Sylvester Sessions #88
Illustrator, Welcome to Babeville
Wellington, New Zealand.
Bonnie wears Trackie Jacket and Trackies
Your illustrations are so detailed and delicate, tell us about your process.
To get such intricate detail I need to draw from a photo, so my process usually starts with roping my friends into recreating some weirdly specific image in my mind so I can photograph it. I start by laying down the entire outline of the drawing, then gradually fill it in with colour - generally starting with a face and spreading outwards from there. I have a tin of 135 different coloured pencils, and each time I start a different element of the drawing - say, skin - I pick up to 20 different colours to make up the tone I'm after. Skin is composed of so many different colours, and different tones of colours - lilac, cream, rose pink, red, navy blue etc. so to recreate realistic looking skin I need to blend all these colours together seamlessly. My drawings are made up of endless amounts of tiny marks, all layered and blended together to create a smooth surface. It's a slow process, but as it's quite an intuitive thing for me I can kind of zone out and achieve a real sense of peace while doing it - it becomes almost meditative.
Have you always illustrated in this style, or has it developed over time?
I've always drawn somewhat realistically (or at least attempted to!) but my technique has definitely improved over the years, and most significantly in the last few years. I think being outside of art school and not having any specific deadlines has really given me time to, well, take my time. I haven't had to rush anything. I can practice drawing skin, practice drawing hair - and figure out the best way to recreate these in pencil.
How do you choose your subjects? What draws you to people?
I've always been somewhat obsessed with beauty, and a beautiful face in particular can really make my heart sing. I'm always compelled to try and recreate this elusive beauty on paper. I'm blessed to have so many gorgeous, symmetrically featured friends that are open to me photographing and drawing them, particularly with my current series - I'm working on a series of people dramatically crying - so they are damn good sports.
What materials do you prefer to work with?
Good quality coloured pencils, a decent pencil sharpener, and Bockingford paper. The smoother the better.
What are you reading / watching / listening to that is inspiring you at the moment?
I'm completely in love with David Lynch - in particular the vibe he creates in his film work. It's so weird, but incredibly harmonious. It gives me chills. I recently read his book about transcendental meditation and there was a lot in there about ideas, and how an artwork is almost always most successful if it hasn't drifted away from the original idea too much. This is it's most pure form, and is often most original. More "you". This has really resonated with me because with the slowness of my work I do have a lot of time to second guess myself, and think I need to mould my work to fit into the art world as it is today. It encouraged me to continue making work for me, not anyone else. It will be more genuine that way.
What are you looking forward to this year?
At the end of last year I went on an incredible, whirlwind holiday to New York, so at the moment I'm feeling quite content with my quiet little life in Wellington, settling back into my routine - drawing most evenings and feeling the satisfaction that comes from a productive routine. I'm a sucker for the comfort of a good routine, and always feel most balanced when I make time for my drawing. Also in the last couple of years I've discovered some really amazing NZ artists, and I've acquired some seriously beautiful pieces that really do bring me so much joy. I'm a firm believer in surrounding yourself with beautiful things, so I'm excited for this collection to continue to grow.
What's the best thing about winter?
I'm kind of looking forward to having an excuse to be a homebody and hunker down inside with my heater on, drawing at my desk. In saying that though, Wellington does seems to come alive a bit during Winter with cool things like the Film Festival and Burger Wellington (an event where local restaurants compete to make the best burger in town). I do love a good burger.
Interview & photography by Greta van der Star.
Check out Bonnie's illustrations here.