Artist Interview: Miki Lowe – Illustrator

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I am Miki, and I am a 23 year old girl. I grew up in a small French town with English and Japanese parents – which was a sure eccentric but super interesting cultural mix to be surrounded by.

In France, I specialized quite early, in what’s called an applied art course- an intense program that covers fine arts, art history and a lot of design studies (product, spatial and visual), which I think has kept on influencing me even after narrowing down my specialization.
I came to London to study art/illustration at Camberwell College, 5 years ago.

Since graduating, I’ve kept on freelancing, doing illustration work for magazines, or venues, but also some layout and graphic design work, for publications and cd/vynil and theatre companies.

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
How did you get started doing what you do?
As far as I can recall, I’ve just always drawn things I saw, but also things I imagined. I used to compulsively draw mushroom houses when I was very small. Pages and pages of them. The other day, in fact, I found some old drawings from when I was a kid- they were pretty detailed, expressive and straight to the point, I’d obviously put some spirit into them! although we lived in France, my father brought me up with Roal Dahl books. The idea of being an illustrator came to me with Quentin Blake; I got a drawing practice book by Quentin Blake, I hope I’ve kept something of his teachings

How would you describe your style?
I find it difficult to give a straight forward answer to that, as I see myself as having different styles- I use a variety of materials and techniques; pen and ink, also watercolour, etchings, colour pencils.. which means delicate and detailed drawings or very bold and rougher, – with varying degrees of realism and abstraction- sometimes quite light hearted, other times darker…I haven’t decided on one stylistic direction I want to stick with across all my artwork, and dwell whether it’s an issue or not for an illustrator. Eclecticism could describe my style perhaps, and personally I think it has advantages- for instance it has led me to work on very different projects and adapt to a range of briefs. I do, though, have an obsession with drawing bathtubs, coffee cups, girls, and making everything look lopsided!

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
What’s your inspiration?
Mostly, I’d say my own life. Even when I work to briefs, I’m guided by them, and I feed on things I see, remember, hear, research. At the end of the day I’m quite introspective- my art work has changed depending on my interests, focuses, emotions, even obsessions and neurosis- perhaps my illustrations are a form of diary- not so much in a figurative, day to day manner, but the themes I work with, or the atmosphere. Aesthetics, I try to create, are often linked to things that are going on in my life or in my head.

What is art to you?
An exteriorized interpretation of ones thoughts, impressions, experiences. I can’t make up my mind wether it’s something made to be seen, or made for one’s self. Guess it depends on the people.

For me as a practitioner, art is something- probably one of the only things- that enables me to get out of my own thoughts whilst still concentrating- it’s my sport/exercise. When i get completely absorbed in a drawing, or the process of making a picture, It’s the closest I get to mediating- even though actual mediation is a difficult thing for me.

 

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
How do you keep motivated?
Mostly, I think, if I stop doing anything all together, I’m absolutely certain nothing will happen. Whereas if I keep making pictures, I don’t know what will happen, but there’s a window for possibilities.

I have other artists or people in the same situation as me, I also find it helpful to talk with them and motivate each other. It’s nice to encourage and be encouraged.

How have your surroundings influenced your work?
There is so much going on in my surroundings (which is London, but I mean in the world in general) that I am not quite sure. We have access to so much information- the past- the present- limitless subject matters. The visual and mental imagery I can get in a day, or even by the hour can make my head spin. I see my work as very much of my time; a mix and match of cultural references, époques, eclectic subject matters and influences cut and pasted together.

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
How have others reacted to your work?
haha, It depends.. My mother for instance usually frowns and says, ‘ its good… but…why does it have to be so…like this’

I get good reactions, and I guess in general, people are polite and if they don’t like it, they don’t say anything at all. Once someone told me my drawings had a ‘Ralph Steadman-ish’ thing about them- not sure I can see it, but it was a great moment.

What do you want others to take away from your work?
A strong image that remains in their mind after looking- the feeling it’s something they haven’t yet seen, the desire to see it again… And I’d really like my work to touch people’s imagination.

 

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Nothing much- if I did, it would be to do things differently, and I don’t want that.

The only thing I would say is, try to like your own work, don’t get so frustrated with it, just don’t be so hard on yourself.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I met a man in a hostel in Kyoto when I was 18, and physically small, whom I told I wanted to climb mount Fuji, but I obviously wouldn’t manage on my own.

He said, what are you talking about, you can do anything you want, if you try, there’s no rule saying you can’t. He made me promise to go the next day, which I did and managed. I don’t always remember to apply that to my life, I should.

Illustration by artist, Miki Lowe
What are your thoughts on art school?
Mixed. English art schools tend to leave you to it- and assist you in idea development more than anything else. I had an amazing time, with the best facilities/studios, interesting projects, and all the time to think about what I love to do.

These days, as a graduate, I’m trying to develop further technical skills to complement the more conceptual approach I acquired from Uni. For examples, I’m looking at anatomy, and trying to train myself ‘classically’ a little bit as it is an element my work lacks of- and it’s so important (in my view) to have a certain understanding and mastery of a technique (in this case of structure, shape etc.) before taking complete freedom and distorting them- I think there is a Japanese saying like that.

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
One day, I would love to have a show (of my etchings, preferably) in one of those beautiful, slick, spacious all-white galleries, a retrospective show regrouping my work over many years- so it would have to be a few years in the future- with the most fun, lavish, un-slick, opening party the art scene has had in a long time.

Is there any other artists you would want us to look at/recommend?
Yes, Have a look at this painter, Armando Seijo.

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