Interview with Kethi Copeland
Kethi Copeland is a visual artist specialising in creating screen-printed artwork for the home alongside colourful, quirky stationery to make people smile. You may recognise much of her work from The Big Draw Shop! We caught up with Kethi to find out more about her practice, and to get some advice on working in the creative field...
Interview: Matilda Barratt in conversation with Kethi Copeland.
MB: Hi Kethi! Could you start by telling us a little bit about your practice?
KC: "I am a visual artist, I specialise in creating screen-printed artwork for the home alongside colourful, quirky stationery which aims to make people smile. I love colour and humour, and highlighting the extraordinary in everyday, these characteristics run through the artwork I create. I use several different processes to create my designs ranging from drawing to paper-cutting, photography and screen-printing. Fun and silliness are essential parts of my design practice."
MB: You have such a distinctive style - how has this changed and evolved over time?
KC: "The product that started it all for me was a Christmas card. I made a Christmas tree costume, which I wore around town, and used photographs of this adventure to create a 3 colour screen screen-printed design. I really liked the way people reacted to my costumed character, making people laugh and engage with me - and each other! My work has evolved and changed since this first design, using different processes and subjects but the spark of this interaction with the viewer carries on through all the designs."
MB: Where do you work? Does your working environment affect your work?
KC: "I have a studio in Deptford at Cockpit Arts. Place really does influence my work, my current work is focused on drawing London and offering new perspectives on familiar surroundings. I have been inspired to create artwork of our local High Street, the nearby Greenwich riverside and the houseboats on the hidden Creek which runs behind my studio. Part of what I do feels like taking a snapshot of an ever changing city."
MB: We have all experienced those frustrating moments when we fall short of ideas and inspiration… How do you deal with ‘creative block’?
KC: "I more often am trying to catch up with my ideas, as there are too many to act on. I am frequently inspired by music, such as the Dolly Parton song that inspired my range of sketchbooks "I Will Always Love.." for people to declare their love for drawing, reading or list-making. The city is another massive inspiration, so there is always so much of both to explore to counter ‘creative block’. Drawing is one of the key tools I use to generate new ideas or gain a fresh perspective on a problem, creative or otherwise. I take myself off on a walk and sit and draw something or somewhere that interests me. I find it quite calming to sit and draw and the slowness of it gives me understanding of the subject."
MB: It's great that drawing helps you to slow down and gain fresh new perspectives - we often encourage drawing for this exact reason! Does drawing play a big role in your day-to-day life and work?
KC: "I love drawing but there are periods of time when I do loads of it, and then other times when I am printing and I do hardly any.I find it really exciting that you can make a mark on the page and something new will appear, even when I get really out of practice. The process of building up the skill again is really fun and you can see it happening before your eyes."
MB: What would your advice be to young people considering embarking upon a creative career?
KC: "Working in a creative career is really fun and varied, both challenging and satisfying, I would advise people to try it. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know about the business side, you can learn and there is lots of help; just like with creative skills, There are things that start out really challenging and difficult that are now familiar tasks and skills."