For this month’s monthly maker, I caught up with our fantastic North Docks resident and artist Annabelle Gralton. Sat at my makeshift working desk (formerly makeup desk), with a cup of tea and a very old iPad ready to record our phone interview, we chatted about Annabelle’s art inspirations and all of the wonderful things that she makes. So read on!
Hi Annabelle! so can you tell us what do you make/do?
I make portraits, primarily using oil paints on MDF or other board material, occasionally being on canvas or canvas paper. I do commissions for friends and family at the moment. Also, I try to squeeze in things for my own practice at the same time, which can be difficult. I enjoy doing both, so I’ve got no plans to stop soon.
Do you paint our furry friends too?
I’m just on human portraits at the moment, I’ve never painted a dog or cat in my life, I wouldn’t know where to start!
What sparked your passion for painting and art?
I first got into portraits and painting faces after seeing the work of Drew Young, who I saw on an art blog called Booooooom when I was about seventeen and doing my A-Levels. His portraits inspire me because they included bright colours and collages. That’s what made me realise, ‘yeah this is what I want to do’. It was so different from the artists I had seen in the galleries and the art books we were provided with. I was already into art at that point but didn’t know what I wanted to specialise in.
I also got internally suspended from sixth form during my A-levels, so I had a lot of time to hide away in the art department and paint. I wouldn’t recommend getting suspended but I’d recommend spending more time painting while you’re in school.
Can you tell us what you did?
I can’t remember, I think I just lost my temper at a teacher. But I think I was already on my last warning. I couldn’t go to the English department because that’s where the teacher was and my other two courses were art and photography, so I just stayed in the art department.
What has been one of your favourite projects you’ve ever worked on and why?
I really enjoyed the work I completed during my BA and MA (both in Fine Art) because they were so intimately personal to me. They allowed me to explore and express my insecurities around online friendships growing up. My Masters was super stressful but I didn’t regret it for a second. Hey, I got a masters even though I was excluded! I loved having the opportunity to focus on my work conceptually.
I also love any painting where I paint friends of mine. I’m currently doing a commission for a close friend, it’s a surprise. But I find there is something lovely about painting for someone you love, how much effort and love your pour into it reflects the love you have for that person. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, a lot of effort and time put into it for that person, it’s still a loved thing.
What would your advice be for anyone who wants to jump into their art and work on commissions?
I’m still trying to learn myself. I’d advise to not undersell yourself, which is something I still struggle with. Do a lot of research on how to market yourself. There’s a book with a handy equation in it. It’s something like:
‘Materials + (your working rate x hours worked) + a day or a day and a half’s work just incase = work estimate’ or something similar.’
You can alter this to suit you when you get settled but It’s a good starting point. There are some things that you never think about asking while you’re at uni. Especially with social media, I wouldn’t have gotten a lot of my commissions without showing people what I can do on there. My friends and family probably wouldn’t have been as aware of my work without it. Try to make each post almost like a microblog.
You mentioned that you’re working on a surprise commission, what else have you got coming up?
I have few more commissions lined up. And a few paintings I want to paint for my own practice. I want to try painting on glass frames, as well as researching artists that explore digital media and our online presence in their portraiture. I have to fit my art around my work rota, sometimes I’ll be in the studio a lot and then other times not very much, which can make commissions difficult. My friends and family are understanding though.
Tell us one new interesting thing you’ve discovered recently (about your craft or just in general).
In regards to my craft, I have learnt a lot about painting different colours of the skin in regards to undertones; the pinks, blues and greens. I learn something new every day about how to paint. Sometimes I worry I’m not learning fast enough, but I’m still learning and that’s what’s important. I watch Youtube videos and time-lapses of other artists’ work on Instagram.
Also, I’ve recently discovered that I love listening to true crime videos and ASMR whilst I paint, it helps get you into the flow of things. I listen to True Crime Daily on youtube and That Chapter which has criminal cases. Very binge-worthy. When it comes to ASMR, I listen to ALB in Whisperland, she has pink hair, and my hair is blue, so I can relate to her.
What’s it like having a studio at Make?
It’s brilliant, I love it so much. I live in Cheshire and it’s worth the little pilgrimage. Everyone here does something different and I really enjoy that. If I need someone with experience in something that I need help with, I can guarantee there’s someone around the corner with that wisdom to help.