This week Artfinder met Brighton-based painter and printmaker Hannah Forward. Hannah left graphic design to pursue 'creating real, raw, handmade work'. We adore Hannah's naive style and use of bright and lively colours. Interestingly Hannah told us that it's the ordinary that usually captivates her, far more than the fantastical.
Hannah spoke all about her mission to create art that is affordable for all, being hooked on the traditional process of printmaking and why she chose the liberal city of Brighton as home.
On becoming an artist
"As a child I enjoyed inventing stories and drawing funny characters. For a long time I wanted to be both a writer and an artist, but as a teenager I began to predominantly create visually and therefore it was easy... I had to apply for art college!
When studying in Brighton, I learnt a lot about composition and colour. However my time as a student taught me that if I was to become a designer, a large proportion of my time would be spent sitting in front of a computer monitor, tweaking and editing in photoshop.
After I graduated I was compelled to draw a lot and to get back to creating real, raw, handmade work. I worked mainly using paintbrushes and black ink and landed a few illustration jobs, after getting myself a website. Although again, I was disappointed to find myself sitting in front of a computer screen for too much of my day.
Printmaking came into my life by complete accident. I was working for an art shop in Hove which specialised in printmaking supplies. Intrigued by the mysterious lino blocks and tubes of thick printmaking inks around me, I applied for a linocutting short course in Brighton. Here I learnt the basics of how to produce simple lino prints. I was completely hooked by the physical handmade process, the ancient presses, the smell of the ink and how everything is so experimental."
On being an artist
"For me, being an artist means being free to spend my time doing exactly what I want to be doing. It’s so rewarding and exciting, to have that physical and mental space to just create whatever you feel like.
I describe myself primarily as a printmaker, although I do also draw and paint. When I go to see exhibitions I always enjoy seeing the work of artists who work in a variety of mediums, who don’t just stick rigidly to one. Seeing that variety and level of exploration is refreshing to see in others, so that’s what I aim for.
I’d also describe myself as a 'narrative artist', as there is always an element of story in my work. I think it’s something to do with how my memory works, I tend to process what I have experienced as a story.
Lastly I’d say I relish in finding my own ways of doing things, to re-invent and ignore the conventional or orthodox ways of printmaking or painting. I’m not really interested in doing things the ‘proper’ way – I’ve found that if I do what I want, in the way I want, I produce much free-er work. I love to DIY."
On the studio
"My studio is the biggest, sunniest and by far messiest room in the Victorian house that I live in, in West Hove.
I like to think of it as a kind of artistic laboratory, where I can feel free to try out different ways of doing things, where there’s never a ‘wrong’ approach or bad idea, just a new one waiting to be tried out."
"Photography really inspires me, especially the work of social documentary photographers like Martin Parr, William Eggleston and Harry Gruyaert. I love the strangeness that an ordinary photograph can capture. The ordinary usually captivates me far more than the fantastical.
In terms of printmaking, linocuts of Cyril Powers, Sybil Andrews and a lot of the work that came out of the Grosvenor School of Art, inspires me. I also love the work of Tom Hammick and Susie Hamilton. I’m in awe of anyone who can turn the everyday into poetry!
I find almost all music massively inspiring, even if it’s complete rubbish! Generally I like post-punk, arty, indy, DIY guitar stuff with a lot of energy to it. Music helps me get my head in a good state to create and encourages me to push things further, to be a bit braver and weirder."
"My main challenge is keeping up with my ideas and not letting my enthusiasm for projects dwindle as I get other ideas for other projects that I want to start. I like to work quickly, completing a print or painting ideally in a couple of days or certainly not longer than a few weeks.
I have never struggled to find ideas. To me creating is to keep playing, experimenting and producing until you realise you’re on to something. It is key not to think too much."
On other artists
"I admire anyone who is utterly uncompromising in their creative output. Anyone who works extremely hard, for themselves, with unshakable belief that what they’re doing is worth dedication and time, even if to the rest of the world it seems extreme and perhaps slightly mad."
On role models
"Illustrator and printmaker Jonny Hannah inspires me because he does what he wants, works fast, produces a lot and makes fantastic, lively, colourful work. He has a lot of fun doing it, and it shows! I went to see an exhibition of his in Brighton a few years ago in a small gallery full of his prints and originals, and I thought to myself - this is exactly what I want to spend my time doing – this is the job for me."
"I love Brighton because it’s a city that celebrates art, music and the individual. Plus, Brighton is the most green-voting and queerest city in the UK, so for all those reasons it’s where I had to end up.
My philosophy is that everyone is just as interesting, important and special as everyone else. I like to champion the individual.
I also feel that I share a lot in common with the democratic ideologies of early 20th century Scandinavian design, as I believe in creating art that is good quality and affordable to all."
"Artfinder has been a revelation to me. Before joining I had sold a couple of prints online, but sales were generally dismally slow. I discovered Artfinder through other printmakers I was following on twitter, who seemed to be making good sales through their Artfinder shops. Over a weekend I set up my profile and shop and then got my first sale a few days later. I was overjoyed but convinced it was probably a fluke. I would never have guessed that six months later I would be celebrating my 50th sale.
As an artist most of the time you just want to be in your studio making stuff. When you are ready to show the world what you’ve been up to, of course you want to feel like people are paying attention! Getting sales feels wonderful because it means I’ve managed not only to get the attention of somebody who appreciates what I’m doing, but it also gives me valuable feedback. This person has ‘voted’ for a piece of work I’ve made, telling me they like it and connect with it, and in that sense the circle is complete.
Artfinder have been a huge support to me and my work since joining, helping me to connect with people across the world, some of whom have now purchased from me several times. As a relatively new printmaker with ambitions to one day be able to afford to live entirely off my art, this encouragement has been invaluable."
On the future
"I’m currently preparing work for a group show from 10th-12th November at 5th Base Gallery, just off Brick Lane in London.
I also have ambitions to have a solo show in Brighton, for everyone I know to come along and see all aspects of my work. Preparing for exhibitions terrifies me but it’s good to have that push sometimes, and it’s a thrill to see your work in public spaces. Viewing your own art in a different context can be really enlightening too.
In the future, I want to continue to do exactly what I’m doing! To continue to develop my printmaking by exploring new mediums and ways of doing things. Hopefully my (at the moment very tiny) business will continue to grow as more people from far and wide discover my work, either online, in galleries or shops.
My main ambition is to have the freedom to devote as much of my time and energy to creating art as I would like. To be a fully self-employed artist and my own boss, calling all the shots. To achieve that would feel amazing."
Advice for other artists
"Have fun. Enjoy just making stuff. Don’t get distracted comparing what you’re creating to other people’s work, when they’re on a completely different mission. Don’t over analyse what you’re making, just keep making.
I like this quote from Andy Warhol - “Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”