'Every Wed Chippy takes himself off for an evening of self indulgence at the Bristol Drawing School joint owned by artist Carol Peace...He catches up with Carol outside of drawing classes on the eve of her open studio weekend'
You opened the drawing school in Jan 2008 as a not for profit education venue, how is it going?
Brilliant! Just finished a course with some students one of whom said it was the best course she had ever been on! Its great seeing people so fired up and inspired about stuff, the courses and the energy are inspiring me with my work. It’s not only a buzz to be learning but it’s like a support as well. Although financially it needs a bit of help we are moving forwards and are now planning a few study trips in Europe...how exciting!!
Why did you choose to base your studio and the drawing school in Bristol?
It was either here or London, I came here straight from college to the Bristol Sculpture Shed (now spike island) I had a few commissions from my degree show and just had to get on with it, I did not know much about Bristol but thought the sculpture shed would be a good option so moved with some mates from college…and never looked back!
I love it here, the size, the diversity, and the fact that there is always too much going on in a city that I can bike across in 20 minuets. I can get the train from near my house at 7.30 and be in London by 10ish and I can walk out of the city into rolling hills the next day….cool!
I had dreams of a big farm with a drawing school attached but Graham ( the other half of the drawing school ) is more urban and feels the school has more going for it in a city, somehow more alive. I completely agree and with the options that are now open to the drawing school my country retreat seems rather tame!
How do you juggle your workload between your own work and that of the drawing school?
It was tricky to start with, as I tended to get involved with things and then get distracted with my work and forget I was supposed to be doing something. So now I am more the artistic director ( i.e I just talk a lot get very excited about things ) the real work of the school is done by Graham the director. There is never enough time to do what we want to do but hopefully we will get some funding so we can do more.
I love doing the drawing school stuff and get a huge amount from it both personally and as inspiration for work but I have to remember I am a sculptor first.
Why Bronze and Resin?
I make the sculptures in clay which is easy to model, fluid like charcoal and lovely to make marks in but I have never fired much work so it has to be cast, it’s a massively long process but I still get off on the idea of making something so fluid and easy to make marks in, into something solid and unchangeable like bronze.
I guess because I am one and I know more about what it is to be one.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to make a career out of sculpture?
Work at it, put the hours in, work, draw, work more, draw more, be humble, be honest, make work from yourself, what you want to make not what you think you should make. Be strong. Take on board criticism but never let it put you off as it will.
On the way down to the studio today I was thinking about an article that was in the ft which said the worm was turning, the next turner prize shortlist has ‘an emphasis on those who make as well as think’ it’s a bit like fashion, if you stay the same it usually comes back around to being trendy again!
But what I am trying to emphasize is you have to be true to yourself otherwise what’s the point.
You have won several prestigious commissions, where do you start with big commissions?
Its great if the people who are commissioning you will go with you, with ideas so you work like a team, usually they see work they like in the studio or at an exhibition and they want something similar, larger or have a particular idea and we work together on it, or I do an interpretation of their idea.
With the public commissions it is similar. I have never applied for many things as I am a bit shy about it but I just put myself out there and hope people come to me.
Do you struggle letting go of commissions that you have spent hours working on?
Everything is cast so I have a copy for myself or I have the mold so I know I could make an artists copy, so no I don’t have a problem with that. Paintings and drawings I make are unrepeatable so find them more difficult to sell.
Do you collect art and if so what?
I wouldn’t say I collect art; more give in to desire and lust for it. Mostly painting. At the moment I am desperate to buy one of Richard Cartwright’s paintings, his work is brilliant.
Your drawings are excellent and seem effortless, have you always drawn like this?
My drawing changes all the time and its always a struggle!
Have you shown outside of the UK?
Yes, I went through a faze of going all over the place I started in France and then went to Athens, Zurich even did a symposium in Columbia. Now I mostly show in London but I would love to show in New York….obviously!
Is The Chipster (Chippy) your favorite student?
I couldn’t possibly comment! We have lots of lovely students at the drawing school but he does try hard and he does care, he puts the effort in!
What do you listen to when in your studio?
Tom Waites, JJ Cale, Billy Holiday. A lot of music that is too cheesy to mention but those are long time favorites.
What artists inspire you?
How much time have you got!
I find things that I could not possibly attempt to do, things that are very different to my work the most inspiring.
I admire musicians and composers hugely. I can not comprehend in any way how you would write a song or where to start and how someone could put something together so well with all the different parts in it, the way a cd is such a small thing, so cheap really compared to art and yet it can be important and mean something ( something different ) to so many people.
Sometimes you go to an exhibition and find yourself in front of a painting and you have one of those moments when you realise you have to raise your game. It happens to me mostly in front of paintings, the last time it did was at an Andrew Crocker exhibition at Beaux Arts in Bath.
At the moment to name some people I would say
Giacometi – his painting
loise borgious - her big spider - for the idea of walking through a sculpture and seeing someone walking towards you
Do you work rigidly from completed drawings or do your sculptures evolve and you work on them?
The sculptures always change when I make them; the drawing gives me the knowledge to know when something looks wrong but I cant think of a time when I have used a finished drawing to make a piece of work from.
Where did the big feet come from in your sculptures?
I am afraid that’s a bit of an unknown to me!…..they just look right like that to me, I have no excuse really.
Three things you loathe?
Greed, social climbing, networking ( are they the same? )
Three things you love?
Graham, my family and our dog
Q. I have heard you are looking for a studio swap with an artist the States, how would that work?
I would swap my studio and our garden flat in Redland for a work live in the States, preferably New York. It would be both Graham and myself. The Bristol Drawing School being next door could potentially provide the artist/artists with an exhibition and open access to the courses. It is roughly 1000sq ft.