Introducing… Ceal Warnants
As we welcome the darkly comic works of Ceal Warnants to our latest show, The Cut, we caught up with Ceal to discuss life and work as an artist…
- How did you become an artist / where did you start your artistic training?
I can probably trace my love of making back to growing up with creative parents. They are still always making and fixing things; it is just part of normal life for us. This developed with some great art teachers at school and I went on to formally train at Winchester School of Art followed by The Royal College of Art.
- What inspires your work? Are there any artists, in particular, that influence you?
Marcia Lane Foster sketched my father and his dog in the 50s when he was a young boy. This sketch was later hung in my bedroom when I was a child and I still like to look at it now. I love the way she captured him with so few lines and the movement is exquisite. I like to think that this style was the original inspiration for my work.
Contemporary artists that I admire include Edd Pearman (also part of the show), Magnus Gjoen, Heath Kane, The Connor Brothers, Adam Dix, Dan Hillier, Harland Miller and Nick Smith. All of whom seem to take something from history and renew it with their own signature style.
- How has your work changed over the years?
As I get farther away from my childhood my work becomes a more positive look at youth. I have always been fascinated with the darker side of life and dark humour but these days I have even more sympathy for children as they grow up. Perhaps, the birth of my son in 2014 has changed things a little as the world he will inherit will not be an easy one.
- How would you like people to interpret your work?
The work is about the speed at which today’s society forces children to grow up and drawing parallels between the youth of ‘then’ and ‘now’. The angsts are the same but the pressures are different. Basing my work on vintage illustrations helps to lend it authenticity but also highlights the distinctions between the two time frames and the different growing pains. In whatever era, innocence is the truth of childhood and it is fascinating; its absence equally so.
I enjoy the ‘double-take’ that my work often provokes. People think it is sweet and nostalgic initially and that’s what draws them in. The dichotomy of the humorous and the sinister is a device that makes hard subjects easier to talk about and represent. Hopefully, they will then be intrigued by my subversion, react and pause to think.
- Explain your process, from concept to finished piece
I have a large collection of vintage and antique children’s books, which I flick through for inspiration. If something catches my eye, a face, a particular stance or a scenario, I might base a new drawing around it. I love the thought that, like my father back in the 50s, this is the face and body of a real child back in history. I usually have an idea for a print in mind before I begin searching or sometimes it occurs to me as I look.
I next begin to completely redraw it on the computer (sometimes I don’t like the proportions, expressions or need to redraw the positions of limbs or other elements) until I am happy with it. This is when I start to add new elements so that old and new meld together; it really is a seamless collage. Often, but not always, there is little resemblance to my original inspiration.
I mostly print (screen print or block print) but sometimes I paint with acrylics on wooden panels. Colour is usually very thoroughly thought out and I do a lot of hand colouring with ink. I should also mention my enormous collection of blank vintage book paper that I love to print onto – it really feels like the characters are returning home when they are printed onto the imperfect buttery paper. One of my favourite details is when there is a handwritten inscription on the back of the page; I have some dating back to the 1800s…
- Please describe your typical working day…
There really is no such thing. I get a limited time in the studio at the moment so each day is a little different. Some days are entirely dedicated to admin; others allow me to hand colour prints or draw as I listen to music or audiobooks.