Artist of the Month: Baz Furnell

YYYYYBaz Furnell is the incredible talent behind the astonishing banner for the September issue of Penorama, which he created using Uni-ball's PIN drawing pens. By day he's a mild-mannered prison officer, but by night he works on highly intricate mandala art that fairly jumps off the page. We fired a few questions at him, which he very kindly answered for us!

YYYYYTell us a bit more about yourself.

My name is Baz Furnell. I’m the wrong side of 40 and have lived in Norwich, England all of my life. I’ve worked as a Prison Officer for 17 years and as you’d probably expect, it can be an extremely stressful job. I left school a very long time ago and art was one of the few subjects that I actually enjoyed; however I never really picked up a pen or pencil in over 20 years until I was doodling one day whilst on holiday. Not only did I rediscover the joy of creating something from scratch on a fresh piece of paper, but I also found that it was an excellent way to switch off, relax and unwind. That was around five years ago and I’ve been drawing in my spare time since.   

How would you describe your work?

I’ve gained a following on Instagram for drawing mandalas and other symmetrical designs. I started off by drawing animals and nature, which is another great passion of mine. I managed to create some pencil drawings of animals that I was very proud of once they were finished. However I found the actual process of painstakingly trying to re-create that photo realism in my work slightly unfulfilling. But with the mandalas I found that they gave me the greatest sense of peace whilst creating them. The intricacy, line work and freedom to make up the design as I went along gave me a real sense of satisfaction.

YYYYYMore recently I’ve introduced much more shading into my designs, which whilst much more time-consuming, also gives them a sense of dimension and depth. This is something that has proved popular and perhaps sets my work aside from many other mandala artists.  

What got you into drawing?

My family was always into drawing or painting, so I guess it’s in my genes. But generally I draw really just to relax. However I have to say with social media these days, it’s really easy to see and connect with so many great artists. The level of talent out there and the access that platforms such as Instagram give to that talent is a constant source of inspiration. My own following on Instagram and the lovely comments I get about my work are certainly reasons to keep going, keep creating. But ultimately it’s the enjoyment I get from drawing that keeps me at it.  

YYYYYIf you weren’t an artist, what was the back-up plan?

I’ve never really been comfortable with calling myself an artist; I’m just someone who likes drawing in my spare time. Making money or even earning a living from being an artist has always seemed like a pipe dream to me. But more recently I tentatively began to believe that just maybe I can turn my hobby into a career. I’ve met some amazing and generous people through social media and right now I’m working on getting my own website up and running where people can purchase my work. Who knows, there may be life after the Prison service yet...

YYYYYWhat are your favourite subjects/topics to draw?

Definitely mandalas and symmetrical designs. However like with my mandala elephant I created a few years ago, I really want to explore fusing symmetry with nature more. I have so many ideas and such little time though.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?

I’m not really sure where my own ideas come from. Certain images pop into my head and I try and hold onto them until I get them down on paper. Instagram gives access to so much talent and inspiration, and I try and take inspiration from those whose work I love, but also try and make my work stand out as being my own.

YYYYYWhat are you currently working on?

I often have a number of projects on the go at once. Due to the intricacy, the time that I spend on my work often means that I get bored just working on one piece. The banner for ‘Penorama' is a case in point. In my mind I had a relatively simple design planned, but this turned into one of my most complex pieces of work. Normally my work isn’t time bound so I just put one piece to the side when I need a break and start something else. I then go back and forth until they eventually get finished. That being said, my next piece will be a commission piece for a certain WWE wrestler...

How long does it normally take to complete a project?

Forever lol! No I never really count the time I spend on any piece of work, due to working on multiple projects at once and also because they are created in short sittings in my limited spare time spent around my job and family commitments. However I would guess roughly that some of my bigger pieces of work can easily take upwards of 40 to 50+ hours.  

YYYYYWhat are your top 5 pens/pencils?

I love my fineliners, and alcohol markers for shading...

  1. Uni PIN 0.03 fineliner (I use a lot of these in various thicknesses)
  2. Spectrum noir Illustrator markers
  3. Copic Multiliner SP (again 0.03) I’ve found this to be the pen with the finest drawing line bar none.
  4. Spectrumnoir Tri-Blends - these are great for coloured projects
  5. I’ve just got some Uni EMOTT ever fine coloured fineliner pens and can’t wait to give them a try on future projects

What pen or pencil couldn’t you live without?

My Uni PIN fineliners or my Spectrum noir Illustrators.

Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?

Generally I know. Because of the length of time I spend on them, I’m often desperate to get them finished :)

YYYYYWhat work are you most proud of?

I don’t really have one piece that I’m more proud of. If I was forced to choose one piece then maybe it would be the mandala map of Africa….Or possibly my dot work eye?

What tips do you have for aspiring artists/designers?

I have a couple:

  • Firstly - this one is easier said than done and may seem like a contradiction considering my previous comments about Instagram - but don’t become a slave to social media and let the reactions received on apps such as Instagram dictate how you feel about your own work or ability. Apps like Instagram, etc, are a great platform for artists to express and share their creativity, and there’s no denying that it’s nice to have positive comments and lots of likes, but at the same time the online community can be fickle. All too often I see aspiring artists obsess about gaining followers, complaining about the latest algorithm that isn’t getting their posts their audience, or in the worst cases becoming disillusioned, losing confidence and ultimately stopping creating because their work isn’t being recognised. Try and remember the joy of creating art and draw for yourself, not just those online.
  • Secondly, I know it’s a cliche but take your time and be patient and practise. There are some incredibly gifted artists out there who can knock out a masterpiece in a matter of hours if not quicker. But for many I’d bet that if you want a design or drawing to turn out really well, you have to invest the time in it. You don’t have to spend the countless hours I do on your designs, but in my experience a lot of people rush their work and end up unhappy with the results.

See more of Baz's work on Instagram

10 September 2019

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