Wendy Stephens: Artist of the Month - November 2014
Every month we ask a different artist to design a banner for our newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.
This month's artist is Wendy Stephens, also known as Dark Iris, a graphic designer specialising in nature, birds and women
This is the banner Wendy designed for us:
Cult Pens: Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Wendy: Hi! I'm a graphic designer and artist. I started my graphic design business, Dark Iris Design in 2009, but I've been in the business for about 15 years. After the recent birth of my little girl, I have started to re-explore my personal art under the name Dark Iris as well.
Cult Pens: How would you describe your work?
Wendy: I'm such a magpie. I'm constantly trying out new styles and techniques. I like to work in pencil and then ink. I've experimented with acrylics and watercolour, but they were a disaster for me - I like the clean tight lines of pencil and ink drawings. I really struggle to describe it, as I like my work to speak for itself I guess.
Cult Pens: What got you into drawing?
Wendy: I remember checking out a huge book on the art of Walt Disney for a project at primary school and liked to draw the characters from memory. I have always loved drawing, but the revelation that this could be a job was amazing to me and I still can't quite believe I get to do this for a living.
Cult Pens: If you weren’t an artist, what was the back-up plan?
Wendy: There really wasn’t one. I’ve been drawing since I was tiny and I can honestly say there were no other ideas on the drawing board. (That’s a terrible pun, but it really wasn't meant to be!). I like to hide little symbols in my work, as psychology and symbolism have always interested me, so perhaps something down that route?
Cult Pens: What are your favourite subjects to draw?
Wendy: Nature, birds and women. I always find myself coming back to them again and again. Feathers are tricky to ink though.
Cult Pens: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Wendy: Literally everywhere. Growing up, I used to tear out pictures from magazines, or scan photos from books that I liked. Until Pinterest was invented. I’ve cleared out about 3 shelves of paper research by switching to that!
My brain works faster than I can draw, so sometimes I actually write down a description of the picture I have in my head. For example for the piece for Cult Pens I wrote: “A medusa-like woman with horns, flowing hair and a pen headdress". After I started working on the idea of a woman as a physical representation of CULT, I wanted to make the finished piece work almost like a sigil or token to be worn in battle. I liked the idea of the pen being a weapon of creation, so she has a few fountain pens as symbols of previous battles won.
Cult Pens: What are you currently working on?
Wendy: I’m self employed, so I am able to decide what graphic design projects I want to work on. I also have freedom to create the art I want, as I set myself a lot of self-initiated projects. I'm working on a Mexican Day of the Dead piece at the moment, but I have SO many ideas bouncing around my skull, I just need to get them on paper.
Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project?
Wendy: Before our daughter was born, it actually took much longer to finish a project. Only having a few hours to work on a project each day really focuses your mind to achieve what you need to and leave the unnecessary details out.
Cult Pens: What are your top 5 pens?
Faber Castell Grip Plus 0.7mm. I like the nice chunky barrel, and the 0.7mm lead gives a good line thickness. I have 2 of these; one for blue lead and one for graphite too.
Pilot Neo-X Lead Soft Blue 0.7mm. This is what brought me to Cult Pens. I read a US review but wanted a UK supplier, and bingo! It’s a blue lead that disappears when scanning in black and white, which is ideal for inking.
Sharpie. I use these for filling in thicker areas. I recently discovered Metallic sharpies too, which are lovely for finishing details, and no shaking or glooping up!
Parker fountain pen. I have terrible handwriting and always hope a fountain pen will magically correct it! Sadly, it doesn’t but it feels lovely to write with.
Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn’t you live without?
Wendy: I got fed up with constantly sharpening pencils, so made the switch to mechanical pencils a few years ago. My boyfriend gave me a Faber Castell Grip Plus 0.7mm mechanical pencil and I love that - much easier to hold than a regular pencil as it has a chunkier barrel.
Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?
Wendy: Sometimes I ‘finish’ a project but I leave it open on my mac for a few days while I work on something else. If I wander past and something catches my eye I might have a tweak here and there until it just feels right. Or until I get a blinding migraine. Whichever comes first :D
Cult Pens: What work are you most proud of?
Wendy: Hard to say. It’s usually my latest piece, as I am constantly trying to learn new techniques or styles, and if this piece is better than my last then I’m happy!
Cult Pens: What tips do you have for aspiring artists?
Wendy: It's deathly dull advice I'm afraid. Don’t compare yourself to other artists and think ‘I wish I could draw like that’, as there are 10 people that would say ‘I wish I could draw like you!’. Just focus on improving on every piece and you will steadily make progress. Told you it was dull.
Best bit of advice I got was at a talk with Dave Gibbons, the comic book artist who illustrated Watchmen. It was along the lines of ‘If you are friendly, good at what you do, and inexpensive, you will never be out of work” and I try to remember that all the time.