The very talented artist, Chris Brown, recently adorned our Pimlico store windows with beautiful illustrations of notable residents of Chelsea. He kindly took ten minutes to tell us more about his inspiration, his motivation and what Chelsea means to him.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience?
I was born in Putney close to the river and was very privileged in having an extremely happy childhood. In An Alphabet of England, published by Merrell, I wrote about my childhood in London. At school I wanted to go to university to read History but somehow I ended up going to art school, first Hornsey studying Graphics (though I wanted to transfer to fashion), then eventually the Royal College of Art. At the time, the RCA was a three year course and it was there that I met Edward Bawden who became a friend and my greatest influence.
What does Chelsea, and London, mean to you?
Chelsea for a child and a teenager meant the 22 Bus, which began its journey from Putney where I was born and went to Homerton. I never travelled the full route; my journeys usually stopped at Piccadilly. As a teenager Chelsea was about the boutiques, never having enough money to buy from them I still used to tentatively enter them and long to be part of the ‘swinging scene’. London is home, where I live and work. Although I enjoy visiting other cities, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I never tire of walking round the city, finding places I’ve never visited and always looking up to see what’s above some of the bad signage which now blights many of our streets. London is a city full of life; it acknowledges its past but looks to the future.
How do you stay inspired? What really gets your creativity going?
All projects pose problems, which I like to try and solve. Reading, films and the theatre and looking help inspire me. The latter is especially true and my current project – An Alphabet of England is all about looking.
Travelling the country with my sketchbook and camera trying to discover the unexpected and the unusual, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the ancient and the modern.
I’m also inspired by the enthusiasm others, designers, illustrators, friends and some of my students
For me, working with flowers and making a palette out of their colours and textures is the perfect way to express my creativity. What’s your favourite creative outlet?
Illustrators create their own worlds. It’s rather like being a child; you make your own reality. It would be lovely to say that I have other creative outlets but it’s just image making, drawing, and chipping away on bits of lino. Once I asked dear friend with whom I was at the RCA when she knew a drawing was finished and she replied “if it involves a man it’s easy it’s when I start to fancy him”. With me it’s often when I start to smile at my own work. I am extremely lucky to do a job which I enjoy. After many years working I now feel confident to sit back when I finish a piece of work and to say to myself “That’s not bad!”.
What’s your day-to-day motivation? What drives you?
I always think that it’s good to look back at yesterday but today is more important and tomorrow is to be looked forward to. A job works for me when I can make it my own; the promise of a cheque at the end is neither carrot nor stick. Often it is working for a friend or sympathetic client that results in the best work. I also believe that routine helps creativity and every day (when I’m not teaching in Liverpool) starts with a swim, a chance for me to think about the day ahead. Then it’s a coffee and out with my notebook, I’m forever making lists and planning projects, then home to work.