Artist & Airbrush Lady from London, Carleen de Sözer.
How and when did you start as an artist? How do you work a drawing, picture? Do you follow a particular process?
Carleen: I've always drawn, sketched and painted from as young as I can remember. As a kid if I was bored, my mum would tell me to go and draw a picture, so I would go off and draw a character from my imagination.
On a professional level, I got started in 1999. I entered some photos of my paintings to Haringey Arts Council's 6th Open Exhibition. Entering, this started a great relationship with Haringey Arts Council. They liked my style of work, enough to hire me for other art related projects. That was the beginning of my career as a freelancer.
To do a drawing, I have to be in the right frame of mind, a creative one. I like to listen to music when I'm working but somethimes silence is called for.
Carleen at exhibition.
Tell us about your work in Irving, and the customized service you provide.
Carleen: I started Irving in 2000 when I landed in Portobello Market, Notting Hill. I would draw my characters onto just about any item of clothing I could get my hands on. That's where I got a lot of attention and people would ask me to personalize their clothes. Under the name Irving, it allows me to work closely with individuals (clients) to create whatever it is they have in mind. Irving is an illustration/ design service. I rarely customize clothes for profit anymore, that's on hold for a while.
Search for Self.
What artists, bands, people from history, illustrators, etc. inspire you?
Carleen: I always liked graffiti. Growing up, I was heavily into hip-hop, the culture, not just the rap music. I really liked the way characters were drawn in graffiti.
I found I was really good at drawing characters, it came naturally, graphing lettters didn't. I also liked the illustrations in comic books. The truth is, growing up I wasn't a fan of any individual artist, I had no real idea of anyone's name. I would get my inspiration from photographs in magazines right on!, word up! fresh! A little later on the source, I used to travel to Camden Town to a newsagents to buy these magazines, I would flick through the magazines looking for an image that inspired me.
GRACE JONES, Queen of the Hoodies.
As a kid, I found Grace Jones very intriguing. She scared me a bit because she looked so fierce, especially in that movie where she played a vampire, but saying she always looked amazing and wore a hoodie very well.
Prince's sense of style was insane! A man in ruffled blouses, I loved it! Loved his music too and his dancing.
Icons: Michael Jackson.
It wasn't until Michael Jackson died that I rememberd how much of a fan I was.
Growing up during the 80's , back before MTV and the internet, Michael Jackson's videos were previewed after the news. The guy was major, his fame was on another level. Before all the weirdness, we were hooked on Michael Jackson, simply because he had the X factor, I couldn't get enough of him. The Icon illustrations were done for nostalgia. All three of these artitsts, in my opinion, had the X factor.
Who are these people, characters and situations reflected in your work?
Carleen: I love drawing faces. The people are mainly faces from my imagination. I think I have a catalogue of faces in my mind that I access when I'm drawing. I'll start with a thought, an idea. e.g. I want to draw a man smoking a cigarette, then it builds up from there. I end up painting a man smoking in a club withe people in the background.
When I paint, I tend to make it up as I go along. I really enjoy starting on a black canvas, building up the image with high lights.
I think with art, it's for the observer to decide what the piece means and represents for them. I always do a bad job expressing my intention behind a piece of art, it is what you think it is, I don't mind! Once I had this guy explain to me what he thought the meaning was behind my "Watchers" painting. I was blown away by his deep and meaningful interpretation, I liked his vision.
What music do you love or inspire you?
Carleen: Growing up, my mother had a huge record collection, mainly funk, reggae and soul. On sundays, I would play DJ selecting and playing my favourite records for hours. In the mid-eighties, I fell in love with rap music, then in the late 80's came house music. The 90's introduced me to swing beat, then jungle ( drum & bass) and garage. The consistent was rap music, it's definitely my biggest influence. ( Don't miss out Carleen's music selection for this project, HERE)
From a previous interview: " The Number One Airbrush Artist in London is a lady". What do you think of this statement? What's the importance of having the women's touch in this particular form of art?
Carleen: That title definitely gives me recognition. I can't actually say that it's a fact, because I don't know any other female airbrush artist in my field, that doesn't mean that they don't exist. I focused my attention on becoming a known airbrush artist in London. People seemed surprised that I was a woman. It was easy for them to give me that title because they didn't know of any other women doing what I do.
Ms SIN again.
I'm mainly focused on airbrushing canvas right now and that also puts me in a niche market. Most urban artists are focused on aerosol art. I don't think it makes me the best, because I'm the only one you may know, it's more like a highlighter. I'm a woman and I airbrush well enough to be on the same platform as most of these guys out here.
I think women participate in urban art is very important for the balance. Men and women have different perspectives. It's nice to have a wider range to enjoy. I'm happy to contribute. Unfortunately, there isn't enough women representing.
You have recently been at the West London Art Factory opening and exhibition. How was the experience?
Carleen: I was looking for an artist studio to work from, when Jewel told me of her West London Art Factory plans. I decided it was exactly what I was looking for and jumped on board. I rent one of the studios. There are other artist on residence: Inkie, Maximilian Weidemann, Jewel and Mashka. It's a fantastic place of creativity to work from.
The opening party was fantastic! We had a nice turn out... good vibes, it was a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves as a new art hub.
West London Art Factory is a selection of brand new artists studies and a fully equipped screenprinting workshop.
Carleen's studio view.
What projects and future exhibitions are there in store?
Carleen: I intend to produce a lot of prints in 2011. I'm working all sorts of new techniques at the moment. There are a few collaborations set for the future with my fellow West London Art Factory mates and some wall spaces with the 284cru. There have been a couple of collabos that should have happened already but time has not permitted so far. I should be involved with a couple exhibitions next year.
West London Art Factory's resident artists.
What's your message for young talent, specially guys and girls who would like to do airbrush art or this kind of expression?
Carleen: I like to encourage everyone to be creative, it doesn't matter how good or bad you are, it can be a lot of fun.
I think talent should definitely not go to waste, it's a wonderful feeling to be creative. I started airbrushing 10 years ago and I'm still hooked!
If you're new to airbrushing, it seems tricky at first but you just gotta keep on practising until one day it comes naturally.