I treasure the feeling of being solitary in an open space as if I am the only one seeing my surroundings in that moment. My work depicts this internal feeling physically.
Ollie Phillips is a self-taught artist who comes from a background in digital art and illustration. During the pandemic, he found himself drawn to working with colored pencil. Inspired by the invisible connections that are established by social media, he depicts tranquil scenes directly inspired by visuals from the temporary Instagram stories of others. Heavily mixed layers of colored pencil depict the captured moment vibrantly, while it is preserved as an ever-living memory.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. How did you come to move your attention from digital art to the very physical process of working with coloured pencil?
A. I’d been creating digital illustration pieces for a couple of years which involved a lot of ideation, but being in the lockdown I found I was no longer getting inspired by anything. I was spending a lot of time flicking through architecture and design accounts on Instagram when I came across an idyllic property on one of their Instagram stories. This was the first real natural spark of inspiration I’d had in months. That day, I also happened to come across the hyper-realistic works of CJ Hendry. I was in awe of how she recreated objects with pencil in such precise detail, so I decided to purchase a 72 Lyra coloured pencil set and became obsessed.
Q. What drew you to this rather unusual choice of medium?
A. I think I've always been a perfectionist in the way I create, from illustration to design. Working with coloured pencils, you have to go through various different combinations to match the hues to the image being recreated. Much like oil paint but there isn’t as much flexibility, as adding small amounts of another colour will create a big change in hue. This process of layering also creates a thick waxy sheen in the work that intensifies the pigment. I thrive on experimentation and colour creation. I think mostly because of my design background in university where projects were essentially problems you had to solve. To me, this translates best in a medium such as coloured pencil. I also love having a big collection of materials to choose from, it makes every piece and its process of discovering the right colour combinations feel very unique.
Q. Your current ongoing series of works is titled ‘Subconscious’, could you elaborate on the meaning of this title?
A. Subconscious was, and is, currently how I feel about the process in which I discover what to draw - I think this is the same for many artists. But it also describes the manner in which the originator of the images I use has decided to document their inspiration or admiration on a limited time scale. Through the process of them choosing to share the image, and my appreciating it enough to want to immortalise it, a subconscious connection is made. That connection becomes something very personal to me and it's this surprise and instantaneous spark of inspiration that propels my work. The meaning of the title is therefore quite literal; through this process, I am discovering more and more what draws my attention to a composition.
Q. Why do you think you choose to recreate the snapshots and memories of others, rather than your own?
A. Mostly because by us being connected through social media we can view various parts of the world within our own settings, but seldom is this a meaningful experience. By recreating these scenes they become a personal experience to me. I like the idea of playing with the act of plagiarism as well, as artists, we all take inspiration from the ones who created movements, I just see this as expanding this to the people’s lives I choose to view through their aperture of sharing. I have drawn some of my own photographs as well but I always enjoy the process of making someone else’s work a physical memory more. I think it builds on my opinion that everyone has creative flair, even in small moments. That’s something I think we all should embrace.
Q. What made you want to capture, to freeze in time as it were, something that is supposed to be fleeting in terms of how long it is visible?
A. I wanted to use social media in a more creative way. It is difficult to detach ourselves from our phones at times, but this act makes it a more positive experience for me. One person's moment of passing appreciation sparks a long time of dedication and exploration for me. I mostly use the pictures made by friends, I love expanding their original idea and seeing their reactions to the finished product.
Q. Do you think there is a certain voyeuristic curiosity that is underlying your work?
A. Subconsciously, I create my own memories from other people's momentary ones. These moments that the user chooses to share were never intended to become a permanent piece of work, so I think there is that characteristic to my work, minus the sexual nature of the approach.
Q. Most of the scenes you depict breathe a certain sense of tranquility, what made you choose these images specifically?
A. At the moment that I screenshot the images it is purely down to intrigue; but whilst I set up and create the works I usually do find a sense of clarity. I think this again is part of the subconscious aspect, in the sense that I discover only through the process of drawing what triggered my instinct to draw. I treasure the feeling of being solitary in an open space, being the only one experiencing my surroundings at that moment. My work depicts this internal feeling physically.
Q. You are continuously adding to this series, do you think it will reach a moment of completion?
A. This collection comprises so many personal relations and feelings, I can’t see my work ever truly deviating from this. I imagine that I will become more focused on certain aspects of the scenes I create, especially architectural, and hopefully, I will derive more meaning. Currently, I am fascinated with framing the views in different ways, best shown in my recent work ‘Awaken in Tuscany’ and in my current work in progress.
Q. What would you like your work to evoke in the viewer?
A. Fascination about what the original viewer of the depiction was feeling; why they chose to share this particular memory, what the subject matter might mean to them, and also I would love for the viewer to develop their own subconscious admiration and sense of solitary appreciation. I believe there is no apotheosis when the origin of the ideas hasn’t been formed by my creation, it is instead an endless connection of emotion and feeling.
Q. Which other creatives inspire you?
A. There are so many to choose from! Notably, within my medium CJ Hendry constantly astounds me with her drive and technical ability, it is a dream for me to own one of her originals. Alongside her, Clement Thoby’s work inspired my desire to work with coloured pencil and a certain selective composition. Andrew Salgado’s work, also for his use of explosive colour and variance of mark-making. Ultimately, my uncle, John Voogd, who taught me about design, art and showed me a multitude of different ways to create art has always inspired my practice. His work was the first collection I was engrossed by and it was also my first exposure to coloured pencil as a fine art material.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Very time-consuming!