Jason Markow
Jan 27, 2016 · 8 min read

In speaking with hundreds of artists and photographers one on one, it is easy to see that remarkable creative talent, razor sharp business acumen, and the ability to create something truly original is a triple threat that very few creatives can lay claim to. London based Carne Griffiths is one of the few exceptions. I sat down with Carne to talk about his artistic process, his fans, and his beverage-to-masterpiece alchemy. -Jason Markow/TEKSTartist.

‘A Hypnotic State’ by Carne Griffiths

IAC: What was your path to pursuing art full time?

Carne: I was always interested in drawing as a kid and grew up doodling and sketching, I missed out on being able to do art at school as we had just returned to the UK from New Zealand and art classes were full. As a result I drew all the way through school but wasn’t able to study until A-Level.

I decided to do a foundation in Liverpool and then onto Maidstone Art College to do a degree in Illustration. After graduating there I stayed back for a year to teach and develop a portfolio but was really unsure which career path I wanted to follow. Animation had been a real passion during my college years but I didn’t really find a path into working in that industry.

A twist of fate opened a path for me that led to an apprenticeship as an embroidery designer. I learnt a lot in 2 years from the company’s draftsman Ken Miles, and then spent 10 years working in that industry and designing for a range of clients including The King of Tonga, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Asprey and working on films such as The Last King of Scotland, Phantom of the Opera, and Valkyrie.

In 2010, I started creating work for myself again alongside my full time job. I started an exhibition called 100sqft involving 100 artists at a time and rekindled a passion for drawing and painting. I decided to leave and follow a path as an artist drawing on a love of portraiture and combining with it what I’d learnt as an embroidery designer.

What other forms of art have you been drawn to?

I have a love of outsider art, and artists who follow a unique inner vision. The notion of the inner world interests me, and the aesthetics for me are slightly less important than the notion of the ‘necessity’ to create art. Artists like Adolf Wolfli and Henry Darger, possibly two of the better known outsider artists created a huge body of work with very little or no critical acclaim or even exposure during their lifetime.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome during your journey as an artist?

I think changing careers provided the biggest challenge and self-doubt that I think most artists encounter, but I got a lot of support from friends and family that believed in the new path I was taking. The excitement of forging a path and having complete freedom was something I really relished.

Inner Worlds by Carne Griffiths

Using tea & alcohol in your art is very unique and different. How did you get started with this technique?

I painted with alcohol by accident on a piece created with calligraphy ink, the use of tea was initially to reproduce this effect, but it developed into something completely different. Using tea gave me a control over colour that I didn’t have with normal paints and inks.

If you couldn’t use tea or alcohol, what alternative medium would you like to try? Have you experienced with any mediums that didn’t pan out as well?

I think if they called prohibition on my work I’d have to switch to enamels — I like the idea of liquids mixing more slowly in the work and the idea of using a much more viscous medium interests me as well.

I choose tea and alcohol to work with as I like to work at speed — the work is high energy and fast, even the detailed pen work is not slow and considered — each stroke is spontaneous but I think this is an important aspect of my work.

Last year, I thought of slowing the process down but I found it very difficult, or at least it didn’t come naturally, so this year I am returning to push the boundaries of what I do.

How do you push past creative blocks? Do you have any tools or techniques to get your head into a creative space?

I think exercise for me really helps — I used to cycle a lot but when our twins came along I found myself with less and less time to devote to my hobby — this had an impact on the work as a lot of preparation or brainstorming was done outside whilst cycling, amongst nature and the elements which are also a huge part of what goes into the work.

What motivates you to continue to create new work?

When I started to paint again, I wondered what a years worth of artwork would look like and I sat back and reflected at the end of the year, not having envisaged where the work would go, and what the collection of pieces would look like. My motivation is to discover what surprises are locked behind future paintings. Each piece on its own is a journey of discovery and not quite knowing how each piece will unfold compels me to continue painting.

Just Out of Reach

Just Out Of Reach

You mentioned that this piece differs from anything you’ve released before. Can you expand on that?

I have created two new works so far this year and with each I am trying to push the boundaries of what I create in terms of detail and in terms of the painting composition. The piece is titled ‘Just out of Reach’ and it represents desire and the unattainable. In the piece, we see a young woman looking out directly from the work, surrounded by elaborate richly coloured foliage, which almost consumes her. She looks beyond broken shards of glass — these are indicative of a broken barrier between the subject and her desire.

A lot of your pieces contain female faces. What does the female face represent to you?

I often work with advertising images, and I like the idea of taking imagery that is being used to promote something commercially and returning the subject to nature, replacing the product or the sale with something that is readily available and often overlooked. It is the huge contrast between the use of the female face and form in advertising and fashion etc, with the concept of the feminine in nature- strong, empowered yet delicate and with beauty.

The Fans

Has the direction of your artwork shifted as your audience continues to grow? Does your audience impact the choices you make as an artist?

I feel like I am in a very privileged position as an artist who can create works for a living. Having an audience does increase the pressure of creating artwork, but the most important thing is that most people who follow an artist do not want them to create something that they expect, they want surprise, they want you to develop as an artist and continue to break new ground. Otherwise, your work will become tired and boring.

The other thing I find comforting is that people will like elements of your work for different reasons, and again this motivates you as an artist to keep creating and experimenting in the studio.

In this day and age, a lot of artists are gaining exposure through social media. How important is it for independent artists to use the web to engage with their fans?

I think it is important for an artist to do what comes naturally and what they enjoy — when I sit alone in the studio and paint, and something interesting happens, for example I throw a kettle of boiling water over the work and something beautiful or generally exciting happens I want to share it!

So, that’s what I use it for, as an outlet for the fun elements of the work and to share the process of what happens within the studio. A video for me constrains what is happening during the creative process but these snapshots allow people to get an insight into what happens within the studio and how the work comes about.

How important is it for independent artists to use the web to engage with their fans?

I think it is important for an artist to do what comes naturally and what they enjoy — when I sit alone in the studio and paint, and something interesting happens, for example I throw a kettle of boiling water over the work and something beautiful or generally exciting happens I want to share it!

So that’s what I use it for, as an outlet for the fun elements of the work and to share the process of what happens within the studio.

A video for me constrains what is happening during the creative process but these snapshots allow people to get an insight into what happens within the studio and how the work comes about.

Morning Light by Carne Griffiths

Personal Reflections

As a parent to two young children, do you see your role as being a guide in creativity or simply giving them a space to be creative?

Oh definitely space — I think you can nurture the creative process most efficiently by allowing room for it to develop — nothing is ever right or wrong, a child’s view of the world is something of beauty, it is untaught and unblemished, if anything I learn the most from them. I think too often in life we are told what is right and wrong especially in art, and then we praise the creativity of those artists who conflict with those teachings, and follow their own path.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your teenaged self?

Experience the world, travel, visit different places, experience different cultures, and listen more carefully, not to rules and regulations, but to your own voice.

Where do you feel like you’re headed? Are you someone who likes to plan and prepare for long-term goals, or are you more fluid and open? Or, somewhere in between?

For me planning is often futile, I love targets though, an exhibition deadline, a project, a collaboration — these are important motivators and remind that time is an important factor in the creation of work. Placing time constraints on my work often brings out the best results as it steers me away from introspection and the nasty habit of overworking an image!

On a Lighter Note

What was the last song that you listened to?

A wonderful mix from friend and DJ Ben Mynott, containing some beautiful tracks from Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm.

What is your death-row meal?

A blue fillet steak and spinach.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

Dan Baldwin, Charming Baker, Rowan Newton, Andrew Salgado, Benjamin Murphy, George Moreton Clarke, Pam Glew, Russell Marshall, and Marco Mazzoni.

If you enjoyed this interview, please hit the ♥ button in the footer so that more people can discover this artist!

Internet Artist Collective

The Internet Artist Collective was created in an effort to elevate and unify the internet artist community by shedding light on artists who make a living selling their work online, while showcasing the tools, techniques, and best practices they use along the way.

Jason Markow

Written by

Artist @TEKSTartist. I write about rad things and the people who create them.

Internet Artist Collective

The Internet Artist Collective was created in an effort to elevate and unify the internet artist community by shedding light on artists who make a living selling their work online, while showcasing the tools, techniques, and best practices they use along the way.

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