London Art Spot: Hartwig Braun

With the observant eye of a professional architect, Hartwig Braun knows when he can break the rules – and he does so often with a mesmerising outcome. Somehow managing to maintain a pretty high level of accuracy, he twists up aerial views of a city and plays with perspective to create something akin to a caricature. With itty-bitty details in place, Hartwig chooses some of the most important features of an area to highlight and, after many drafts, presents to the world a playful rendition of a cityscape. His images – drawn freehand – come out with a “fish-eye” effect. Collaborating with Isaac Lilos who introduced me to Hartwig’s work in their Greenwich Market shop, Arty Globe, last weekend, Hartwig has been able to build a successful business out of his passion for illustration.

On the side, he loves cooking exotic meals, engaging in heated debate and learning languages – he speaks four fluently, probably a result of having lived in so many different cities.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Hartwig shares loads of fun images, tells us about the intricate process of creating his artwork and how Isaac pushed him over the last six years to where he is now.   

London Eye

LLO: How long have you lived in London and how does this city influence your creativity?
HB:
 I am still relatively new to London, I only moved here in November 2008 after spending about four years up north in Nottingham and Lincolnshire. I’ve always been a big city person. Before coming to the UK, I lived in Berlin for 10 ten years, two years in Amsterdam and for a while in Paris. So London is the place to be in the UK for me. I really love living here and I definitely unpacked my suitcase.

My fascination for the vibrant metropolis is also reflected in my work. I love the hustle and the bustle, the dynamics and the great energy of this city, the cosmopolitan mix, which can really give you the feel of a global community. I want to capture the wealth of architectural diversity, the juxtaposition of old and new and the abundance of different impressions, which change at every corner. I am a passionate “flâneur” love strolling around town, discover and absorb all the little amazing detail London has to offer.

London

LLO: Describe your artistic style.
HB:
 I call my images illustrations with an emphasis on cityscapes and architecture. I wouldn’t call them maps as some people do, as they are not a depiction of reality but always my own interpretation of the existing city (you wouldn’t use them for finding your way in town).  In my illustrations I want to give a feel for the pace of the city so the drawing sets it in motion – the horizon curves, streets bend and the buildings swell. I love playing with the rules of perspective, deliberately breaking them and creating my own rules.

Besides all the quirk, I want to be quite accurate and include buildings or detail that define a specific location and make it recognizable. I also want to catch the very essence of a building. As for a caricature of a person you need to analyze a building and define the key features, which make it recognizable and make “the spirit” of it.  Then you know where you have the freedom to exaggerate and to play with the perspective 

Berlin, Winter

LLO: Your cityscapes are very detailed, intricate and intriguingly accurate in an obscure sort of way – a result of your background in Architecture?
HB:
Well, I guess so. Probably it is the architect inside me who, whenever I take the soft, thick felt pen I use for the first impulsive doodles of curves, lines and blobs, says: “Ok, those streets cross each other in such an angle and over there needs to be this particular building which is very characteristic. I’ve always had an attention to detail and when I start something I like I really dive into it and so the artwork becomes more and more intricate

British Museum

LLO: Tell us about the process that goes into creating an image from idea to finished product.
HB:
First I try to get as many good aerial photographs as possible. They are always the best source of information. Then I do a little layout sketch to define the best angle for the most dynamic view, I decide about the area I want to show and try to arrange the given elements of the city (rivers, bridges, streets, landmarks and other key buildings, green spaces) together with the curved horizon as a dynamic and balanced composition. As a next step I project a simplified street map onto my “globe” to define the horizontal distortion of the street layout (e.g. straight lines as the Mall become smooth curves).

Having done this I walk around the area and take lots of pictures on street level and watch out for the special little detail.

The next step is a rough 3-d version of the first sketch. Buildings become cubes or blobs to define the right size, proportions, angles and degree of distortion. Then I need to transform those cubes into individual buildings by tracing over my own sketches again, again and again. Each time I do more fine tuning, add more detail or correct things if necessary until I am completely happy with the result. At the end of this lengthy process I need to bring all the different parts and pieces together on one big contiguous line drawing, which I scan. Most of the times I need to put the scans in parts together again before I can eventually start the digital colouring process 

Greenwich

LLO: How many drafts do you typically sketch before you are happy with a result?
HB:
It really varies. Some buildings are easier to do and may be finished after 3 or 4 steps. On the other hand, very technical constructions as the London Eye or baroque churches as St Paul’s Cathedral can be really hard to do with all their fiddly little detail. I need to find the right balance between giving a realistic image of the construction and not overloading the drawing with too many lines, which could would be rather a mess. So I easily end up drawing and fine tuning certain buildings 20 or 30 times until I am completely happy with the result.

LLO: What are you working on right now?
HB:
I just finished an illustration of Canary Wharf, which hopefully will be on the cover of a magazine soon. The next project is finalizing the designs for a range of greeting cards comprising London and some other cities for a well known UK card publisher.


London Retro

LLO: When did you meet Isaac Lilos and how did the two of you come up with the idea to collaborate in a business venture?
HB:
I met Isaac over six years ago in Paris and we hit it off straight away. It was thanks to Isaac that I moved to the UK from Berlin several months later. About two years later Isaac spotted a little postcard design of Amsterdam I drew some years before when I was living there, which I sent to my family and friends for Christmas. He started pestering me to do something bigger and bolder with my style and to draw a bigger panoramic view of London as he felt that together with his entrepreneurial skills it could be developed into an exciting venture. I did not really believe him in the beginning!

I was working as an architect and my spare time was fairly limited – I could just not see the opportunities he saw at the time I guess. After six months of pestering I had to get him off my back so I promised I would make a start and see what happened and that’s how, nine months later, the first panoramic image of London was born.

To be honest I was quite amazed myself when I finished the image as I had no idea I could create something as complex and intricate. It took me a few more years to develop the portfolio of images I currently have and it took us some time to find the best way to build a successful commercial venture around the artwork but it has definitely been a very rewarding process and journey since. 

New York

LLO: Your work has been sole at Arty Globe in Greenwich Market for about one year now. How has the business grown in this time and where do you see it going in the next few years?
HB:
The business has grown substantially in the past year especially as more and more local people who discover us keep coming back and bring their friends and family with them. Isaac and I are constantly busy developing new merchandise to keep our collection fresh and diversified. Having our own shop and talking directly to customers also enabled us to refine the range and designs over the time.

It is really great to see that over 50% of our customers are locals and Londoners who seem to really appreciate my style and take on the city. They also tell us that our merchandise makes great gift ideas to send or take on visits to family and  friends.

We feel that the time is right now for our products to be sold in other shops around London. To achieve that we will be taking a stand at “Top Drawer” (the trade show) in September where we would hopefully be able to show our full range and launch the wholesale side of our business. We also have some very exciting opportunities to do more bespoke work for some of London’s most famous establishments – something we will be pursuing in the coming year or two…

Regent Street

LLO: You’ve had commissions from, among others, the London Eye, the British Museum and for Hamley’s 250th anniversary this year. Do you have a dream client or a list of others you’d love to involve in your work?
HB:
Being seen on Transport for London Posters on Tube stations or drawing the Olympic sites for London 2012 would be really great. I can see a great affinity to my work since it is very much about London scenes and architecture and being an eye catcher and getting people’s attention. Of course it would also be nice to have such great exposure.

Transport for London Competition

LLO: Who are your other favourite London-based artists?
HB:
I admire Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographic work. He manages to turn those little every day scenes and objects into true art, and makes you look at things differently. Lately he started experimenting with abstraction and photography, two things you wouldn’t think can go together.

I also love the work of Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar the guys behind “people will always need plates”. They feature some of my favourite international style buildings from the 20s and 30s here in London on their beautiful line of ceramics. And I adore Emma Nissim’s wonderfully sophisticated and elegant textile designs with a very personal style.

Thanks Hartwig!

For more of Hartwig’s work, check his website: http://www.artyglobe.com/

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London Art Spot: Part2ism

Ever walk around London’s East End and catch sight of a nude woman in a gas mask on a yellow-painted wall? If so, you’ve discovered the artistic ingenuity of Keith Hopewell, aka Part2ism.

Since the 80s when he created his first piece of street art, his style has evolved to reflect a changing state-of-mind and the current political/economic environment. His work is a bit rebellious, a bit controversial, a bit erotic, sensuous, pornographic at times, and always thought-provoking. Experimenting with beauty in death and the ugly faces of life – like war, consumerism and religious fanaticism – Part2ism has intrigued London and other cities with floral skulls, nudes hand-painted with photo precision and unique military typography. He’s stretched the boundaries of street art to show his work in gallery exhibitions and his art was featured on the front cover of the London Street Art Anthology a few months ago. When he’s not busy being a revolutionary artist, Part2ism has also been producing rap/hip-hop music for the past decade or two.

For this week’s London Art Spot, he talked to us about his famous Tamara series, his influences and why he chose the name Part2ism.

LLO: You’ve been noted as a pioneer in photorealist graffiti. How long have you been a graffiti artist and where did you create your first “photorealist” piece?
P2:
 I used to write and spray MOD-related logos like the The Who and The Jam everywhere in the 80s when I was 11 or 12-years-old. When I saw what was happening on the New York subway, I really had to get involved and never questioned why. The mid-80s, for me, was an exciting time, but a bit of a fun thing. I was young like most writers in the UK at that time and was influenced by the US heros. But, before the 80s were over, I became more obsessed with developing my own corner in the culture. I experimented with a lot more avant-garde concepts. The photorealism developed slowly over 1989-1990. Before then, it was about portraits that were not painted as articulately. 

LLO: Your style has changed quite a bit over the years.
P2: Ha ha, true. I’m a human being and I suppose it’s not much different from eating different meals. You get an intuition and follow it because it feels right. Your art should represent your true self and it doesn’t feel right to me if you ain’t moving forward with your work. People have called me the “Renaissance Man” which is great for the ego, but bad for future productions if you take it too seriously. I believe keeping your work relevent and challenging conventional ideas stops the mind from going soft.

LLO: Have you seen a change in the way people have perceived your work over the years?
P2:
No, I still have to work twice as hard as most people. It’s great for my work but very tiring (laughs).

LLO: Why did you choose the name Part2ism? What does it mean?
P2:
 It’s just a play on the name Part 2 which was my writing name. I hate being categorised, so adding -ism makes Part 2 a practice. I kinda operate more in the middle ground between graffiti, street art and contemporary art from a bit of an outsider position and am not really accepted by any of them. There was always the label “alternative art” which categorised street work in New York in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but that just reminds me of the music industry; when they don’t know how to box a particular sound, they just label it “alternative” or left-field. They really suggest that what you do doesn’t fit, which can’t really benefit the artist. I’m just an artist period! I utilize a bit of everything and add it to my hybrid. categories are really for the media and not us. Keeps people’s minds neat, tidy and rigid if things are more formulaic.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
P2:
Most cities outside London don’t have such an abundance of pubic space to work on, so London is unique in this way. A lot of the time I get out of London when I’m looking for inspiration. I get my ideas a lot clearer in the country and when they come, I know exactly where in London to execute the idea. I’ve always spent a lot of hours walking around London no matter how far apart places are; this is how you learn what’s what in the capital.

LLO: Do you prefer exhibiting in galleries or on the street?
P2:
 I don’t discriminate; art is applicable everywhere on any medium. 

LLO: Your series Tamara got a lot of attention. Can you tell us a bit about these pieces, who Tamara is and what they mean?
P2:
  Those paintings are loosely based around the idea of consumerism consuming itself. Tamara [Seabrook] was my girlfriend at the time. We both thought works exploring the body, erotics and death were missing in the modern spray cannist scenes, so we got to work. Tamara worked a lot with erotics and photography and I was exploring these realms too, so we brought it all together.

LLO: Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
P2:
  Oh gosh; this changes all the time. Maybe the Floral Skull right now, because it’s started me working in a totally new way. It’s the foundation for all the new work I’ve got coming out later this year.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
P2:
I’m digging R.O.A. at the moment. He’s not from London, but he’s definitely brought something different to the melting pot…

LLO: Where can see your work now?
P2:
My next show is in New York, but Londoners keep your eyes out on the streets shortly!

Thanks Part2ism!

Catch Part2ism on Facebook: www.facebook.com/keith.hopewell

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Obligatory Snow Post


West Ken Snow by Buckeroo Kid from the Flickr pool. (She was the London Art Spot feature last Sunday. Here’s a link if you missed her awesome London pics!)

Maybe it’s because I come from snow-y Buffalo, New York where people break out one of four ice scrapers from the back seat and drive around with their 4-wheel drive tyres in blizzards without a second thought that I find this so amusing. In Buffalo, this amount of snow is absolutely laughable.

These headlines conjure up a much worse picture in my head than the pretty image in Kathy’s picture above.

Telegraph: “Britain’s deep freeze: icy weather brings worst snow for 50 years”
Guardian: “Grit supplies reaching critically low level as icy weather continues”
Metro: “Panic buying as heavy snow hits”
Evening Standard: “230,000 pupils get day off; more closures feared”
The Sun: “UK has 8 days of gas left”

Some of the best headlines came yesterday – about elderly people buying second-hand books to burn because they are cheaper than firewood. All the grocery shops are running out of products because frantic people are stocking up.

When I woke up this morning, I could still see grass poking through a thin layer of the white stuff. It was pretty. It was out-of-the-ordinary for London. But it wasn’t exactly life-threatening.

The way Londoners react to this weather fascinates me to no end. Everyone seems more friendly, smiling at strangers, except for the morning commute when travel chaos ensues and you’re smashed into a carriage with a stranger’s hair in your mouth. Kids run about, sticking their tongues out for flakes. People carry umbrellas (umbrellas??). Although, I suppose that’s the natural reaction to precipitation in these parts…You can’t have a conversation without the word “snow” and multiple exclamation points.

And then there’s the complete idiots. For example, I was on my lunch break for half hour yesterday. When I left, there was a dog tied to a railing – a black dog with long scraggly sopping wet hair, sitting in a puddle, covered in snow, visibly shivering with these big sad eyes. When I returned, he was still there, lying down in the puddle, a salt-and-pepper speckled mound. I don’t even like dogs, but I wanted to give the poor thing a blanket. Seriously.

Anyway, I’m sure in some parts outside of London, it might be a bit more “severe”, but the world’s not ending (except maybe for that dog if someone didn’t rescue it by now), the media hype is hysterical and… umbrellas? 

It’s just a bit of snow.

London Art Spot: Kathy Archbold

Self-Portrait

Photographer Kathy Archbold was born in Essex, but has spent most of her life in London. After a foundation art course at Harlow she attended Newport Art School in South Wales, which, she said, was only really notable by the attendance of a student dropout called ‘Woody’ – who later became Joe Strummer.

After her fair share of bartending during college, she found a job painting faces at a mannequin company. A few years later, she left to run a stall in Kensington Market, but because the skill she picked up painting mannequins is so peculiar, she continues to take on freelance work today. In 1983, Kathy relocated to New York to train mannequin artists. She returned to London in 1987 and has remained, in various parts of the city, ever since.

Derelict House
 
LLO: Tell us a bit about your background as a photographer.
KA:
Although I’ve done quite a lot of illustration work, I always thought of myself as a pretty rubbish photographer. I knew how I wanted my pictures to look, but never got to grips with the technical aspects of [photography] or owned a decent camera and getting a film back was always a real disappointment. I only actually joined Flickr as a good way of keeping in touch with a pal who moved to Australia. But in doing so, I discovered that with digital and Photoshop, I could maybe alter my images to look the way I intended. I know a lot of people are opposed to any form of photo editing, and I’m not always a fan of what I call ‘The Science Fiction Look’, but I can say quite honestly that no one would even notice my pictures, especially when I started, if I hadn’t or didn’t edit them. Through Flickr, I discovered a lot of photographers whose work I really admired, and have been trying to emulate ever since, with varied results! I know Photoshop is open to much misuse and abuse, and neither is it quick or easy to learn. There’s a temptation to do something just because you can, and if I look at my earlier images, they often look overdone to me now. But four years on, I’m still learning, and although I am now experimenting with toy and vintage film cameras to get the look I want, My digital point and shoot remains constantly with me at all times, and has still produced most of my favourite photos. 
 

Roupell Street, SE1

LLO: How does London influence your creativity?
KA:
I think I’m definitely a city person, and what I miss about London if I leave is a certain diversity you don’t really get anywhere else. On the tube the other day, I sat opposite a Japanese girl wearing a flat cap, Jimi Hendrix T shirt, and talking to a friend about an Indian meal in a Manchester accent.

The John Snow, Broadwick Street W1
 
LLO:  This set of photos is called Scuzzy London. What criteria do you consider to decide if a photo falls into this category?
KA: Definitely things that fall outside the tourist category, off the beaten track that maybe not everyone would notice, although its actually not about ugliness. I just find them more interesting, beautiful, or even humorous. A lot of the things I include are no longer there when I go back, so its also a bit of an affectionate document of my personal history with the place. I think cities suffer sometimes from being too gentrified and expensive, and all need a bit of sleaze and danger. When things get too expensive, and creative people can’t afford to live or work there, it all becomes very boring. Look at New York now – safer, but no one could say its anywhere near as exciting as it once was.
 
Salvador Dali’s Bike
 
LLO: How long have you lived in London?
KA
: I first moved here in 1972. Although I left in ’83, so it hasn’t been consistent. But I’ve remained here now since 1987.
 
Covent Garden WC1
  
LLO: What type of camera do you use?
KA:
 A Panasonic Lumix TZ2 – a point & shoot. I’ve had it about 3 years, and although there are times now when I’d like a big serious ‘proper’ camera, its just so damn handy to carry around, has a great 10x zoom and people don’t notice it. As I quite like a ‘vintage’ look, I’ve also got some toy/old film cameras like a Diana Mini, Holga, Viv, etc. I just got a seconhand Lomo lca which I’m really looking forward to using, but the Panasonic is still the one I use most. 

Strand Station: closed in 1994, now a photobooth

LLO: Which image in the Scuzzy London set are you most proud of and why?
KA: That changes, but I think maybe this one. I was scared the cat would run of before I took it, but it has a lot of elements I like, and the the little Winston Churchill in the shop window just makes it for me somehow.
Model
 
LLO: Which area of London is your favourite for taking photos?
KA: I live very near the Southbank, so do take a lot of pictures there, although its one of the most over photographed areas I still seem to find something. But what’s so great about london is that no matter how well you think you know it, you can always find some area or something you’ve never seen, and when this happens, that’s my favourite! I just set off somewhere and walk, and have the whole of London at my disposal!
 
Kilburn High Road
 
Thanks Kathy!
 
Check out Kathy’s work on Flickr, Etsy or Red Bubble.
 
NOTE: All images are copyright Kathy Archbold. Please do not use without strict written permission.
 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.