Charlotte Humphries is currently in her third year of BA Illustration. Her ability to push a traditional process like printmaking and keep it current, with a focus on communication, is very strong. There is a real honesty to her work which she explores through mark making and imagery.
How has your practice changed since you first started at Falmouth University?
Initially, in my first year of illustration at Falmouth I was forcing myself to draw representationally, (what with the pressure of being on an illustration course), but having a really miserable time whilst doing so. I really needed a change because drawing just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Through experimentation in search of a new vibe, I got really into photo collage combined with abstract mark making, particularly with Indian ink. So the work I ended up making in first year was collage-based, and tended to be very, very black. I don’t know if in hindsight this indicates that I was going through a bad time or what, but my practice has very much changed since then in terms of the colour palettes I use. My work still incorporates the use of photographic elements combined with abstract mark making, but the colour palettes have become a lot more exciting and bold, which I think in turn has actually allowed my work to connect with a wider audience.
What mediums do you find enable you to communicate your visual language best?
Printmaking in general has really enabled me to communicate my visual language in the best way possible. It was of course photo collage and paint/ink that initially paved the way for the basis of my visual language, but it is printmaking that’s really given the whole thing a kick up the ass and helped me to realise the potential of my style. Screen print specifically, just has a quality about it that can make a photograph seem so much more intriguing, or a brush stroke appear a whole lot tastier. I think it’s the flat and clean textures that can be achieved, and how intense you can make colour on paper. With my own practice, it is my personal philosophy that 9 times out of 10, whatever it is it’s going to look better screen printed.
What artists influence your practice?
I’m really influenced by the work of abstract expressionist painters, i.e. Cy Twombly. Twombly’s work really makes you want to ditch your ego and just make work. I’ve also become inspired by the slickness of Swiss style graphic design. It is a combination of these two things, the abstract and the linear, that have informed the basis of my practice. Currently I am mostly inspired by photographers, namely Robert Mapplethorpe and Roger Ballen.
Your work pushes mark making and communication, how does printmaking allow you to do this?
Within ‘printmaking’ as an umbrella term there are so many different techniques which allow for loads of different visual possibilities. Printmaking allows me to push mark making and communication because of this array of techniques. For example, with mono-print I can make prints that have ‘off the wall’ expressive mark making, and through screen print I can achieve some really crisp and linear typographic elements which can aid the way the work communicates. The layering that can be achieved in printmaking also has communicative weight in my work, as I can scrawl on top of images, making them more ambiguous.
How do you develop an idea? Do you find that working through it visually and physically enables you to progress with a project more?
Definitely. In sketchbooks, I write a lot and stick in photographs to help with my ideas process, but after that initial stage of getting my thoughts down I just have to start making. In this way my work is mostly process driven, in that I have to start producing stuff in the print room in order to realise what my final artwork will be like. I find it really hard to draw out little thumbnails and scribbles of what I plan to do, as I just get an urge to physically make whatever is on my mind at that point in time.
What does being in a print room environment do for your practice?
The print room environment is really integral to my practice. It’s really hands on, a place you can get your hands dirty and all that jazz. This physicality of the print room translates through to my practice as it allows me to be super experimental and expressive, or work on a large scale. The physical nature of the print room environment also really makes you feel like you’re constantly making and getting your head down with artwork, which I find really fulfilling. Also there is a great community vibe in the print room, everyone in there is doing something different, which sounds cliché, but it is really inspiring to be around.
How important is drawing to your work?
Drawing is important to my work but only in an abstract non-representational sense. The kind of drawing I do now is essentially what is considered ‘mark making’, as I like to scrawl with crayons or charcoal to communicate ideas within my work. To be honest, drawing has become less and less important to my work as time has gone on. I don’t draw to develop my ideas, nor does drawing have a dominant visual presence in my work, unless it is abstract of course. I’d say painting is more important to my work really. Because I love making art, but I’m not much of a drawer, I strongly believe that you don’t have to draw to be an artist. But I would say that drawing is what ultimately gets people into art, and obviously I still love artists who draw.
What are your plans for after university?
Nothing is set in stone, but when I leave uni I’d love to get involved in a printmaking studio somewhere, so yeah, ideally, I’d like to train as a print technician when I leave. My other idea is that I’d really like to work within a graphic design studio, as my interests and work have become more suited and focused towards design since developing at uni. I’d like to push my practice as a freelance graphic designer/illustrator, continuing to push my personal artwork also. I feel like I have a lot to say right now in my personal work so I want to continue pushing all that once I leave!
Check out Charlotte’s work
on Instagram @chumphries4