i was introduced to susie wright aka suzy and the owls through julie over at analogue books (always a well of information and inspiration!). i immediately fell in love w/ her incredibly concise lines, her unique take on typography and her love of animals. susie answered some questions for me a while back. please check out her website where you can see her images in all their glory...470px just don't do justice. enjoy!
although all of your work remains consistent in theme and style you seem to work in a few different mediums. can you tell us about them?
my work combines drawing, photography, 3D models and screen printing. My most consistent medium is drawing. I studied first at edinburgh college of art where they have a really strong emphasis on learning the basics of drawing and painting, which included a lot of life drawing and different drawing electives. i really loved life drawing and going on trips to ‘draw on location’ which is something that still enthuses me, drawing outside on a cold sunny day is one of my favorite things. drawing buildings especially. I love that!
drawing in sketch books was something i really got into at college and then taking that information back to the studio and making quite graphic images out of sketchy pencil drawings. the results from drawing on location are so different from when you are sitting at a desk drawing from a photograph. if i do draw from photographs i try and make sure they are photos i have taken myself, like my stags are all ones I have photographed in Scotland.
what is your favorite medium?
my favorite medium is screen printing. I still get so excited by the whole process and my goal for this year is to set up my own print workshop.
have you always drawn? growing up did you know you would be an artist? or is it something you fell into?
growing up i don’t remember ever particularly making a decision to become an artist, it was something I always enjoyed and i was always doing creative things, if not art then cooking. i went to art college thinking i would either do painting or graphic design, i think illustration was my third choice for my electives but when i did it, I realized it was the perfect middle ground between the two.
nature, animals, shapes play really strong roles in your work.
have always had an interest in geography and landscapes and i think this probably comes from holidaying a lot in the scottish highlands. my family are all really passionate about nature, especially birds and plants and i guess that rubbed off on me too.
my interest in shapes comes from drawing architectural structures. i experimented with making models out of shapes from some of my drawings and even though they were really geometric they were also reminiscent of more organic shapes like icebergs. this inspired me to look at more landforms and minerals and geological processes.
can you tell us more about the themes that reappear in your work?
the themes that reappear in my work are owls, scotland, landscapes, plants, animals and birds and architecture. my work has always referenced places i have been to. the owl comes from round about the time i went to paris. my friend and i were looking for some new french words to use on our trip and we came across the word ‘chouette’ which my school french vocabulary book said meant ‘cool’. we later found out it also meant ‘owl’, which we found pretty amusing and so the owl kind of became the fist reoccurring element within my work.
when i moved down to london to do my MA at saint martins i got really homesick and patriotic for scotland. my work became an outlet for me to feel closer to home and create my own wilderness from within the city. living in london also inspired me to do a lot more location drawing of all the different types of architecture, which was such a contrast from the ornate buildings and cobbled streets I was used to drawing in edinburgh. i especially liked drawing the buildings around the south bank between waterloo and westminster bridges in london.
your style is very distinct...
my style of drawing has very much been influenced by screen printing and producing artwork which is suitable for printing. that’s why a lot of my drawings tend to be black and white, because they will usually end up as a screen print, either on paper or textiles. i am really particular about my original drawings being really tidy as well and I only use certain types of pens and paper. at the moment i draw on stockwell drawing cartridge, which is my perfect color of paper, off white and its really smooth, all my sketchbooks are made up of the same stock as well. my sketch books are super neat too...they are like my brain on paper.
each process i use within my work informs the next. the 3D models i make come from shapes within my drawings and photographs. i also make models out of paper with my prints and drawings on which i then re-draw or photograph…
you are an artist in residence at central st. martins in the printmaking department. how is that? what is an average day for you like?
being an artist in residence at st. martins is an opportunity to develop my printmaking and show what it's like to be a practicing artist, as well as helping out around the print room, answering any questions students have and being on hand to show people what to do if they get stuck. i have met some really great inspiring people since i’ve been there and i still get to use the college library, which is awesome!
your work is so intricate and complex. your animal drawings are so intense! i am in love w/ your stag drawings. on average how long do you work on each piece? what is your process behind them?
it can take me a couple of weeks to finish a large drawing like the one i did of edinburgh castle, the original ended up being so much bigger than i had intended (about 150 x 70 cm) but for an A2 (standard) sort of size it takes me about 3 days. my drawing process is pretty labor intensive. i start with a really detailed, tonal pencil drawing then trace that using black fine-liner, so i end up with a linear black and white image. then i block in the black areas, which takes ages but looks so much better done by hand than on a computer. then if i’m going to screen print i do separations for each layer or color that i’m going to print
origami appears a lot in your work.
i have always had an interest in including 3D elements within my work. i used to do window displays. i had a show in London a few years ago at the 88b gallery below the skate shop cide in waterloo (which sadly is no longer there) and i made a flock of 3D owls for that show. they took ages to make, i drew out the design from a model my brother had had for years and made a new pattern to replace the feathers and then screen printed the design on card. it took forever to cut out all the tiny pieces and glue them all together in the right order but they looked amazing in the end. i think that sparked my interest in paper sculptures and playing around with folding.
what's the story behind that?
people always assume illustration is all about pictures on pages but I have never viewed it that simply. i enjoy making people question the space around them and question the notion of what illustration is. i did this first in my degree show at edinburgh college of art when i painted cityscapes on skirting boards and had pieces of work hanging up really high, as well as more typical prints on walls and a screen printed book.
this was also around the time that i first applied my artwork to tee shirts and badges, again removing the images from the typical applications of illustration. this is pretty normal now, everyone seems to be making their own line of tees and products because the market has opened up a lot in the last few years, but at the time when i was at college in edinburgh illustration was still, in the main, just thought of as artwork on paper.
it was around the same sort of time, maybe a year or so earlier that analogue books opened in edinburgh, run by the lovely russell and julie. they were the first people to sell my tee shirts and badges and have always been a source of inspiration and support (and well worth a visit if you pass through edinburgh.)
your typography pieces are truly gorgeous. your piece 'o for oddities' is stunning. i think often illustrators have a small obsession w/ typography. do you? can you tell us a little bit about your feelings and admiration of fonts.
i'm really inspired by graphic design and typographic elements. i was introduced to a lot of dutch graphic design when i lived in holland and i am always inspired by the bauhaus and book cover design. i started hand drawing typography, really because i didn’t like using computers. i have always admired the use of grid structures by graphic designers, it really appeals to my slightly obsessive side of aligning things and is something i constantly think about when i’m working. but always from an illustrative perspective which seems to end up focusing on aesthetics.