Mouthing Off Artists’ Spotlight
In this series, we will be showcasing the work and experiences of our Resident Artists, who have taken the time to have a chat with us either over Zoom or email. We hope that through these interviews our readers will be able to get to know our artists, what they do, and how they have made their way to where they are now. Our Resident Artists work in a diverse range of media, from painting and drawing to ceramics and film, so there should be something of interest for everyone!
Our featured artist this week is Will Hutchison, Mouthing Off’s cartoonist and Music of the Month curator. Will is an architecture graduate who balances his artistic pursuits between Mouthing Off and a full time job, meaning his portfolio is full of variety both in terms of themes and media. His work primarily takes inspiration from his daily experiences with life, music, art, and politics.
We hope you enjoy this week’s instalment of artist interviews and that they continue to motivate our readers in their own pursuits. Keep checking our website homepage in the future to see more of Will’s cartoons, and we will see you again next week for another interview!
Please introduce yourself to our readers!
My name’s Will, I’m 23 years old and I am currently based around Southampton and the New Forest. I am an architecture graduate from Kingston University, and I work in planning for a gas utilities company – meaning I practice art solely through leisure. The role is quite far from what I really want to be doing, so I try to get involved in opportunities to practice and showcase my art wherever possible.
I Mostly create drawings by hand using pens, pencils, charcoal, and pastels, as well as digitally using a graphics tablet. I also paint, make collages, play guitar, and produce music. Apart from architecture, I have no formal training in any of these fields. Instead, I have made an effort to practice and teach myself where possible, and have also benefitted from having many fantastically creative and artistic people around me.
How did you get into your chosen practice?
I think I have always been more interested in artistic and practical activities in comparison to academic and desk-based ones, so naturally I have always enjoyed doing things like drawing and painting. This paired with a natural curiosity and criticality is, I think, what has led me to where I am and what I am doing today – alongside my life experiences of course.
My final two years at university and the last twelve months are both periods that I would recognise and suggest have been quite important for my development as an artist. Studying architecture exposed me to and let me practice a pretty mixed bag of artistic skills – some I may not use an awful lot at present – but valuable skills none-the-less. It also widened my interest in art in general. I had little interest in arts other than music and architecture before I started, but now I have developed an appreciation for a wider range of practices.
A lot has changed in my life personally in the last twelve months, and this has prompted change in my routines and habits. Before I would rarely find the time to practice art, but I’m much better now; I have an added sense of motivation and belief which has been facilitated by some luck in being able to collaborate with old and new friends.
What themes do you explore in your artwork?
As I mentioned before, I’m still really at the beginning of my career and thus I feel that my work isn’t led by my ideas at present. Rather, my ideas are led by my work. I’m still learning about new tools and instruments and how to use the ones I already know of- this is what I mean by ideas being led by work. There are so many techniques for each tool, whether a pencil, a paintbrush, or a piano. Learning new and better techniques and methods allows you to develop and come up with more ideas.
So, I would struggle to answer exactly what themes my work pursues because I don’t think there has been a consistent theme yet, other than discovery perhaps, or inquisitiveness. Instead, you may be able to pick out a naivety or timidness as a result of trying things for the first time. However, this said, I am starting to come across ideas that I like and think have something that could be developed into something interesting.
What or who would you say are your main artistic influences?
I would say my main artistic influences are myself, other artist’s work, and life in general. Pretty much anything that I make will come from these starting points: personally experiencing an emotion or idea and trying to replicate that to some degree, coming across the work of another artist and feeling the need to mimic or better it, or simply feeling inspired by something I see on my way to work or whilst I am walking in the forest.
In terms of who I would immediately think of, I would usually go for either a musician or band that I like, an architect or practice that I think creates beautiful work and has progressive ideas, or an artist who makes interesting and exciting things. I imagine I have a very normal relationship with how I listen to music and what things make me want to make my own music, but I particularly like bands that are entertaining to see live and music that just sounds good really! With architecture and other arts, I find that social media, especially Instagram, is a large part of how I experience things that influence me – for better or worse. It’s great that there’s such a deep pool of current talent and such a comprehensive record of historical work, but it does, as discussed exhaustively nowadays, have its negatives.
Have you faced any challenges in your artistic career?
I think the biggest issue I’ve faced is not being able to find a place to develop the skills I learnt during my time at university – which is frustrating and an issue I think a lot of graduates experience. I haven’t totally stagnated, my current job has taught me some transferable skills and looks relatively good on my CV. I have also tried hard over the last twelve months to practice art and get involved in things I think will push me as often as possible, but time always seems to be the enemy.
I think you have to be excited about the things you want to do and let your art motivate you. Because it can be difficult to find motivation sometimes, especially if you’ve got a lot on your plate, but believing you’re going to make something awesome or just enjoying the process and the progress is a great source of motivation.
What artwork or project are you most proud of?
Having not yet produced much of a body of work, I suppose it would have to be completing my degree and the work that I’ve done at Mouthing Off. I won’t go into much detail regarding my degree because there isn’t much to be said, other than it really confirmed for me that I wanted to work somewhere where creative problem-solving was encouraged and that I would feel like I was always continuing to learn and add to my skill set. It was also necessary for me to increase my motivation and focus – in my first year I messed around a lot, but in second year I started to work harder and push myself more so that by my final year I could really enjoy focusing on playing with ideas rather than worrying about passing.
Like I said, the work I’ve done here at Mouthing Off would also be what I’m most proud of as it’s allowed me to try my hand at all sorts of different things. I haven’t been limited to just art either, I’ve been able to get involved in lots of things- some that probably sound quite boring, but in reality have been quite interesting and are good things to be able to say you have done. But in terms of art and creative projects, I have produced a series of cartoons and graphics, written and edited articles, and even been able to publish playlists. All of this has been a lot of fun and has been really beneficial in allowing me to regularly practice and publish my work.
Do you have any current or future projects lined up?
I have quite a long list of things that I have been meaning to do- a lot of them I haven’t even started though. Most are quite recent ideas and they’re still evolving, so I don’t mind giving them some more time and seeing if they continue to change or if that’s it. Having very little experience in taking real things (like designing a building or recording music) from the initial concept to a finished product still seems quite daunting, but I know that its likely that once I start I will get really into it.
Although I think we are all students our whole lives and there’s never nothing else to learn, I think it’s still very early days for myself and I make an effort to take the time to work on technique and good practice as I know that these are things I want to do for a long time. Whilst it can be good to produce lots of work, sometimes you need to know when to take your time.
What are your goals for the future?
At the moment I’m just focusing on continuing to balance full-time work with my own ventures, although I’m also recognising that I need to find more time to work on projects that I haven’t really got going yet. I do find it difficult to find enough time to do all the things I want to do, but it’s important to make sure that work isn’t impeaching on your physical or mental well-being, so making sure to get enough sleep and eating and exercising properly are just as vital to the creative process.
But I’d like to think that in a year’s time, I will have got going on my list of ideas, with some being completed, some maybe still underway, and lots of new ideas too. I think I can still improve on my consistency and time management, so hopefully by this time next year I will be releasing work that is really consistent in terms of frequency, but also continues to improve in terms of quality.
What do you think is the role of the artist in society?
I think that the artist has a very privileged role in society, in that they survive by sharing their take on something, or anything really. It’s a pretty good deal – if you can get there. Obviously, there’s the question of how much responsibility you have, as an artist, to use your work to instigate positive change in society, which I think a lot of people would say is a given. While I don’t think it always has to, it can be enough to make something funny or disturbing without trying to change the world. Although I think naturally most artists that feel passionate enough to commit to their work usually do have a message, something that they want to change or raise awareness of.
Of course, artists do a lot more than just offer their opinions on trivial matters – they record history, they explore and progress culture, they can provide comfort to people distressed and suffering. But I feel these days it is easier to become an artist than before and as a result, it can be difficult to come up with something big or something new, and then harder still to find the right audience.
Can you give some advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in art?
I think that you’ll know if the career you’re pursuing is right for you. Even if you get really frustrated at times or often feel really low in confidence, if you keep going back to it then it’s usually because you either enjoy it or it fascinates you. In either of those cases, that’s enough to guide you to a successful career.
Other than that (and this is advice I would give anyone in almost any situation), just be true to yourself. Its easy to follow the money or to just carry on working away at a job that you hate, but if you constantly ask yourself things like “Is this what I want to be doing?”, “Is this benefitting me?”, “Could I be doing something more enjoyable or more challenging?”, and act on the answers, you’ll be alright.
Want to see more Resident Artist interviews? Check out our previous one here.