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In conversation with Hanabi: when student art goes beyond a hobby

Written by Lucia Guercio & Hanabi Blackmoor

Come along on a tour as Hanabi guides you through some of her breathtaking pieces, as she explains her artistic process, techniques and inspirations.

Following on from this is a short Q&A as we discuss future intentions and dreams as well as the expressive tones her work draws upon.

Definitely check out Hanabi's website and Instagram (both linked below) and keep up to date with this fabulous upcoming artist and consider a cheeky purchase while you are there!

Oil paint on primed wood and a tiny bit of charcoal, this piece is probably one of my favourites that I have created over the quarantine period. I focused mainly on tone and colour (shading as well as how to liven up the skin colour by using the green). The colour scheme is quite basic compared to my normal oil paintings. I have learnt over the years to become more ‘basic’ with my colour schemes, and that’s boosted my confidence with art.

I love to draw people holding cigarettes for some reason? It’s the perfect size, width and shape that it just easily makes drawings more interesting whilst adding a contemporary touch. I think the aspect I love most about this piece is the lights and darks (the tonal values). Hands are notoriously hard to paint, so again I decided to simplify the colours more than I usually do (for example the piece below).

So, this is the kind of work I used to do (at AS Level Art)! From time to time I go back and do this kind of thing again, but I have to say this was technically easier and less thought-out than the more curated colour palettes I opt for, now. I used to go with my gut instinct at this age, and slap on thick layers of oil paint with colours that never really corresponded with each other until they looked quite muddy (if you see the neck area you will definitely see what I mean). I would love to know if people prefer the past paintings or the new ones though!

I also do some more design/graphic pieces such as this one, which I am planning to make into all sorts of products. This was a severely limited palette as I wanted the colours I used to pop a lot, without turning muddy like the picture beforehand. This was inspired by The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger (the piece with that stretched skull at the bottom). It just made me want to paint my own little skull, but a colourful version (because by now you may notice but I love colour!).

This is quite a different piece from what I usually do, in that it uses more graphic shapes. I was inspired by a picture of FKA Twigs, and tried to create an image I could use in a t-shirt design and poster! I had limited art supplies and colours, so I’m pretty happy with how this turned out because the colour pencils I had on hand were nearly useless, and tools really matter for a person who does art, I think!

I created this one for ST.ART Magazine. The topic was decay, and I wanted to incorporate my Japanese heritage into this digital piece. It’s of me decaying into a skull, with multiple eyes inspired by the Japanese horror folk tale of the ‘mokumokuren’ (the array of many eyes, is a very rough translation). The myth or urban legend is that the Mokumokuren live inside Japanese paper sliding walls, and is only gotten rid of by patching up the holes in the paper walls. There is something there about the relationship between the broken walls, and the fragility I feel inside of me, but I wasn’t necessarily explicitly thinking of that when I drew this.

This was a little watercolour sketch, but I wanted to include it because it shows my inspirations quite well. I love darkness and creating shadow, I love Ophelia (by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and also the Millais painting) and the visual idea of floating, I love makeup and prosthetics. These are all things that played into my concept of this piece – the geometry on top of the subject’s face was heavily inspired by a makeup look I saw on Instagram!

I wanted to finish this section off by talking about my current project. This is a metre and a half long self portrait of myself, to try and depict my struggle with mental health and my Bipolar Disorder. I warped my face a bit and made myself look dysmorphic, as I feel this way toward myself often when I am ‘low’. As you can see, I’m nowhere near finishing this piece but I’m getting there (albeit very slowly!)

I tried to choose a wide range of pieces to showcase – from oil paints to ballpoint pen, from skulls and faces to a hand! However all of them are indicative of my style in general, I think.

- If you were asked to suggest a “place to see art” where would you recommend?

I think fashion magazines and billboards are abundant in ideas for art. I love posed, human images with a twist of colour and pop, so contemporary makeup looks with glossy lids and graphic liner, as well as pronounced poses or 2D images are very alluring for me. I think a lot of people take inspiration from nature, and of course looking at shapes that are found in the wild are interesting. Although, for me, composition and colour have always been from manufactured, secondary manifestations of natural forms.

- Could you compare your art to a music and/or a literary genre?

I don’t think I would be able to compare my art to another genre just because I haven’t found an exact ‘style’ yet, but some of my pieces have been inspired by Sylvia Plath and Radiohead. I love Thom Yorke’s image and his photoshoots are always super intriguing. Plath’s poems are also a source of inspiration, just because she use a lot of metaphors and vivid imagery in her writing.

- Which artists do you take as inspiration? / are you inspired by any artists?

I would have to say my main art-hero is Jenny Saville. To be blunt, Saville is my favourite artist; her use of colour, scale, texture, composition, subject are all perfect individually and put together. It’s jaw dropping how she manages to think up of such images, and to be able to execute them to that level. I would love to meet her one day and pick her brains!

Another artist I love is Elly Smallwood – especially her use of mythology and ancient statues in her work. She’s also incredibly humble and has ‘liked’ one of my Instagram posts that was inspired by her, which made me nearly faint from fan-girl-ing too hard.

- One dream commission you have?

I would absolutely love to paint on walls or on buildings! That would definitely be my dream commission.

- If you could have some of your works exposed, where would it be? - is this like where would you want exposure or like a particular gallery? - if not we could also ask what dream gallery would you love to have your work in?

Galleries are so incredibly fun in general – especially if you get to see people’s reactions and curate how to put all your work up. I had a collaboration gallery with RASA (Refugee Action St Andrews) where I sold artwork with a percentage of the profits going to the charity. It was an amazing experience working with them, as they had insight into artwork on the topic of refugees and Europe, and because I got to meet people who supported both their and my work. I would definitely like to do something like that again; working with a charity or organisation for an art selling event or gallery!

- Do you paint with brain, heart or hands? (Expand and interpret at your own pleasure)

It sounds very obnoxious, but if I have to be honest I paint mostly with my brain, but I think this is because of my inexperience. Most colours I put on a page is a decision made by me and from my experimentations. My hands do the labour of blending or placement or stippling, but I don’t have enough experience for colour to be by muscle memory yet. That’s probably why it’s quite exhausting for me to do a full-blown oil painting; I have to think really hard about the colours I’m going to place and where.

- Art is passion but also pleasure, what gives you the greatest satisfaction while creating?

The initial 2 hours of a painting is probably the most exciting for me as the potential for the piece is most expansive then. Whilst I sketch, and start placing the initial colours, I get immense pleasure from my mind making up little imaginations of what the piece will or can look like. However, it’s also painful emotionally when I near the middle of the process, as I always feel that the piece won’t look nearly as good as I imagined it to be. Although, if I work through that pain and self-doubt, I always end up surprisingly liking the finished product – as I like to call all my artwork my ‘babies’, even if they’re objectively unsightly, I still love them unconditionally!



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