We adore Sonia Henslers expressive and decadent approach to combining hand-painted elements and photography in digital compositions. We spoke to her to better understand her processes and what inspires her work…
Tell us about yourself and how you got started as an artist and illustrator?
I was born into an artistic family and so was encouraged to be creative from a very young age—I was actually adamant from pre-school that I was going to be an artist! This is genuinely the only occupation I have ever been interested in and so I funnelled all my energy into making it happen. Following this course, I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, which included a scholarship at Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall. I loved the pace of life in Cornwall and so moved here permanently after I graduated.
Talk us through your workflow; how do your artworks usually develop?
I work quickly. My temperament is very chaotic and so I tend to be surrounded by a halo of artistic detritus like pencils, inks, papers, paints and work-in-progress. Usually I start with a sketch, choosing one that sparks an idea or deserves to be taken further.
Everything is always hand-drawn and then I like to scan these images into my computer and work on them further to create interesting contrasts between ‘clean’ digital elements and more free, expressive drawing. I’m fond of the ‘first idea is the best idea’ philosophy and very conscious not to over-work things. I admire work where the fingerprints of the artist are still present and all the life has not been polished out.
Your work is a wonderful combination of expressive hand-drawn elements, digital textures and photographic elements. How much of what you do is ‘in-computer’ and how much is done using traditional media?
To be honest, I try and create as much by hand as possible, including taking interesting photographs and incorporating those if I feel so inclined. I work on layers a lot and draw each layer or element by hand before scanning it in. The computer is a tool that I love to use so I can quickly change colours, sizes and composition. Basically I can play about with things in a way I wouldn’t be able to on paper.
“I try and create as much by hand as possible, including taking interesting photographs and incorporating those if I feel so inclined.”
What equipment do you use in your creative workflow?
Lots of inks, pens, paints, scissors, glue, paper, cloth, camera (the list goes on) along with my trusty old Mac that is literally held together with sellotape after I dropped it once.
What were your early inspirations and what/who inspires you today?
My mother is also a painter, so she was most definitely my initial inspiration and gave me a good grounding in classical arts. Slowly, as my own interests developed I was very influenced by fashion and fashion illustration, although this is more in the sense of certain aesthetics rather than following current trends. I love Victorian fashion and design, and the more fantastical side of fashion photography such as Tim Walker, Jean-Paul Goude and David Lachapelle. I don’t try and emulate but I’m definitely inspired by Aubrey Beardsley, Mark Ryden and Daniel Egneus.
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