Briefly describe the work you do.
I create drawings inspired by nature. I love using graphite, pen, ink, paint, charcoal and gouache to create marks on a surface. I am fascinated by the natural world – the dramatic curve of a stem, a collection of petals or lush leaves compel me to pick up a pencil.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in England and spent my childhood in the country a few hours south of London. I grew up in an artistic family, my father is a sculptor and my grandparents were architects. I have a clear memory of my father taking me to see a big exhibition at the National Gallery as a young child and finding the preliminary sketches far more exciting than the finished paintings. They harnessed a raw energy, liveliness and expression that only a line can convey. This had a profound impact upon me. My love of drawing has been a thread throughout my life and I only feel that I fully understand something if I have drawn it. I am fascinated by the process of making a mark, the sound of a pencil on paper, building up layers of lines, the connection between myself and the subject and view it as a sculptural process on paper.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.
My studio is located at the end of a London garden. Time away on a recent Fellowship with Ballinglen Arts in Ireland inspired me to take my studio outside. Drawing in the open air, hearing the wind rage through the plants and seeing the movement of the grasses helped me to free up my work. No longer was I drawing a still life and I could not approach my work in exactly the same way. I feel less chained to my studio. I have been drawing flower stalls and markets across London.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I think being an artist today encompasses so much more than simply creating artwork. I never expected to attend lectures on networking, social media, how to write an application or bookkeeping. Creating your own opportunities as well as applying for existing ones takes a lot of time. I never thought I would teach art but I really enjoy it. Recently I ran a Big Draw event at Clifton Nursery, London where over a hundred members of the local community created a collaborative drawing.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I am most productive in the morning. I enjoy the feeling of having the whole the day in front of me. A bit of pressure and a deadline helps to keep me focused. I try to work on my computer in the afternoon/evening.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago I think I was set in my ways. I now feel more realistic, open to external factors and willing to experiment. My fascination with nature continues. The context of the subject interests me. For example, at Covent Garden Flower Market the flowers are in boxes, carefully wrapped and look completely different. I am slowly introducing colour into my work but I find this challenging because I love graphite drawings.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I am constantly inspired by numerous sources. I have been looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and find the colours of the faded ink marks interesting. I heard one of my favourite artists Bridget Riley give a talk a few years ago at Freeze. I was interested to learn that observational drawing continues to be the foundation of her work. I like going to lectures at the Royal Geographic Society. I was fascinated to see photographs of frozen grass that Tim Cope shared during a lecture on his adventure across Mongolia.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Landscape architecture because I have a natural feeling for the soil and the sculptural quality of being able to form the landscape appeals to me.
Venetia Norris, b. 1981. After leaving school I studied art in Florence, Italy at the British Institute (1999) before completing a foundation year at Chelsea College of Art (2000), then graduated with two Bachelor of Arts’ degrees from the London College of Fashion (2003) and Sir John Cass Art School (2009). I remain fascinated by the process of making a mark and create mixed media drawings inspired by nature. My work has been exhibited in many group shows including the Affordable Art Fair (2010) and in Christies, London (2013). To date I have had four solo shows, the most recent was held at National Trust’s Fenton House, Hampstead (2012). I was awarded an Artist Fellowship with the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Ireland (2014 & 2016) and an Artist Residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland (2015). I live and work in South West London. My studio is located at the end of a long, narrow garden that provides escapism from my urban surroundings.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.