The lovely Antonia Parker has contributed artwork to several of my books now. This time she was inspired by the multitude of lanterns that adorn her house to create a beautiful colouring page for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion. She tells us about her current work practice and fitting creativity around motherhood, a challenge I can well relate to.
What is your double page inspired by?
I have all these gorgeous lanterns at home that I adorn the house with for parties and Christmas and I thought it’d be nice to sit down and paint them. They’re so bright and colourful and ‘zang-y’! I thought about putting them outside and fireflies having a flutter about, so I’ve got all these insects having a sneaky after-party!
How did you put the artwork together?
I used gouache, collage and colouring pencils for my full-colour illustration and had a great time using different widths of nib for my colouring-in page. I planned out the picture in pencil first to make sure I was using the space how I wanted. I love drawing in detail in pen, so using different nib-widths was fun. It’s not often I get the opportunity to make a black and white illustration. With the colouring-in page, I used gouache and colouring-in pencils.
You are a multi-disciplinary artist – what are you favourite mediums to use and why?
I like to make things. It might be organic forms painted in gouache, wonky drawings in my travel sketchbook, glossy fashion illustrations, lumpy ceramics, cutting up and collaging together old polaroids or creating props for my day job. Artwork-wise I’m in a time of transition. I used to mainly work in acrylic paint on acetate, and that is mostly what people ask me for, but it is such a structured way of working that I felt like I was just churning them out. So I have moved more recently into gouache and pottery, and less people and more organic forms, because I wasn’t sure I was stretching myself enough. Sometimes they’re great, and I think ‘why did I limit myself to people for so long?‘ and other times I see how far I have to go. I never studied ceramics or gouache at art college, which is possibly why they are so fascinating now – making pottery is such a different process, and uses my brain in a different way! I love it! I still have so much to learn, and it is a bit challenging not knowing how the work will look at the end of the firing process – but it’s an excellent excuse to keep making and produce better batches every time. My degree was graphic design, specialising in illustration, but I’m not a naturally neat person – so I think pottery suits me much better – getting messy and crossing my fingers about what comes out after a firing. It’s relaxing in a way that I don’t often find drawing is anymore – although I suppose that is the flip-side of trying to make a career out of a passion.
Since becoming a mum, how has your approach to art and creativity altered?
I also had a baby a few months ago, so I’m settling into a new stage of life. Whilst she’s small, so far I’ve found I need to be slow for all of us. When she was 10 weeks old, amongst a few other things, my husband and I found out that we were losing our jobs at the end of the year, and it threw off what had been quite a lovely start to parenthood. I needed to put myself apart from it and be in tune with my baby, which has meant taking more time out than I had originally intended. In January I’ll restart classes at my local adult education centre so I have access to a kiln again. My concentration span is much lower at the moment. It was a challenge to make this piece, and made me realise that at this moment in time, I just want/need to go at my baby’s pace. With this project I had to really make something I wanted to make, (getting to paint in my favourite shades of gouache and delicious line-drawing) as I felt guilty making her sit watching me and her toys and just getting on. She was grumpy, and I just had to stop sometimes and be with her. It’s a frustrating pace to work at…. I can manage balancing house jobs and picking up the threads of things I was doing in the times I get, but sitting down and working is very challenging! I have so much admiration for mothers who are actually focussing on and achieving things besides their babies; I do not feel like one of them at the moment! It is sort of easier now she can crawl and occupy herself for a few moments, but then you have to run and check they’re playing with something safe. There is a reason that childcare exists! Currently I take my sketchbook around with me, and draw the odd thing when I get the opportunity.
What have been some of your most recent projects, can you tell us more about them?
Most recently I created desert and cacti scenery for New Wine conference, six 1.2 x 2.4m paintings. These were a huge undertaking as my baby was 3 months old, but with the help of Lily, James and Becky, we made them happen! When I’m painting like that, I try to take quite a relaxed ‘we’ll just see how they turn out!‘ approach, but you have to know what’s happening so your team can help you! I did a lot of drawing, mixing paint and painting by numbers so that it could carry on when I was feeding or getting her off to sleep. My logo for The Mucky Hound (one of my first forays into animal drawing) has been translated into vinyl and is driving around Tunbridge Wells as they pick up local dogs for walks. In my own work, I have also been making cacti in gouache and clay. When working with clay, I like to make small sculptures and slabs to illustrate using underglaze. I’m inspired by the things that excite me – so with this piece beautiful, colourful lanterns, things which are interesting to draw e.g. cacti variety of shapes and detail to draw, pottery: just a different way of working from how I have before and loving growing my understanding of it.
You’ve been involved in a few of my books now, what is it about them that keeps you coming back?
They tend to be interesting briefs: after I graduated, I made mostly fashion illustrations, and having always been interested in the environment, how could I not get involved in promoting sustainable fashion? Your last book ‘That Which We Do Not Understand‘ was inspired by your miscarriages – I had lost two babies myself and finally understood the grief. If we’re all silent about our losses, we’re part of the loneliness you might feel afterwards. I was pregnant at the time and was able to create something that hopefully, cautiously-optimistically spoke to others.
Where do you live and what else excites you besides art?
I live in Tunbridge Wells with my husband and daughter and I’m lucky to know some fantastic local artists and makers. I love gardening (currently I am waiting for the rain to stop so I can plant my spring bulbs!) I am also very interested in rights issues, like genital mutilation and female sexuality, and now of course all of the work/family balance things that I’ve always followed are becoming more of a reality for me! I try not to bore on about my baby’s reusable nappies, but I love them! I have quite a nurturing day job focussed on children and their communities, but I find that I am also interested in women and their lives as mothers-to be and parents, and then of course fathers and how they find their way to fatherhood without the biological changes women go through, and also, how they support mothers. Can you tell that I’m spending my Maternity Leave doing a lot of thinking?!
There are just a few hours left to secure your copy of Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, featuring the work of Antonia Parker and over 40 other international artists. Visit my Kickstarter page here.
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