Rose Blake on Becoming an Artist

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Electric Blue / Black Gloss, 2015© Rose Blake

The brilliant British talent discusses her new show, Now I Am An Artist

Rose Blake has been a much-loved staple of London’s illustration community for years. Her work – friendly, charming, accessible and emotive – appeals to pretty much everyone in some way due to its pop culture references, trademark characters and warm humour. Blake lives in London and works in Haggerston in a studio she shares with friends. Although her editorial illustrations regularly grace the pages of The New Yorker, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and New York Magazine (to name but a few), she has recently taken the impetus to put on a solo show of her work at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in Fitzrovia who represent her in a fine art capacity.

It’s an age old debate as to whether illustration counts as a fine art form or not. Some argue that if you are making work for clients, then you are working to a brief and therefore you are not creating art. But for people like Blake, who dedicate their entire days to painting, drawing, working on fresh ideas and finishing each piece of work to such high quality, it’s hard to argue with. Blake’s new show was announced by her on Twitter and is titled, Now I Am An Artist – a cheeky two-fingers-up to those who doubt that illustrators too can exhibit their works in fine art spaces. Here, we take ten with Blake to discover the concept behind her new show, and how it feels to be a bonafide artist.

The title of the show is amazing, please explain... 
Ha! Well, I just thought it was quite a funny title for an illustrator’s first show. 

Do you think it’s hard for illustrators to break free of that title and start to make work purely for themselves rather than for clients?
Yes, I think it’s hard to find the time. The difficult thing about freelancing is that there is never a spare minute to sit and make work for yourself, you’ve constantly got different clients and deadlines all over the place. I had to be really strict with myself, and allow myself blocks of time to work on the show. I do love doing illustration jobs but it has been really fun to be my own art director for once! 

How do you feel your work has evolved over the past few years... 
I’ve tried to think of things a bit more in the long term. Having the deadline of the show looming has really helped me to develop a more solid body of work.

Tell us about the show and the concept behind it... 
I’ve made 15 new pictures. I’ve drawn these big gallery scenes and then hand-finished them with artworks that I have created. So it’s basically lots of little shows within a show.

As a music enthusiast, what's on your studio playlist? 
Lots of Mark Kozelek, as well as classics from Pink Floyd, Todd Rundgren, Courtney Barnett and early Bee Gees. Recently I’ve been so obsessed with Reverberation Radio too!

If you could curate your dream exhibit, with any artist dead or alive, who would be in it and why?
Humphrey Ocean, Danny Fox, Joe Tilson, Jonas Wood, Rose Wylie, Jockum Nordstrom, An Gee Chan, Neal Fox, Calder, Picasso (obviously) and Bill Traylor. That would be pretty special, I think. 

Now you are an artist, how will your daily routine change, and what doors do you hope will begin to open now you are no longer calling yourself an illustrator?
Long boozy lunches, afternoon naps, and skiving work early. Ha! Not really! In reality, hopefully I’ll just feel less guilty about prioritising personal work.

Rose Blake: Now I'm an Artist runs at Rebecca Hossack, London until October 31.