Posted: 29th July 2020
My name is Paige Graham-Buckle. I am an artist both from the North and currently working in the North of the UK. This is a blog post I am writing to hopefully give those interested in art something to read in lockdown. I will talk about my experience with the Ferens Open Exhibition (which unfortunately has had to be cut short this year but has been regenerated into an online version), how lockdown has affected my artwork and what I get up to beyond acrylic and canvas.
Ferens 2020 Open
This is my second year exhibiting work in the Ferens Open exhibition. Last year, I exhibited an illustration in my familiar style, working with a similar theme to a lot of my previous work. This year, I have worked at developing my illustration style and translating it into different mediums – and have both an acrylic painting and a wall sculpture displayed. My art is inspired by people who are not afraid to express themselves, people who blur gender and play with fashion. I studied a Fashion Communication course at University so I do not have a traditional art education. My art often starts with a make-up idea or a person I come across on Instagram. People’s bravery to decorate themselves however they want, to make themselves happy, is key to my work and results in the characters appearing through my art. My experience with this year’s Open Exhibition has been even better than the last! Being able to see my work in my hometown and bring my family along will always make me proud. This year I have also been involved in an artist Crit session; being able to talk to other artists really encouraged me to push my art further.
An Artist in Lockdown
Ironically, I felt as though I had just made some connections and felt less alone as an artist trying to make my own path. Then lockdown came. Alongside my art practice and business I work three days a week picking vintage clothing. Because of this, I saw lockdown as an opportunity and, despite all the horror it has brought, I dove straight into creating, naively thinking I better get to it as lockdown may only last 3 weeks…
As lockdown lingers, my urgency has worn off and my creative side is hungry for something other than a government daily advised walk. Before the lockdown, I had decided to transform a spare room into a studio. I was part way through this when everything shut down. I have always struggled with needing things to be perfect and wonder, if I hadn’t been forced into putting my studio together and using it, would I have forever put it off thinking it will never be as perfect as the image I have in my head? Pushing my perfectionist anxieties to a side, I ploughed on and created my very own creative space. Although my jigsaw puzzle vinyl flooring still lies rolled up and dormant in another room, I am happy and grateful to have a space to call my own.
Work since Lockdown
The image of the figure on a black background shows the first piece I created in lockdown. I guess you could say it’s a continuation of the painting I had displayed in Ferens of a theme I had not finished exploring – strong characters with an intriguing story. This particular painting was inspired by an Instagram filter. The only real stimulus I would get of colour, texture, fashion and people was from scrolling endlessly on my phone, and eventually the idea of a neon, devil-featured character seeped its way into my brain and manifested into this. Although the subject matter has not changed too much, the colour scheme has taken a darker twist.
I make a point never to wear black. It doesn’t inspire me, so I don’t wear it. I stick to neon clashing colours, vintage clothes and anything that looks straight out of a terrible futuristic 90s film. So, for those who know me, this piece with a black abyss may come as a surprise. Maybe it was the uncertainty of the future and these difficult times that lashed the black onto my canvas… or maybe I should just get off Instagram.
The painting above, which I produced straight after that last, was born out of the panic I felt to prove myself. I always moaned I needed more time to create and now I had it. I panicked, and after watching some David Lynch films featuring the ideal back garden with blue skies and beautiful but tragic women, I painted this, again acrylic on canvas. Maybe that’s why I’m not so fond of this piece, it wasn’t produced by a need to create but a made-up idea I had to prove myself. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say as an artist, and at 23 I am pretty new to this gig, but despite my hesitation I will put it in this blog anyway… my Mum said she liked it.
Inspiration can come from anywhere and the current situation has inspired me to make the piece of jewellery shown below. Right now this is very much our normal but I know having made this piece I will be able to look back at it when life is actually normal and feel exactly what I feel now: worried to walk down the street and scared to go to the shops, but more importantly seeing that rainbow will remind me how people pulled together and helped one another.
When I was working, I would dream of all the things I would make if I had more time. Now, not being at work, I know it isn’t as simple as that and it has not been easy to adapt. Having no choice but to be alone for most of the day, however, has really forced me to make things. Whenever an idea arose that made me even slightly excited, I ran with it. This resulted in the following things… ridiculous unwearable sunglasses and some more practical screen printed tote bags.
She’ll Grow Out Of It
While having time to myself, or locked in the house not being allowed to leave, however you would like to put it, I am lucky to have my business to keep me busy. She’ll Grow Out Of It is a jewellery business/brand I have created that is very similar to my art. My jewellery acts as small pieces of wearable art, which share the same signature style. They are a way for me to combine my knowledge of fashion with my love of creating, and to monetise the passion I already have. I describe She’ll Grow Out Of It as ‘an unconventional jewellery brand that combines creepy characters and dismembered body parts with bright colours and playful motifs to create bonkers jewellery for anyone who has the nerve to wear it’.
The brand emphasises that the jewellery can be worn by anyone, literally anyone… especially if you’re a bit weird. Every piece of jewellery is hand sculpted by me using polymer clay and recycled jewellery to create one off wearable pieces of art.
To start my jewellery process, I rummage through vintage fairs and charity shops for jewellery to use as a base; any business evolving in 2020 needs to be conscious about the environment and this is a great way to give new life to a piece that has lost its appeal. I then use the jewellery to inspire my sculptures – which is usually a face. To begin with, I mould a cool character complete with piercings and outlandish make-up. After sculpting the characters, I paint them and add two layers of varnish for more durability before attaching it to the jewellery.
As I have decided to make this into a business, I need customers! These I try to allure with Instagram. Many hours go into ‘content creation’, an alien concept to some. I curate my Instagram and create images to attract people. Every follower is a possible customer. I use a mix of photography and art on my feed, I will have close-ups of the jewellery, illustrations, jewellery on a person, flat lays and sometimes process videos.
Anyway, as I have rambled on, I will now bring this blog post to an end. I struggle to summarise moments in time when living through them, so I won’t end on a dramatic note. I’ll think back when I can hug my Mum again and come to terms with how I really felt and dealt with this situation. All I’ll say is, be nice to yourself and hopefully I’ll see you in Ferens soon!
You can also listen to Paige Graham-Buckle chatting further about her practice with Ferens Exhibitions Assistant Elizabeth Lindley on the Hull Museums Youtube channel here – 2020 Open Artist Interview – Paige Graham-Buckle
Copyright for all artwork images remains with the Artist.