This week on Swide, I have the pleasure to introduce one of my favourite artists, Ruben Ireland. His works have been present in my mind for quite some time and I love the girls that he illustrates, always so bold and mysterious. Already know his work? Well, read the following interview, as it will give you a new perspective on his art works.
Ruben! Hello! I have been a fan of your works for quite some time now an to have you on Swide excites me! So, starting with a simple question - what made you want to become an illustrator?
I always enjoyed creative hobbies as a child and felt naturally inclined towards a creative career as I grew up. Also, I come from an artistic family and so it's always been an important part of my life in some way or another. In terms of a profession, there are a lot of great advantages to being an illustrator in that I can travel, manage my own time and remain inspired with the constant changing of clients and projects.
Eye of the Storm
How do you describe your illustration style? I realise many of the characters you’ve illustrated have part of their faces completed with dark/subdued colours, are you trying to convey a message/statement here?
I mix traditional and contemporary techniques to create dreamlike images with dark textural elements and stark, contrasting tone and colour. Often depicting stoic women in minimalistic environments, balancing intricate detail with simplified form and distorted proportions.
Yes, many of the women in my personal work have half darkened faces. I like to keep the messages in my work open to individual interpretation because once the work is finished, it's not for me any more…
However, I do have my own reasons for doing this: I have a fixation with duality and the disharmonious balance of aspects in human nature and experience. Sometimes a particular piece might stem from an idea about observation verus communication or Yin and Yang, other times it may arise from a more personal experience. For example, some aspects of 'Hold On' talk about a devastating loss caused by misaligned action and intention. Whatever it may be, shadow and light are universal and mean something different for every individual.
I will have to take some time to digest the above, as you have just given me a new perspective on your work. Since your works seem very dark to me, I have a question for you: If this world could have only one colour, what colour would it be? Why?
My favourite colour is blue/turquoise although I don't use it very often. I think a world with one colour would be maddening. I'd have to cheat and say white so I could carry a prism around in my pocket and secretly refract the light to create some colours. :)
You surprised me with your answer but I have to agree with you that just one colour in the world would be very maddening. Well, up to this moment, what is the strangest thing you have ever encountered that gives you inspiration?
Whilst I'm mostly inspired by experiences and ideas for the content of my work, the textural and tonal elements always stem from things I see around me in deteriorating buildings and muddy puddles, overgrown plant life, dusty air and waste paper or wood on the streets. When looking for these kinds of things, I think the strangest thing to inspire me so far would be an ashtray I left outside recently, with a teabag in it, which over time it collected leaves from a Bougainvillea tree and a lot of rainfall. It made a beautiful cocktail of purples and dark browns, dotted with flecks of ash and mud. I hope I can feed it into my work in some way soon.
I never thought an ashtray with leaves would inspire an artist. From now on, I should start to observe things in more detail. Like a lot of artists, I am sure you have experienced the problem known as the ‘creative block’. Whenever this happens, what do you do to refresh your mind again?
Creative blocks can come quite often, but I see them as a useful tool if I can contemplate for a while on what it is I'm doing or not doing that's causing me the need to step away from my work. Sometimes, it's a literal need to 'step away' so maybe I go for a run, or a coffee in the city. Other times, it's more a sign that my mind wants to take a break so I like to practice meditation or watch films and read books. At first it was a very difficult lesson to learn to accept the blocks, as a natural reaction would be to ignore them and force a way through. And although that can be effective, it takes a lot longer and can damage a project with undertones of frustration and disharmony.
Meditation always helps me when my brain can’t function normally and sometimes music does the trick, too. Now, let’s get back to your works. If you could only choose one of your work pieces to represent you as an artist, which piece would you choose?
I find that I'm exploring a variety of styles in my work, from very stark black and white portraits to softer, more somber character pieces, so it's difficult to choose one that I feel represents me as a whole. I'm enjoying the 'Warrior' designs I've been creating since last year, and I can visualize more to add to the series in the future. Perhaps the latest 'Wakeful Warrior' would represent me well at the moment.
For me, This City is always one of my favorites, as the girls are very striking, in my opinion. Now I am curious, what is the most interesting comment you have ever received for your works?
That's an interesting question, whilst most people are very nice and like to express their appreciation with simple words, there are a few with more imaginative things to say. I came across this short comment once on the power of h Weblog...
"There is a bizarre haunted quality to Ruben Ireland's work. Like being smothered by a pillow. Slowly. Over years. All of his work has the same quality about it. And yet individual pieces still manage to… surprise."
It's a fascinating reaction! One I didn't exactly intend for but will gladly accept.
That’s a nice comment and yes, your works do always surprise a lot of people, including me. Last but not least, have you ever thought of incorporating the fashion element to your works? If so, is there a particular piece in the Dolce & Gabbana Fall/Winter 2013 collection that will work with your style?
Yes, I've always admired fashion design and love the Dolce & Gabbana Fall/Winter 2013 Collection. I would love to include more fashion elements into my work. If I were to create works based on or including any of the outfits, I would choose these two as I enjoy how they distort the proportions of the body, whilst playing with exposing and covering the body for an unusual harmony. There's also a great mix of fragility and strength, particularly in the white outfit, which I try to express in my own work…