Bonnie Baker is an artist with a darker side, drawing creatures in contorted angles, using the dead and decaying to create jewelry and photographing macabre situations, manipulating them to appear beautiful. She has recently turned her talents to illustrating a graphic novel due for release soon and talks to SPHERE about her inspirations, how she started and where she hopes to go.
“One of my favourite pieces is the doodle of a foetus”
S] When did you first realise you wanted to be an illustrator?
B] Drawing has always been my form of expression, since a very early age. As for deciding to study Illustration, that happened at college. After struggling to complete a year of Fine Art (I hate the bullshitting…) I moved over to Graphic Design, and that was too…sterile. However within Graphic Design we did illustration modules and it was inspiring, the happy medium between stuck-up fine art and money grabbing, potentially soulless, graphic design. So I applied for illustration and never looked back!
S] Who are your inspirations and idols?
B] I’ve always been a bit in my own little world – we studied all the famous artists at college and uni of course – but generally I would spend my time drawing my own artwork than researching other people’s… However if forced to choose I would easily say Dave McKean (of Sandman covers fame). His style is so rich and textured, and yethe has such a great eye for composition, and his work (up until more recent children’s books, at least) looks incredibly organic. I don’t have workshop space to create sets for my images in the time that I am generally given, but give this same feel in my work when it’s put together in the computer.
S] What are you working on right now?
B] I always have a few personal projects on the go. I’m not giving any of these away at present! But I will say I have been inspired, and quite freaked out, by recent things I’ve found out about the Illuminati and New World Order, I have a cynical eye to everything so no fear of extremism but they have some great imagery! Over the past year I have been completing a Graphic novel collaboration, entitled ‘Lap of the Dogs‘ with writer Neil Gevisser, which we are in the process of self publishing, with the hope of getting it picked up by a publisher over the next year or two.
S] Can you tell us about ‘Lap Of The Dogs’?
B] That is an exciting project, it was hard to find a market for it already, as it was a children’s poem refused by New York publishers, with a previous illustrator, some 15-years-ago, for being too pornographic! So we rethought how to present it and decided that instead of fitting it into a medium suitable for children, compromising the story and beautiful writing, we would compromise the target market, making it more niche, but successful. It is not in traditional comic book format, but more an art book. The story is a political and sociological metaphor in the form of a hunt, in which the prey befriends an ally in order to help both parties escape.You heard it here first!
S] Your greatest achievement to date?
B] I guess this graphic novel is my greatest achievement to date, it was a struggle, ten months of problem solving! But entirely worth it and I am excited to see it printed, and the response it gets.
S] And the worst job you’ve ever done?
B] It was a well known hell job, street fund raising, that’s predictably bad. In terms of illustration, there was a commission I got off the back of my illustrations for children’s poetry book Give Us A Chance (available now). The commission was for a book cover for a self-help book, and the author had no internet, and so I presume she had just seen my cute simple line drawings of animals and liked them, and had no idea of my other work! I spoke to her on the phone and she seemed like a sweet old lady, who wanted a picture of a child and woman, all pastels and pretty… not my style at all! I really didn’t want to do it but it seemed like easy money so I tried it but did terrible work, sent it off hoping that she wouldn’t pay me and just leave me alone but she wouldn’t. I think she even used the work and I dread to see it on book shelves and hope it doesn’t have my name on it!
S] What do you find the most challenging aspect of illustration?
B] When you work for other people, it’s generally always challenging to meet a brief. No one person is going to like exactly the same things as you, and within illustration, you have to please the client. The example of the book cover is perfect, hopefully from here on in people will have seen my work and know what to expect and what I can do well! That’s the idea, to create a portfolio of work that you enjoy creating, there’s no point showing work you didn’t enjoy making to clients because they just might ask for the same.
S] Do you have a favourite piece that you have created?
B] One of my favourite pieces I have made was just a doodle of a foetus that I drew from a museum specimen, and very simply put into Photoshop to make it look old. It was one of the first pieces in this style for me, and not even my best drawing, but I just love the serenity in the little guy’s face, the way he looks like he’s thinking! It was an important point in my style, in the textures and methods I used a lot from there on in!
The graphic novel will be published in the next few weeks and details of where it can be purchased will be available on the promotional website Lap of the Dogs.
Find out more about Bonnie and her designs at www.myspace.com/pixiespider