IN CONVERSATION WITH: NETTIE WAKEFIELDOctober 7, 2015
Nettie Wakefield’s North London flat is littered with evidence of her art. Pencils, paintbrush pots, canvases and scraps of paper lie haphazardly around the room and abandoned cups of coffee are telltale signs that this is where it all happens. Her incredible pencil and ink drawings of discarded cigarette packets and reverse portraits are scattered around the room, behind the sofa and hung on the wall. In the middle of it all is the illustrator herself. She smiles lazily at us and tells us how she always knew this is what she wanted to be doing.
Having studied an MA in drawing at Wimbledon, Nettie started work on reverse portraits, approaching strangers in tube stations to get snaps of their hair for her drawings. Now, Nettie is looking forward to a group show in LA and has finished a six week stint at Banksy’s Dismaland. We caught up with her to find out more.
UO: Tell us a little about your story so far
My earliest memories of my practice are drawing mermaids on the wall in my bedroom in permanent marker. My mum had to use spray-paint to cover them up because I would do it all the time! I also used to keep a diary, which I would decorate with such precision. They were like works of art in their own right. I still have them.
I did my foundation year at Chelsea. I fell a little out of love with art at this point, but by the time I finished my MA in drawing, I had rediscovered my passion. This is when I started the reverse portrait series and have continued with this ever since.
UO: Where does your passion for illustration come from? Are you part of a creative family?
My mother is a very talented painter. Better than me I think! But she chose a different path to me; she is working as a psychotherapist. My dad can draw a very good stickman.
UO: Walk us through a day in your life
I wake up about 9am, make a coffee, sit down at my desk and start scratching away at whatever it is I am working on. I like to be able to get out and got to private viewings in the evening, partly because I get cabin fever sitting at home all day but also because it’s a good opportunity to socialize and see new work.
UO: What inspires your illustrations?
It’s hard to say what exactly inspires my drawings. I think objects mostly, but also textures, smoothness, shadows and contrast.
UO: What are you most excited about working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished working at Banksy’s Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare, which was very exciting for me. I had my own stand where I was doing reverse portraits of the visitors. I feel extremely privileged to have been involved in such a unique project. I have been doing my reverse portrait series since my Masters degree a few years ago, but the concept of what I was doing at Dismaland was Banksy’s creation. His idea was that I would be like one of those street artists you see drawing people in Leicester square, except the weird and wonderful twist would be that firstly, I’m not drawing your face and secondly, they are extremely detailed pieces of work that take more like 8 hours than 8 minutes. So I spent most of the six weekends doing a demonstration. I brought a model with me each weekend and worked on that same drawing of the model for both Saturday and Sunday – usually in Minnie mouse ears or a party hat to stay aligned with the Dismaland theme.
UO: What’s your favourite way to spend the weekend in London?
I live in North London, so going on a walk in the beautiful Hampstead Heath with my boyfriend, followed by a chicken roast!
UO: What are you looking forward to this autumn?
I’m looking forward to Frieze Art Fair in London, which is just around the corner
UO: What’s your must-have wardrobe staple?
Polo neck and ankle boots all the way
UO: What is your favourite era?
I love the 60s. And I also love the 20s and 40s!
UO: Do you have any rituals to get the creative juices flowing when you feel blocked?
Coffee! Sometimes a bit of space away from work helps. Going to a gallery and seeing other artists’ work or just thinking about anything else except work is when it sometimes pops up and surprises you.
UO: What’s inspiring you outside of art right now?
I love seeing movies, traveling and I’m also inspired by the new voice of feminism.
I’m currently listening to… George Ezra
My favourite art gallery is… I love the royal academy and the national gallery
My favourite season is… Autumn
My biggest release is… dancing to 90s R&B!
If I could be anywhere in the world right now it would be… Dirty Burger… I’m hungry!