We caught up with Fuzeillear late last year to have a chat about the people she draws, her beard obsession and her paste-ups. Enjoy the read.
Hey Claire — What's been happening since Analogue/Digital in Brisbane?
Time's gone quick since A/D. I've met a lot of interesting people, been back to the motherland a couple of times, exhibited in Brisvegas, Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong, got into paste ups, started a skateboard range, acheived Australian residency, drunk a lot of bubble tea and not exercised enough.
Tell us about this illustration 'Hypsignathus Monstrosus' (left).
Why do no superheroes have beards? Seriously. Apart from Thor maybe. If he counts. Otherwise it's smooth chiselled jaws left right and centre. How do they find time to shave in the midst of jaunting around saving the planet? Do they wax? Does our sun weaken Kryptonian hair follicles? Does Batman have a Bat razor in his utility belt? Maybe Spiderman does have a four o'clock shadow under the lycra. Maybe we'll never know. But perhaps this is what Batman looked like when he came back from his Christmas holiday before Alfred whipped out the cutthroat. If I was on the Batman Marketing Management Team I would have told him to go with it.
This was drawn with a Bic biro whilst Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises thundered away in the background. Multiple times.
Tell me about the people you draw.
Caped Crusader aside I tend to draw portraits of people I know or people I stop in the street. I'm not on the look out for the symmetrical people, I'm looking for interesting people. People who make you want to look twice, people with a story and character. I decided to draw people I meet because I'm passionate about people accepting their value and uniqueness. When I stop someone, I like the idea that it's a totally normal day for them, some little English woman asks to take their photo and then a few days later they see how much time and effort I put into creating a portrait of them. I hope that makes them feel special and valuable. I'm really into that.
I want to draw attention to the beauty inherent in someone's natural face rather than creating beauty by accentuating perfect skin and tamed hair. I really appreciate flaws and imperfections because I used to be such an insufferable critical perfectionist. That's why I draw in pen, I'm learning to accept and even celebrate flaws because I can't erase mistakes, I'm forced to accept them. In some cases I end up loving them. I draw mainly men because I enjoy all the textures their faces have to offer and because they don't do as much to hide them. Their face is their face every day, with varying degrees of hair. If they're tired they look it, if they're sick they look it. They don't try to hide things as much as we women do. I like that honesty. And with men I feel like they don't mind that I show it in my drawings. Or maybe it's just that I haven't asked them if they mind yet.
When I draw women I'm nervous that they won't like the outcome, that they'll wish they had done their hair differently or put on different makeup when I took their photo. I'd love to draw women just as they are and reinforce the confidence they can have in their real face. But then I am critical of photos people take of me so maybe I need to learn that lesson myself before I can ask other women to. It's definitely a route I want to take because I want to tell women they are beautiful and somehow contradict all the negative things they think of themselves. All their perceived flaws and imperfections that eclipse any positives they might dare to think. It's our flaws and imperfections that make us the unique treasures we are. But it's so easy to believe the negative things we think about ourselves regardless of how big of a lie they are. If I can use my drawing to counteract that and help a woman feel beautiful, flaws and all, I'd be really happy. That's to come. Somehow. I'm still working that one out.
Interspersed with drawings to make people feel valued I like to draw beards on people who don't normally have beards. Bearded ladies, bearded babies, bearded superheroes. Because beards are awesome fun to draw and as well as drawing pictures that make people feel valued, I like to draw pictures that make people smile.
Tell me about your paste ups.
The bigger the better. When I take photos of people to draw I ask them to look straight down the lens because I like how engaging that is for the viewer. I feel like that impact is increased when the drawing is 5 meters tall. Then that person is really in your face, it's difficult to ignore and encourages people to stop and engage. Plus I think it magnifies the sense of value I'm putting on that person. Your face is worth being depicted 6 metres tall. That's fun.
Who has been the most impactful person you've drawn to date?
I drew my Grandma who passed away a couple of months ago. I haven't published it outside of my family because it's too personal. Drawing someone you love is incredibly emotional or at least it is for me.
Who would you really like to draw in the future?
More strangers. Where are you, come at me!
You would have to be one of the most giving people I know — how does it feel to see your career growing faster than ever?
You're too kind! I feel very humbled by people's reaction to my work and I feel honoured when people want to work with me and include me in what they're doing. It's funny thinking about my "career" because I don't have a grand vision of blowing up and being well known or even drawing full time. I just want to continue to be inspired, to draw things that people connect with, to carry on meeting people and making friends, to take opportunities and see where they lead. The fact that so many doors have opened relatively recently feels quite surreal and I'm most concerned with developing the character to deal with them and make wise decisions. It's pretty hectic. I just want to live it well and try to stay true to who I am at every point of the journey.
I know you’ve got some rather large collabs coming up with some pretty big name companies, are you moving towards becoming a full time artist or are you still living a double life?
I'm still a double agent. Boris and Rob at Boardstore generously sponsored my Australian residency this year as a manager for our skate shops so I still fulfil that role full time and draw in my time off. Even if my residency didn't depend on it I would still continue to work at Boardstore, it's work I enjoy with people I love and I think the variety of tasks is really healthy for me. I have a lot of ownership over my responsibilities with the shops so I invest a lot of myself in that role which can leave me drained in the evenings. But I wouldn't choose to care or invest less, what Boardstore does is really important to me. And then I still err on the side of perfectionist with my artwork, I don't know how to draw something just so it's "good enough" and I don't think I want to learn to. I care too much. So that leads to a lot of late nights and bottles of Coke. I just need to get better at priorities and time management so I can get more sleep and still say yes to the things I want to.
Whats your own art collection like?
It's small but growing! My favourites are my print of Askew's piece "Benjamin" from Stupid Krap and a landscape painting by Kat Green, a beautiful small night scene on wood. Then there's my two year old niece's abstracts. Farrah Pope originals. They're next level.
How have these artists impacted your own style or approach to your own artwork?
I met Askew at Analogue Digital back in May and was really moved by the connection he has to his community and the history of where he is from. He has such a genuine passion for honouring people and story telling. In the past I had gone through a long stage in my drawing where everything had to be incredibly deep and meaningful and I had then rebounded into a phase where I was content just to draw without it having any meaning at all which is what I was doing in May. He made me want to tell stories again.
Kat I met here on the coast through friends and I bought this piece from an exhibition she and a photographer put on last year. They leased a shop in Mooloolaba for two weeks and put it all together themselves. At this point Kat had two young kids (she now has three) and I will ever be impressed by how she made time alongside being a fantastic mum to create a large, amazing body of work for that show. Painting before the kids were up in the morning, during their naps and after they went to bed. She has amazing vision and focus and makes me want to dream bigger, work harder, and be more disciplined. I will never complain to her that I'm tired.
And Farrah's work is pure creation, a joyful child creating for the sake of it. She impacts my style and approach because she makes me happy and hopeful every day and that impacts everything.
Anything you want to add?
A thank you to Stupid Krap for having me, a thank you for pushing me to go for it and over it all thank you God for enabling me to draw and patiently teaching me how to use it.
More on Fuzeillear here.
~ Interview by Matthew Haynes