Featured Artist: Miriam Innes
Nitram Charcoal (NC): Tell us about your background. Where are you from? Where have you studied? Miriam Innes
(MI): I grew up in on a farm surrounded by hills, rivers and mountains in scenic Co. Mayo, in the west of Ireland. I am the second child in a family of four, as children we were never short of inspiration and creativity. My parents are both hard working practical people and we grew up with strong values, a respect for the land and it’s tireless beauty; they have both been a deep influence throughout my life. I spent most of my classes scribbling and drawing in school and once I completed my secondary education I attended art college discovering a love for printmaking, large scale drawing and drawing installations. I graduated with honours from Cluain Mhuire Art College, Galway in 2002 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts and began a journey of travel which after many years, led me to set roots in Brisbane, Australia where I currently reside with my husband and two daughters.
NC: What is your workspace like? What inspires you in the studio?
MI: My studio adjoins my home where I switch from the role of Mother to artist any number of times a day. The charcoal’s slightly earthy 'primary school' scent fills me with equal amounts of wholesomeness and excitement of the day's possibilities when I first open the studio doors. It is an tantalizing greeting which easily provokes inspiration within the space. I have a wall dedicated to monochromatic images, sketches, photographs of architecture (I have collected from my journeys) In any given series of works there are particular architectural features which I concentrate on, for example 'bricks' I'll have numerous studies of such features and I draw inspiration from these studies and the external environment where they are found.
NC: What is one thing you cannot live without in the studio?
MI: Only one??? my electronic eraser (two would be my sweetie jar!)
NC: What is your creative process like? How do you seek creativity in your work?
MI: There is a different process to each work I produce. But currently I approach each one with the same method, beginning with layers then adding detail from the left top corner as if I were reading a book and moving slowly across the canvas/paper to eventually finish in the bottom right corner. I work from photographs and can use anything from twine, sticks, rulers, lasers, lights and shadows when recreating the correct perspective and tone in a drawing. I seek creativity in my work by focusing on; and enhancing the details within the work. At times I can feel somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of detail but persevere to accomplish the final award of completion.
NC: Where does your inspiration derive from?
MI: A feeling of experience and engagement by use of contrast and perspective taken from an Urban man made environment. Gritty details which for most go unlooked but for me, I find fascinating. I enjoy stripping back buildings to their basic elements and concentrating on lulling a viewer into seeing it's mundane beauty. Lines, shadows, hard edges, monochromatic contrast in an urban man made setting, all inspire and intrigue me. I also draw inspiration from charcoal, the push and pull of the medium, the depths of contrast in tone which can be reached from it’s lightest to it’s deepest darks areas. I am constantly finding new ways to accomplish the results I seek, from smooth panes of glass, rusted wrought iron, rough brick work and dainty flickering shadows.
NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic medias?
MI: I now exclusively use charcoal for my work, it has taught me many processes and lessons by solely concentrating on this one medium. Many may see it as unsatisfactory in fulfilling their artistic desires but for me it was the opposite. The process of using a natural medium to recreate manmade structures has essentially being a core value in my work and it’s the execution. The tiny black stick of willow which can build 4 metre drawings of tall buildings and street scenes. There is something very humbling about charcoal and the creative processes I go through while using it.
NC: What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?
MI: Keeping my white areas white and sporting a ‘chimney sweep’ look.