Sit Down With Our January '22 Featured Artist
Roots is a freelance illustrator from Birmingham UK. Much of her work is heavily character based with a love for the weird and wonderful, inspired by 90s pop culture and getting lost down nature’s rabbit hole.
How and when did you start making art?
As a kid I'd draw on any surface that I could find! Taking to the streets with chalk or drawing on stones and snail shells with my nan's bingo pens - I was a weird kid haha. My neighbour worked for an envelope factory too and would bring back huge reels of offcut paper which would keep me and my brother entertained for hours.I’ve also been a cartoon addict since day one and would obsessively draw Ren and Stimpy to send to Nickelodeon as well as computer character montages to Game magazine, that's definitely where that nostalgic vibe comes from in my art today.
Do you have any plans for 2022 that you can share with us?
As a side effect of the pandemic my work has taken a slightly different direction over the past year, doing a lot of workshops online and in person - so hopefully they’ll be a lot more of those as I genuinely find them rewarding. I also want to experiment a lot more, personal work took a bit of a back burner last year so im looking forward to just letting loose a little and playing around more!
How would you describe your art style? Do you think it has changed over the years?
I usually describe my art style as ‘illustration with a love for the weird and wonderful’. For a while I tried to step away from the cartoony look, especially when I was at uni but it just didn't feel like what I was creating represented me. Eventually I started going back to the characters I'd created as a kid and it just organically went from there. I also have a background working in graphic design so I definitely think that has had some influence, particularly when creating compositions and tackling certain briefs. But I think the main turning point was when I began participating at live art events and competitions, that's when I started to really refine my style to what it is today, simplifying lines and playing with silhouettes and negative space to make something that could be created quickly if needed yet still have an impact.
What is your favourite subject to focus on in your artwork and why?
I genuinely just love to create characters and put faces on things! Bringing something to life with just a few shapes and lines is strangely satisfying. I’ll always try to add tiny elements to create some kind of loose narrative too but generally I try to keep things as light hearted as possible. If something I create can bring a smile to someone's face then I'm happy. But rabbits and more recently pigeons are definitely my go to characters!
Is there an element of art that you enjoy the most? If so, what is it and why?
Creating characters has always been my happy place but I'd have to say that the last 20 minutes or so when my pieces really start to come together gives me that ‘ahh’ moment, it's really satisfying seeing something come to life from a blank page or wall. And on the flip side, I absolutely love it when I see people identify with a character of mine or point out “that one looks like you” to someone.
What is your favourite music to listen to when creating?
I have a pretty broad taste in music but I do love a bit of hip hop and grime, and have had an obsession with Tupac since my teens. I also used to be a big raver so I love me some loud noises - DnB, dubstep and all that good stuff! More recently I've been getting into Podcasts, such as Creative Boom and Clean Break - it's always refreshing to hear about other artists' journeys and processes.
Do you have a favourite medium that you like to work with?
For years I was very much all about a good ole pencil, paper, and a few Posca’s. But over the past 12 months or so I've started to dabble with spray paint and I am absolutely loving it, but there’s still A LOT to learn! I also really enjoy the ease of digital drawing with Procreate and versatility that comes with it, specially when planning out concepts etc. But still there’s nothing more pleasing to me than getting those nice crisp lines with a handful of Posca’s!
Do you have any favourite artists?
Living in Birmingham I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by a huge community of artists who have inspired me for years - many of which I'm now happy to call my friends and peers. Much like other major cities we have areas plastered with street art and graffiti, so it's like a constantly changing free art gallery which inspires me no end. But also in the live art/competition world there’s so many friendly, incredible people who blow me away with their style and wit. So it really is hard to just name a few!
What/Who do you take inspiration from?
Cartoons have and always will be a huge part of my life, especially the 80s and 90s ones where everything was a bit gross and weird. Stickers and collecting was also a big thing back then too - with Garbage Pail Kids and Pogs. So there's a nod to that in my own creations. But these days, we’re surrounded by inspiration, just scrolling through Instagram you’ll see 100’s of incredible artists at a time. The collector is still strong in me too and I love vinyl toys, artist books and prints.
Do you have any tips on how to stay motivated?
To be honest I can be quite militant with myself when it comes to work - I love a good list and plan out each month with upcoming projects which really helps visualise and prioritise. It's also really important to surround yourself with like minded people, the creative community is full of wonderful people who can give you advice2and inspire - which you can do online or in person, depending on how sociable you are. But we all have days when it really is a struggle to get creative, and on days like that i’ll try to do some light admin instead, put together some sticker packs or update the website or something like that. Taking part in one of the many daily drawing challenges available online can also really help loosen you up and get the cogs going again. But truly, sometimes I think just stepping away from a project (if you can) for a few hours or until the next day and looking at it with fresh eyes really does help.
If you could give an aspiring artist one piece of advice, what would it be?
I know it's a big ole’ chiche, but practice whenever you can. A sketchbook is a beautiful thing, it's great to see how you’ve progressed over the years but also something you can go back to and spark new ideas. But one of the main things I tell people, particularly when drawing live, is if you make a mistake, nobody knows but you - so give yourself some slack!
What is the biggest challenge you have had to face and how did you overcome it?
For a long time I second guessed my art style and direction which had a huge toll on my confidence, but when I finally committed to my characters and jumped in with both feet things just started to make a lot more sense. Obviously, like everyone there are still days where the imposter syndrome sneaks in, but it's something I try to be mindful of when it happens and step away from social media for a minute and go for a walk, or stick a cartoon or some true crime on.