’ because I’ve spent lots of time working on boring, practical tasks when I would done better to set myself a time limit so I could actually fit in some art.
Any advice for anyone wanting to learn to paint?
I would say it’s worthwhile finding a course. Learning some of the basics and some ‘rules’ is useful, even if you choose not to follow them. Working alongside other people can be very encouraging when you’re frustrated. Sometimes it’s difficult to see your work objectively and others might spot beauty or potential you’ve missed, as well as possibly being able to suggest improvements.
Even if you’re mainly interested in painting, drawing is a really important skill. If you want to be better at art then getting a sketch book and drawing from life every day will really help – whether you’re just starting out or have been painting for decades.
Any advice for anyone wanting to turn art into a business?
Anyone who knows the secret, please tell me! It is difficult to make art very profitable and many artists rely on other jobs or partners who can support them. Etsy is a good place to take some first steps, as it’s easy to set up a shop from which you can sell internationally. However, you will only sell art if you promote it, preferably both online and in the real world.
Where can we find you in person? Future craft fairs or exhibitions?
I will be at the October Faery Fayre on 22nd and 23rd October, in Glastonbury Town Hall, selling a range of original art, prints, pyrography, colouring books and cards.
Where can we find you online?
(All pictures on this page belong to Katy Jones)