Maybe there’s something magically inspiring about the River Clyde, or is it simply the cider served in Glaswegian pubs. Any way, Glasgow is buzzing with young up-and-coming artists creating incredible things, either on stage or on fabric, with words or with paint. Every month or so we’ll chat with a Glasgow-based artist to see what they’re up to. Today: Chelsea Frew, an illustrator and mural maker. “I guess my biggest inspiration with the cityscapes comes from being able to live and walk in the streets of Glasgow.”
How did you first get into illustration and how has education contributed to your artistic development?
I’ve been drawing since before I can remember really. I could never keep still as a kid and it was the only way my Mum could keep me occupied. During school and my first 2 years at The Glasgow School of Art, I didn’t actually draw that much. I spent my first two years of art school exploring different mediums and trying to find my niche. At GSA they encourage you to try every idea and not to be afraid of making mistakes, which benefited my art a lot, as experimentation is often where my most exciting work comes from. The freedom really helped my practice and ideas to grow.
Your work is particularly focused on buildings; did buildings fascinate and inspire you from a young age?
When I was growing up, my family moved home every year and I think the contrast of buildings and environments definitely seeped into my subconscious. I have lived in various cities, coastal towns and parts of the Scottish countryside. This has undoubtedly influenced the way I create images of landscapes and interpret architecture.
You work on an impressive scale and often illustrate whole cityscapes; is that an ability that you feel comes naturally?
I’d say it is something that comes naturally to me. As I said, I interpret architecture. What I mean by this is that when I draw a cityscape, I draw from my imagination or memory a great deal of the time. This means that I don’t spend time thinking and painstakingly focusing on detail. I draw fast and energetically, which enables me to create exciting lines and shapes.
How do you find inspiration? Do you have to walk around a city first in order to draw it?
I pretty much take inspiration from everywhere, from something capturing my eye in a TV-program or on the Internet. I guess my biggest inspiration with the cityscapes comes from being able to live and walk in the streets of Glasgow. I often find myself staring at the buildings and looking at the small characteristics and details that create the personality of the city.
What tools do you use for your work?
I try and find the thickest oil or paint pen I can. I love the idea of touching a piece of paper and making a permanent mark, because it means that the lines I draw are confident and natural. There is no redoing or rubbing out anything.
When illustrating, do you sometimes get blocked for ideas? If so, how do you overcome that?
I really force myself to create work. Sometimes I’ll put on the TV and draw the things I see on the show or I’ll go for a coffee and draw the people around me, which usually gets me into drawing again.
I know that you mainly take inspiration from the City of Glasgow, is there anything in particular about this city that inspires you?
I know it sounds cheesy but for me “People Make Glasgow”: I love the people and the scenery. The city has so much going on and it changes almost every time you walk through it. There are so many recognizable characters and people that are interested in meeting you and vice versa. I have also always adored the gridded structure of the city, the squared arrangements of buildings are comforting to draw and I find them really aesthetically pleasing to illustrate.
Are there any other cities that you also share a certain affinity for?
Definitely New York. I think it’s the overstimulation and the grids. I just love gridded cities.
Tell us about your favourite project thus far?
All of my murals really, because it’s physically demanding and a race between what I can do and time limits. I also really enjoyed a recent community project I undertook in Beith, where I incorporated human portraits with scenery, which I found particularly rewarding.
Do you have to do a few drafts first?
I’m not one for drafts unless somebody is asking for them from me. I almost feel uncomfortable planning things out, it’s something that I am still getting used to. I’m definitely not a perfectionist.
Can you give some advice to any illustrators out there who may be looking to become an illustrator?
Just create work.
Has your practice changed over time, and if so, how?
For sure! My practice has gone from scrappy graphite lines, where I was afraid to draw a portrait, to huge murals and I have now started creating more digital styled illustrations. I think it will forever change and progress because my mind jumps so quickly and I get interested in different techniques frequently.
What is your dream project?
I’d love to draw a mural on the side of a building. To figure that out and see the drawing on such a huge scale would be amazing.
Website – www.chelseafrew.com
Instagram – @chelseaillustration