Discovering the imaginative illustrations created by Hattie Buckwell is a little like finding an opening in the back of your wardrobe, and stumbling out into the version of the world you always hoped was true.
It’s an impression only deepened by the shape of her Dreamscapes Within Roundscapes series, offering the sense of looking through a telescope or porthole.
“I have a bit of thing for circles, painting within a circle is much closer to what we see through circular pupils,” Hattie admits. “Our field of vision is somewhere between a circle and an oval so I love this way of illustrating.”
Inspiration often comes to light when Hattie is on the move. “My series of ‘Homes of the World’ came from a love of travelling – imagining what its like to live up a treehouse or surrounded by snow-capped mountains,” Hattie says. “I love to paint places I’ve been (or want to go to), recording what it feels like to be in a particular part of the world.”
As you might expect, lots of Hattie’s illustrations stem from her love of walking amid nature, and from her passion for travel. “I always have a sketchbook on me and draw a lot, bringing together elements from different ideas into paintings later.”
Hattie also loves watching documentaries and reading ‘proper nature encyclopaedias’. “I really enjoy of infographics of all kinds, learning with pictures, symbols on maps,” she says. “Some of my illustrations came from a want for a visual guide to something, for example, ‘Eat Fresh’ is an illustrated guide to what food is in season.”
In fact, many of Hattie’s artwork titles read like instructions for living well and enjoying life: Eat fresh, explore, feast, swim wild…
There’s a real sense of narrative in Hattie’s illustrations, which I find irresistibly enticing.
“I often work on a series of illustrations, with individual pieces coming together to tell a story,” she comments. “I recently completed my ‘Explore’ Series, playing with illustrating tiny people exploring vast natural landscapes. Some by canoe, some skiing down slopes, some pulled by huskies. Through illustration I can create miniature worlds for the viewer to explore. I enjoy adding tiny details to spot little going-on’s within the tiny worlds seen in the paintings.”
Various elements of Hattie’s past and present influences these tiny worlds.
“I grew up doing house-swaps with my family, swapping homes with people living all over the world,” she recalls. “So much more than a holiday, it allows you to really get a feel for life on the other side of the world. I feel very lucky to have so many memories and photos to draw inspiration from. Now I live in Bristol, such a thriving creative community and always so much to see and do – it is a constant source of energy to make.”
When I first picked up one of Hattie’s business cards, she described herself as a textile artist, a element of her past that immediately intrigued me, especially with reference to its impact on her art today.
“I trained as a textile artist – my work was based around colour, colour mixing, traditional dyeing and print techniques, and creating repeat prints from my illustrations,” she tells me. “At the beginning of a painting I still use a lot of the same processes of testing colours, playing with different layers of detail. I love to dye and play with textiles, but my first love was always in drawing & painting. The simplicity of working on sheets of paper, I feel freer to concentrate on the illustration itself.”
She still finds a lot of satisfaction in creating a design which repeats perfectly, “like ‘Koi’. In the future I would love to work on some more repeat illustrations which could be printed on fabric, but for now I’m still revelling in the simplicity of paper and colour.”
Being an artist suit Hattie’s free spirit perfectly. “I love that every day is different, and that I can work on lots of different projects at once,” she says. “If it’s a sunny Monday I can just go and explore or spend the day planting in the garden if I want to. When I first went to art collage, I couldn’t believe that I could work on creative projects all day. Now I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else! It’s been a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but I’m so proud to be able to do this full-time.”
Hattie co-owns Blaze shop and studio at 84 Colston Street in Central Bristol, “so naturally this has the best selection of my work. It’s a co-operative run by artists and we are proud to sell the work of more than 60 Makers living in Bristol, from printmaking to ceramics to original paintings. It’s right in the middle of the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter which has so many fantastic independent shops to explore.”
Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.