We’re gearing up for the launch of our new paper pounds next month – click here for information on the launch party – so to celebrate the beautiful new designs we’ve interviewed all nine competition winning artists and will be sharing the stories behind their work over the next two weeks.
So far we’ve heard from Emma Burleigh, who shared some of her influences and the story behind her watercolour image of Ashley Vale allotments. Read her interview here.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
My name is Kesdraws and I have lived in Bristol since 2003, with a four year break in Melbourne from 2010 to 2014. I was inspired by graffiti in Melbourne and started doing this myself. On my return to Bristol I moved from spray painting to painting and illustrating and I started to put together some images of historical events in the history of Bristol. I have always been fascinated by history and I wanted to tell the story of Bristol’s history in paintings. I spent most of my childhood drawing, but had stopped when I moved out of home at the age of 18.
Why did you enter the competition to design a Bristol Pound?
I entered the Bristol Pound competition when a friend told me there was a category about protest and rebellion. I have spent most of the last three years drawing and painting protests, rebellions and riots, so it seemed like a perfect marriage: a great way to ensure that my image of the event would be communicated to the people of Bristol, hopefully reminding them of the importance of using their voices and their right to protest in challenging times.
What’s the story behind the image you created?
The story of the Queens Square riot takes place in a period when the majority of the population lived in squalid conditions and had no ability to control their lives. Most people could not vote and they felt angry that they could not voice their concerns with parliament. There had been a feeling of discontent and anger around other parts of the country for years and the authorities were concerned that a general revolt might take place at some time. When people in Bristol rioted to show their displeasure at the defeat of a Reform Bill in parliament the cavalry were sent in to restore order. The Colonel was reluctant to confront the rioters, but the very presence of the military resulted in a confrontation where a number of people were killed and numerous others injured. The rioters had ruined and looted several buildings in Queens Square and freed inmates from the prison before order was restored. The authorities had stamped out the riot and sent a message across the country, that this type of behaviour would not be tolerated. Interestingly Isambard Kingdom Brunel was called up as a Special Constable to help the authorities prior to the arrival of the cavalry.
I use pencil to draw the original images and then I ink them with pigment markers. Then I will either paint them using paint pens or I will colour them digitally, depending on what the customer wants. I use thick 340 GSM Cartridge paper as it needs to be able to soak up 3 layers of paint without warping or bending.
What artists inspire you?
My style is inspired by the two dimensional quality of the Bayeux Tapestry and some of my earliest illustrations were my own representation of the Battle of Hastings. I have just finished an A1 commission of that battle and I have sold several pieces like this over the last few years. One of my initial goals was to paint the history of Bristol in a series of riots, protests and battles: a social commentary. I have currently completed four of the pieces and I have plans for another four. I studied the history of War Art at school and the movement and violence of horses and bodies crashing into each other has inspired me ever since. I loved images painted by Elizabeth Thompson and Richard Caton Woodville in particular. I also wanted to paint images showing the dynamism and violence of battle scenes. Another artist that has inspired me is Hergé (Tintin). I really like his characters and use of simple flat colours, which I have carried over into my work.
My Queens Square riot was inspired by the graffiti of Scott Buchanan Barden on the Bath Road in Brislington. Scott had depicted the same event and this piece had stood the test of time. It was in place when I moved to Bristol in 2003 and it has only (in the last few months) been sprayed over by other painters. I loved this image, but I felt that I could do a version that was more dynamic and stylised. I also felt that the images created at the time, in 1831, were not really very interesting. They focused on the destruction of property rather than the people involved in the riot. It took about two years and repeated attempts to improve the image before it arrived in its current state. I read several book about the events of the riot, took pictures of the statue in Queens Square and studied the clothes and uniforms of the period. A lot of research has to go into a historical image if you want to try and present it as an accurate reflection of an actual event.
How has Bristol inspired your work?
Bristol has always inspired me because it is a city with a unique voice and its past shows that there has been a thread of protest and dissonance throughout time. I like to paint events where people have been driven to protest because it shows a really strong depth of feeling, anger and desperation. These events make great images because of all the action and emotional content.
What are your artistic career highlights so far?
My artistic highlights are having recently completed a large Battle of Hastings commission, which is my most sophisticated puzzle-style battle scene yet, and also having finally completed a piece about the Stokes Croft Tesco Riot of 2011. I have been trying to get this piece finished for the last two years and it has been through about five different compositions!
What are your aims for the future?
My aims for the future are to complete my series of Bristol battles and riots, to paint a huge picture of the Dean Lane Colliery at around the turn of the 20th century, to spray paint my Queens Square riot image on a large wall somewhere around Queens Square and to be commissioned to illustrate a book.
I have an exhibition showing all of my protest and rebellion pieces coming up at the Totterdown Canteen on Wells Road between 21st July and 15th September.
Where can we find you online?
Thank you Kes!