This week’s interview is with Louis Bowes. Louis is a graphic designer, artist and photographer based in Newcastle, UK. At the moment, he is working on projects with multiple images; taking components out of context, distorting them and then combining them in an attempt to form new pictures out of the various elements in his minimalist collages.
Louis takes inspiration from music, people and literature; in particular, focussing on the work of the author, Leo Tolstoy. Although he doesn’t adhere to any one style, Louis’s collages are influenced in part by the Constructivist and Bauhaus and also Pop-Art movements of the early to mid 20th Century.
Louis’s work is currently on display at the Conclave Gallery in Brighton (between June and the end of July 2019)
How did you first get into digital art?
I couldn’t pinpoint the exact time that I got into digital art. I think I’ve always had the artistic bug inside me and that won’t go away. There’s an enjoyment in both observing and being excited by other artists’ work, and also trying to create things of my own.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
Part of it is undeniably the convenience of working digitally, but I enjoy the sense of freedom to make not-so-costly errors, which is essential to me; I experiment quite a bit before I settle on anything in my work.
I do admire analogue work, but for my process, I will gather a large amount of imagery first and then begin pulling out fragments of texture, gesture, expression, colour and architecture. From there, I’ll experiment to see what possibilities I have to combine them in a unique and interesting way.
This process can already take some time to get right digitally – so if I were to work purely analogue I imagine I’d have not much time to do anything else! Lastly, I also feel it’s essential to try and be as modern as possible in terms of medium/tools used – solely to engage with where the audience is at and is looking.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
As touched on previously, I tend to go out and take lots of photographs to bring home to work on; picking out elements which I find most engaging and building them into a collage of some form. There’s often a lengthy period of subtle and not-so-subtle adjustment; there will be a lot of deletion, recutting and adjusting. I might leave an image alone for a few days before returning to it, deleting some sections, adding more layers and so on.
I find there’s this surprising, quite wondering moment where things seem to click together, as if out of my control in a sense. It’s as though I’ve set up everything in a document and allowed the right elements to find one another. In this sense, I’m never aiming to convey a particular message or make any specific statement in a piece. The image dictates for itself and tells its own story, or in whichever way the viewer wishes to interpret it. I prefer it that way.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I don’t think I favour any one visual style. I’m more drawn to artists in whose work I can sense a feeling of authenticity and integrity. As much as I enjoy large, ambitious ideas, for me, you can’t beat an inward, introspective piece, be that a song, a painting or a photograph.
What inspires you?
Lots. Music, people, the sea. Books are a massive influence for me; not often as complete entities, but small phrases that I find in them and which I can pull out of context and isolate; they inspire me quite a bit.
What is your artistic motivation?
I certainly don’t do it as a means to an end. I guess I use it as an ongoing investigation into how I relate to the world; it’s mostly for myself in that way, a therapy of sorts. I’m just grateful others have responded positively to some of my work too!
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite, and why?
It’s hard to say – last year I went through a phase where I was working with lots of imagery involving brutalist architecture and produced maybe 3 or 4 images with the same theme/feel and I’m still quite pleased with.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Minimal. Surreal. Playful.
What notable responses to your artwork have you had?
Any time somebody takes their time to respond to anything I make is pretty special. I’m always really grateful when the people closest to me find something they like in my work.
Name three artists who inspire you.
I love the author, Leo Tolstoy. For me, his writing is something transcendent and truly masterful. His short story Hadji Murat, bookended by the most vivid, genius piece of allegory is astonishing. Two other artists I love are the Photographer, Typographer and Graphic Designer, Hamish Fulton and musician, writer and visual artist, Ellery Roberts.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
I feel like I’m always evolving and criticising my work. I’m not sure I’ve created any one piece I’d stand by just yet. Currently, it’s more a process of me getting out of the way to allow something genuinely authentic to come through and less directed by my expectation. I think that’s the stuff people can connect with the most.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
I would actually like to receive advice from the person I was when I first started! I was a lot less tied to ideas and concepts then and much more about fearlessly creating, even if the final piece wasn’t delivered quite so well technically.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
I use whichever camera I have on me, usually my phone or a Fujifilm x100s to capture any imagery. I’ll then switch to my laptop to work on the images.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
Photoshop and InDesign allow me to do pretty much everything I need.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
Absolutely. I love to dig through the old Victorian era public domain and creative commons images. The textures and feel of them have a unique quality that I enjoy using.
Do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
I think it comes down to the question What is art? Tolstoy puts it best when he says:
If it achieves that, then it doesn’t matter what medium it comes in.
Thank you for this interview and for sharing your artwork with us, Louis!