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21st February 2020
Meet The Artists – Debbie Powell
Debbie Powell has been with the Artworks since 2007, joining as part of our ‘Startworks’ programme just after graduating university! Debbie’s love for pattern and print has meant she’s worked with a range of clients including; Marks and Spencer, Galison stationery, Carluccio’s, Penguin, Tesco, Orion Publishing, Jamie Oliver, Walker Books, Reader’s Digest, The Independent
“Over the years with the Artworks I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked on a huge variety of projects with some wonderful clients but my most favourite project to date is Dippy. In 2017 I was commissioned by the Natural History museum in London to illustrate their famous Diplodocus ‘Dippy’ for his grand UK tour. Working with the team at the NHM was wonderful, I got to go behind the scenes at the museum and examine a 3d print out of Dippy’s skull! One of the highlights of the project has been seeing my illustrations on such a variety of products, from T-shirts and tea towels to most recently a Tram! As Dippy’s travelled around the UK its allowed me to keep in touch with the museum who’ve have kept me updated with all of the tour news so that has been lovely as well. My 6 year old son is the biggest dinosaur fan so being able to share the project with him and visit Dippy on tour has been a huge joy for me!”
We spoke to Debbie to find out more about her life as artist…
Where do you live?
In Dorset, on the south coast of England. We are sandwiched between the beach and the New Forest.
Where is your studio located?
At home! We live in an old Edwardian house with high ceilings and great light. My studio is at the front of the house, I share it with a piano but its big enough to allow me to have two desks and lots of storage for all of my materials.
Can you describe your creative process?
At the beginning of a project, whether it’s a personal or commissioned one, I like to brainstorm ideas in my sketchbook. I also have a sketchbook where I am continuously exploring new mediums and techniques and I often reference that at the beginning of a project. Most recently I have been experimenting with creating my own rubber stamps – it’s a great way to create interesting patterns and a bit quicker and more forgiving than linocuts. I then begin sketching up roughs in pencil, which get scanned into Photoshop where I’ll play with the colour, scale and composition. Once a direction and set of compositions are agreed upon, I will start working up my images. This involves a similar workflow, using mediums such as pencils, paint, pen and ink or linocuts into Photoshop where I build up compositions and apply colour and texture.
What does a typical working day look like?
I have two small children, so my typical working day is very stop start. Once the kids are out at school and preschool, I race home for coffee, my husband also works from home so we discuss our projects and how they are taking shape (and who’s picking up the kids) and then we get down to business. Ill stop for lunch, do a little more work then stop to pick my daughter up, Ill do a little more work and then stop to pick up my son. If I have a tight deadline Ill work into the evening, which is sometimes the most productive part of my day!
Do you listen to music or the radio whilst you work? If so, what’s on your playlist?
If the kids are at home whilst Im working, I will almost certainly put my headphones on and listen to Spotify or to a radiolab podcast to drown out the noise.
How long have you been with the Artworks for?
I joined the Artworks in 2007 fresh from Uni.
What drew you to Artworks?
I loved the fact that the Artworks is run by strong supportive women who have this great bond with one another. When I joined they had Artists who had already been with them for many years, which I saw as a wonderful thing and a great sign that they must be doing something right. It doesn’t hurt that they always throw great Christmas and summer parties either! This has all helped create a real sense of community with all of the artists and it’s a real pleasure to be part of the Artworks family.
What books or programmes did you love as a child? Have they influenced your work in any way?
I definitely think the things we watched and read as a child informs your imagination in some way as an adult.
My sisters and I grew up watching all the old classic movies, the Ealing comedies, Carry on films, lots of weird sci-fi like The Day of the Triffids and Them. I loved reading books such as The Magic Faraway Tree too.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be instead?
I can’t imagine not being in the creative industries so if I wasn’t an illustrator, I’d be some other kind of maker. I would have a studio and spend my days making things that I would want to own and probably not making much money.
What was the most important lesson you learned at Art School?
Just to be yourself and let your work come from within.
What inspires you the most to create?
My children are by far my biggest inspiration. I am constantly in awe of their ability to see the world in a magical way. When we are out and about together I often hear “stop Mama look at this” and I get to see what they see for a moment. I then try to sketch it out when we get home!
Name three artists that you admire
Picasso, Saul Bass, Helen Borten to name a few.
What kind of commissions do you enjoy the most?
Umm..the really easy ones that pay lots of money.
What would your dream commission be?
I would love to see more of my work on textiles, but I am also very conscious about sustainability so I would love to be doing more work for environmental causes.
Do you have any pets? If so, what and what are they called?
Someday soon we will have a pet, my son wants a lizard and my daughter wants a flamingo!
What 5 things could you not live without?
My family, good food and music. The simple things in life are all I need.
What is your very favourite meal?
Garlic spaghetti, anytime, anywhere.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Explore nature, see friends, crafts with my children, eating good food and hanging with my husband.
What is your current dream travel destination?
Wales, Sweden and Iceland.
See more of Debbie’s work here.