An Interview with Kirsty Greenwood

Fighting FaeriesKirsty Greenwood, the artist whose “Fighting Faeries” was featured on the cover of Scheherezade’s Bequest 13, has a talent for expressing the unworldly and transient nature of her subject. Describing herself as “a quixotic painter, illustrator, sculptor and seamstress”, she engages with paint and pencil, with wood and fabric, and with her own dreaming self to create a range of work that is both whimsical and strangely eerie. She described “Fighting Faeries” as a picture about “fighting your inner daemons, being lost amongst one’s own obsessions and ensuing madness; a basis for many Folk and Fairy tales.” We wanted to dig a little deeper into Kirsty’s dreamscapes, so CdF co-‘‹’‹editor Virginia M. Mohlere spoke with Kirsty about her influences and inspirations.

Sedna by Kirsty Greenwood
Sedna by Kirsty Greenwood

Virginia: You described the image we used for Scheherezade’s Bequest 13 as different layers — photos and drawings, and your CV mentions your interest in “visual misunderstanding” and “ocular strangeness.” Where does this interest spring from? Are you a fan of optical illusions, or does “ocular strangeness” mean something entirely different to you? Does the “visual misunderstanding” in your art spring from your experience of seeing the world?

Kirsty: My interest in visual misunderstanding comes from an addiction to dreams and nightmares/dreaming and having nightmares! During the night I am the main character in many strange and often horrific moving pictures, which are based on frequent glimpses of unreality, by which I mean that I feel confused or disorientated by everyday scenes; I see things that ‘˜aren’t there’ or misunderstand visual references that others seem to instantly get — image dyslexia or something! I’ve learnt to enjoy these ocular strangenesses, and use them as reference points for work. I believe it’s why I have such a strong affinity for myth, folklore, fantasy tales and stories, and why I like to produce illustrations for such.

I also love non-fiction, especially biographical writing — it’s reassuring that other people aren’t so different. I like to layer different media in my art, it produces images which are open to the dynamism of serendipity and halts the limits we often put on ourselves to make the thing we have in our ‘˜mind’s eye,’ which can often be repetitive or stylistic.     

So I find mixing things up makes it easier to create something fresh and original.

Fox Shadows by Kirsty Greenwood
Fox Shadows by Kirsty Greenwood 650px

V: How many times have you sung “Sweet Child of Mine” at karaoke?

K: Ha Ha, brilliant! Not ever, but I sang “Paradise City” with my best friend Laura, at the Metro Center karaoke many years ago’¦ she was much better than me! I’m quite shy, so that and singing Free’s “Alright now” are the only times I’ve ever done karaoke’¦ plus I have an awful voice.

V: You work in lots of media, and even within a medium, your styles really vary. I was interested by the paintings on your website, and that some are totally abstract, some are pretty psychedelic. It’s almost like your fantasy paintings are the most “realistic.” Is that a conscious decision/statement, or just how the work comes out?

K: I suppose it’s partly conscious, but mostly because I want to try new mediums and techniques in order to be proficient in as many as possible. It has at times been dependent on what I have to hand; through a lack of funds or the need to get something down before the muse flits!

I think I have so many styles because I’m inspired by countless things, whether the medium itself, Art, other Artists, music, literature, environment or dreams/nightmares, etc. To make fantasy believable (or more acceptable) it has to be based in reality, it has to be directly identifiable — then show its difference.

Catarpillar by Kirsty Greenwood
Catarpillar by Kirsty Greenwood

V: By moving among painting, drawing, sculpture, and textiles, do you teach yourself new techniques or seek out mentors? Do you find that the media are more a way to stave off artistic boredom, or do they feed one another?

K: I spent four years at college studying Art and Design and learnt a lot, but I generally teach myself new techniques. I learnt to sew from my brilliantly practical Mum, who used to make many of her own clothes. My Dad is a very gifted artist, who taught me to draw, paint and appreciate Art.

I particularly love drawing and mixing it with photography. I think they complement each other well; I can blend the styles to suit what I’m trying to achieve. Because I’m often inspired by disjointed views and weird feelings, it’s easier to recreate those by mixing mediums. It’s not necessarily to stave off artistic boredom, more a need to be original and non-repetitive. Yes the media often feed one another!

V: Erzebet and I are both CRAZY about your clothing. Is all of the fabric vintage, or do you manipulate the textiles? (I immediately assumed that you designed the fabrics yourself, until I read the “about” page.) Is sewing yet another branch of your art or a “brain rest”?

K: Thank you! Most of the fabrics I use for clothing are vintage/second hand or from charity shops. I love old clothing and past fashions. At college I made several ‘˜garments’ using sculptural techniques, recycled materials and vintage apparel: a willow twig corset, feather corset, vintage fabrics patchwork, bone and old metal head wear to mention a few.

For me, sewing has sprung from a loathing of wearing clothing I know anyone else may own; its pure vanity really, so I sew in order to have outfits that are unique and made to fit. It used to be cheaper too, to buy old clothing/cloth and revamp it, not so much anymore with the current vintage trends.

Often wearing the clothing I’d made, people would want to know where I got it, and many a time their response would be “will you make me one?” or “you should make them to sell”, so I decided to set up my own clothing label (Green Poppy) to make one offs and very limited runs of attire using vintage or hard to find fabrics, cut from old patterns adapted to modern tastes. It certainly does give me a brain rest as you put it, though it hurts my back, and not something I feel I could do full time.

V: Describe a just-right day.

K: Well, if I had my way, this would happen:

A blustery autumn day, I’d get up late (11am-ish, because the later I sleep, the better dreams I have)’¦ eat my weight in Marmite on toast and Yorkshire Tea for breakfast’¦ open my emails to find a message from a book publishing house (The Folio Society would be my 1st choice) with a commission to illustrate Don Quixote, or Gormenghast (my favorite novels)’¦ go for a long walk with my boyfriend, over the moors I grew up on’¦ happen upon a pub, sitting with a pint in front of its roaring open fire, Patti Smith would walk in, sit down for a chat, discover my art, love it and commission something for her next novel or album cover (this would be heaven), home for a tea of chip butties, then to work through the night on those dream commissions’¦!  

(A girl can dream’¦)

Pool of tears by Kirsty Greenwood
Pool of tears by Kirsty Greenwood 650px