Hazel Perryman

There’s an immediacy and energy to the illustrations of this Camberwell student, whether she’s tackling something as lofty as the human condition or as down to earth as the British suburb. 

What inspires you?

Since I was very young I have written stories and poetry, and I think of myself primarily as a storyteller. I find inspiration in people and the every day; how people relate to each other, customs and rituals, and the cultural vernacular. I like to consider these themes against a larger backdrop of the human condition, of what it is to exist as a being in the world, in a universal and historical context. Artists I admire explore similar themes, for example David Lynch, George Shaw and American road photographers like Alec Soth and Todd Hido. I also read a lot of poetry. 

Talk us through your process.

I draw and write constantly in sketchbooks, and the writing is a very big part of the process for me. I usually begin a piece with a feeling or an abstract idea of what I want to draw, but rarely with a complete image in mind. I like to use a brush and ink, felt tip pen and paint. For the final piece I usually take images directly from my sketchbooks and collage them together, either the old-fashioned way with scissors and glue or digitally. I am very spontaneous so collaging is best for me when I am working on big images. Once I have drawn something I like, I tend not to re-work it too much. I like the energy that you get with sketchbook work, and it is nice when things aren't perfect. When I am drawing or painting I often write little one- or two-line sentences or fragments of poetry to go with the drawings. I am a big fan of artists like Ed Ruscha, the collaborative work of Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber, and Raymond Pettibon for their incorporation of text into imagery. 

Tell us about brief you have particularly enjoyed.

I have been lucky enough to be able to explore my own brief whilst studying for an MA in Camberwell. In my work I am drawn to the big questions we try to answer about ourselves, and the way we attempt to make peace with what we are. I decided to work on a narrative about a man who, wracked with existential angst, is unable to sleep and goes exploring his home town – a place he is dissatisfied by. At night the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and opens up a new world for him to explore. I used deep blacks contrasting with glowing colours of different light sources that lead him through the darkness. The light comes from quotidian objects that are transformed in the dark and made mysterious. Through his small adventure the man is reminded that he is part of something bigger, he is able to wonder at the world again. I moved back to the suburbs for one year after a break of about five years and it really informed my final project. I lived and breathed my research, going out for walks around the still and silent cul-de-sacs and taking pictures of chalet bungalows surreptitiously on my phone. It was weird to be in this between state of half-belonging. I was given the opportunity to rediscover a once-familiar place almost as a tourist. 

What do you think makes a strong image?

I think illustrations work best when they are simple, direct and not too overwrought. Inspiring art for me is about singular vision. You can really feel it when an artist is immersed in their own vision. Illustrators like Maira Kalman and Chris Johanson have this energy. The work feels very natural and has a spontaneous quality to it. For this reason I also love outsider art. If an artist has a strong voice, their own response (within reason) can add a new dimension to a brief. I also love more traditional illustrators such as Geoff McFetridge. He is such a witty image-maker and there is an immediacy to his work; it is instantly understandable.

What are your plans for the future?

I am continuing to extend the narrative project I have been working on at UAL and I hope to publish a book of short illustrated stories about the suburbs soon. I have a show in the pipeline for next year, which I am putting on with a couple of friends, and I would like to get involved in some editorial illustration.