by Cormack O'Connor in New Illustration on Thursday 28 February 2013

Holly Wales is certainly one of the most talented illustrator’s that I’ve come across. Based in the UK and harbouring a great eye for colourful and playful pieces, we caught up with Holly before her appearance at Semi-Permanent in Portland. LAEM: You talk about your work as controlled chaos. What does this mean to you? H: I am always thinking in terms of processes of one thing spilling into the next and causing surprises to happen on purpose. I then exploit the results.

LAEM: Your work is super colourful. Where do you think you got your eye for colour and what types of things inspire your vivid work?
H:I grew up in the 80s – everything was colourful and I definitely got through my share of Global Hypercolour heat-sensitive t shirts. Seriously though, I don’t know if this has happened as a result of working so much or not, but I break down everything I look at into individual colours, and see the bits separately. Colour helps me to understand a thing I’m looking at. I guess I see different colours in the same way you might read spaces between words, like punctuation of some kind. I also love the process of working, the raw materials, the way you can turn one thing into another – the colours of these raw materials have a real purity about them. There is an idea about endless possibilities attached to this.

LAEM: What got you into drawing, more specifically with felt-tip?
H: Being an illustrator (like many things) and making a living out of it, or doing it full time or whatever comes down a lot to confidence, determination and belief. That confidence has to be in your relationship with your materials as much as it is in you as an individual. But it’s a slow thing; it grows over time. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and knew I was going to be great with pens. I ended up using them because I had no money and there were always hundreds of packets of them in the £1 shops in East London. As I did more and more drawings and started to carve a living, I bought better and better quality pens. I now use double ended brush markers with transparent pens to blend them like watercolours on smooth papers.

LAEM: What made you want to get involved with Semi Permanent and speak at the Portland event?
H: I think I’d just celebrated my 18th birthday when the first Semi Permanent conference opened in Sydney. I was studying for a degree in Graphic Design and I was already really into the web. I’d been making websites for about three years and was following the likes of Joshua Davis, Praystation, Prate, and portals like K10K, Design is Kinky and Pixelsurgeon. Googling these now, I realise how old I must be because some don’t even show up.

LAEM: You encourage ‘thinking through making’. Is this how you think and do you have any other advice for aspiring artists?
H: At some point (probably through advertising, an industry that has hijacked the word ‘creativity’ and divided roles up into ‘people who have the ideas’ and ‘people who do the ideas’), we started believing that ideas were somehow detached from making stuff. It also got us thinking that the ideas had to come first and was somehow superior to practical skill. This is all absolutely wrong and crazy. I learn best when my hands and eyes are operating together and reflecting on what I’m doing as I go. Get messy. Don’t theorise too much in advance: do it after or you’ll kill the vibe. The skill is in having just enough of a plan to get the thing started, then embracing chance and surprise along the way.

For more information on the event check out Semi-Permanent.