Recently graduated illustrator Tiffany Baxter contributes a whirling dervish of an image inspired by the Saint Vitus Dance of the medieval period, full of fanciful characters in colourful clothing.
Why did you decide to illustrate the St Vitus Dance for the colouring book and what is happening in your picture?
It was a subject I’d heard briefly about when researching witchcraft and I found it fascinating so looked into it more. Even though now it’s thought to be a mass psychogenic illness, beyond that there doesn’t seem to be any idea about what caused it. Historical imagery shows people affected by mania but in my portrayal I suppose I tried to demonstrate what could be going on from the point of view of the dancers themselves. As with most odd phenomena back then, it was frequently thought to be demons or magic forces behind it all so that was the angle I was going for – a happy but insidious trance.
How did you create the piece and what is your most used art material?
I started out sketching thumbnails and rough ideas in my sketch book but then the whole piece was actually drawn in Photoshop with a Cintiq tablet. Most used would be Photoshop for digital work or with traditional media I’ve most used a brush pen and a magic pencil lately!
How do you research the mystical and esoteric for your artwork?
It will sound rather boring I suppose but mainly it’s just a whole lot of reading! London has a few specialist bookstores where I’ve managed to find loads of interesting books that you wouldn’t really find anywhere else unless you really knew exactly what you wanted.
Which bit of history is your favourite, why, and how has this influenced your work?
That’s a surprisingly tough question! I much prefer the personal side of history as opposed to hard facts of wars etc, how people actually lived is so captivating, what was different but also the same. Also the mystery of it, my current interest has been in early British history, of which there is so much we don’t know because early Britons had no written record, so a lot is left to the imagination. As for its influence, I’m always world building and thinking of my own characters and the past is a great point of inspiration in making something simultaneously familiar but strange, even on just a design level.
Where is the best place for people watching… and drawing?
Usually on the train or tube. People are still for long enough to draw them, though you have to be a bit sneaky about it so they don’t think you’re strange.
How does a combination of the classics and video games influence your work?
With classics it’s more that, they’re classic for a reason, they’re ultimately just good stories that absorb readers into caring about the characters. Additionally video games as well as often having beautiful character/world design are so unique among media in that they’re on the border between being a passive and an active experience. You can create something that really touches the audience in an entirely different way than say a book or television; as the players have a say in the outcome and I think that’s really special. So in short I suppose, storytelling is what has really influenced my work.
Can you tell us more about your recent project for the BBC?
It was part of a live brief as part of my university course, and myself and a few of my peers were chosen to continue on with the project. It was for a BBC2 documentary following families through generations from the Victorian era through to present day that has yet to air – they needed drawings to then be animated for zoetrope scenes. It was really fun working with the team as well as just learning the stories of these people and being able to represent them even in a small way.
Since you’ve graduated you are now between London and Milton Keynes, is there any exciting art happening in your home town that we should know about?
I’m slightly ashamed to say I’m rather out of the loop with the local art scene after being in London for so long, so I only know a few illustrators and of course the local art gallery. It would be nice to see art flourish here though, especially as Milton Keynes doesn’t always necessarily have the best reputation in that regard I don’t think!
Where and when can people see your upcoming group exhibition?
The exhibition is called Veneficus and is at Treadwell’s Books on Store Street in London from the 23rd October through to the 30th. The Facebook event is here if you want to check it out!
Tiffany is joined by her fellow Camberwell graduate Percie Edgeler in Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, interview coming soon.
- An interview with Jo Taylor: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.
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- An interview with Percie Edgeler: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.