Lucy Roleff – Art Interview
Melbourne based musician, illustrator and writer Lucy Roleff talks to Carol Bowditch about Some Things:
While we’ve spoke about your musical pursuits with your band, Magic Hands, and solo work, you are also an illustrator (woman of many talents). Does one activity assist with the other? Or do you draw when you are struggling to make music, or vice versa?
Shucks! Well, I’d say I kind of oscillate between the two. I feel very claustrophobic when I sense pressure to stick to one thing so it’s a way of keeping both music and illustration fresh and worthwhile to me. I’m just glad I have finally settled on two things, when I was little I played a bunch of instruments and did all these other extra-curricular things and all my music teachers would say “You have to pick one to focus on! Jack of all trades, master of none” etc. That made me anxious for a while but then I heard somewhere that Joni Mitchell would go between her music and her painting in a similar manner and I didn’t feel so guilty.
Your subject-matter makes the ordinary beautiful through use of colour and style. Why do you choose to create art from mundane objects like Mi-Goreng and Venti packets?
I guess the artwork that first inspired me as a teenager was always hyper-real or about everyday things which, removed from their normal environment, seemed loaded with potential meanings. I’ve always been drawn to realism in everything I do and felt a pretty strong aversion to fantasy. Maybe that came from my Dad who would catch us watching Rugrats or The Simpsons and say “This is ridiculous! No one has purple hair! Watch something else.” So yes, it’s probably less about trying to represent the beauty of every day objects for me. I enjoy the process of selecting the objects and then pondering what they mean separately, what they mean together and what narratives or questions they might bring up for people, like “Why is that croissant next to that glob of toothpaste? What’s going on outside this picture?”
You’re currently preparing ‘Some Things’- a project wherein which you will illustrate random objects belonging to creators and thinkers. Could you tell me a bit more about this project? How will you be selective about the objects that reflect that person?
Sure! So ‘Some Things’ is a project where I have a little chat to different people who are in a creative or academic field, be it music, illustration, writing or whatever. I ask them to select three or four objects that belong to them which I then illustrate. These objects can be anything really, but they should say something about the person and their life so far. I’m hoping to present the works in a small book which will include information about each person as well as a paragraph for each object, written by the subject, explaining their significance. I’m still fleshing out the final presentation but I’m really excited to be working on something that has no foreseeable end. I’ve never done that before and I like not knowing where it might lead. Also it’s a really nice way to feel involved with other people after sitting alone at my home studio (desk next to my bed) for months.
Myself being pretty removed from the world of illustrating (currently I’m sat at my university library using a bulky computer with several missing keys), what are your tricks of the trade? What programs/resources do you use to create?
Practice is the first one! Layering would probably be the second – and this applies to both pencil work and digital. My pencil work is usually carried out with my favourite pencils – Faber Castell Polychromos (Germany, you’ve done it again!). As far as I know, all my friends who do amazing pencil work use these. Digital work is much kinder in some ways because I can erase anything in a second (this is also a bad thing if you don’t save regularly!) and done by layering using Photoshop mainly. Life would probably be easier if I could make more work in Illustrator but that will take some serious thinking time for me.
You have created some pretty rad portraits of celebrities like Uma Thurman and Chloë Sevigny , do you prefer portraiture to still life illustration or do both have their merits as an artist?
Thanks! Uma was one of the first portraits I did when I started making digital work. She’s still one of my favourites. At the moment I’m focused more on the still life pieces for ‘Some Things’ but I’ve been doing a few portraiture commissions which is a lot of fun. I guess it depends what mood I’m in, really!
Which artists do you currently admire and use as a source of inspiration?
Stuart Pearson Wright was the first artist whose still life work really changed my perception of the form. He has painted some really seedy pieces of things like post-sex tissues and vaseline with quite a classical technique. I was studying Fine Arts when I saw his work and we’d have these epic classes of drawing the same lamp or vase or bit of cloth. The technical lessons were valuable but it did make still life seem pretty dated. Seeing his work really changed that for me. Many of my inspirations are painters… Tristan Pigott who I just discovered recently, is incredible. My favourite illustrators at the moment would be Fumi Koike, Agata Marszałek and I love the comics of Anne Emond.
What do you have planned for the next year? Shows etc?
I play in an electro duo called Magic Hands and we have an album coming out really soon. I also want to record my next solo record and all things going well, release Some Things later in the year – maybe even exhibit the pieces for its launch.
Keep up to date with Lucy Roleff on her website, here.
Magic Hands have just unveiled their new video. Check it out on Youtube.
Interview by Carol Bowditch.