Yasmin Mason is an illustrator with a passion for all things pertaining to art and papery goods. Bibelot asks where she draws her inspiration.
1. How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
Colourful and probably somewhat offbeat, without being too self-consciously ‘quirky’.
2. What’s the first piece of art you can remember making?
I’m not sure I remember much of the actual making, but I know there’s a collage somewhere in the house called ‘Boy Holding the Moon’ that’s dated 1997. I haven’t seen it in a while but as I recall it’s made of different coloured scraps of paper with some perforated metallic blue plastic stuff in there somewhere.
3. When are you happiest?
Artistically speaking, there are two moments. The first is when you manage to produce something which comes close to measuring up to the vision you had in your head for the piece. The second is kind of the opposite, when you have a ‘happy accident’ or an experiment that turns out better than expected. Both can be very satisfying.
4. Do you have a favourite subject to illustrate?
Not as such, but, having done a couple of portraits and enjoyed them, I’d like to take the opportunity to do more.
5. What do you do to keep your ideas fresh?
The Internet is always a good source of ideas, even if it doesn’t come from other works of art. Visiting exhibitions always makes me want to paint as well. When the work you look at is in a different style to yours, or of a different era, I think that can help as well. A contemporary painter can get a lot from an exhibition of pre-Raphaelites without that ‘anxiety of influence’ setting in, which can be crippling if you only look at work which you feel is exactly what you want to make. It makes it seem like all the good ideas are already taken.
6. Which areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
I’d really like to do more large scale work and to develop my skills in oil painting. I did Art at school but didn’t really start to get into painting until the end, and then I was using mostly acrylics and watercolours. I’ve seen some amazing contemporary artists working in oils recently – I’d like to give it a go!
7. What’s your favourite moment of the day.
I tend to do my best work, or get my best ideas – not just art, it can be anything – late at night, possibly because it’s quieter then. This is not so good for my sleep cycle. My favourite moment, though, is just any time I happen to experience contentment, with or without any particular reason.
8. What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
I think the difficulty I had in articulating this is one of the things that put me off studying Art beyond A Level – it seemed like the process, the experiments, the explanation, etc. were more important than the final output. I think it’s often a subconscious, instinctive thing. But broadly, speaking, it’s art (of various kinds) that moves me to make things myself.
9. What’s the last thing that made you say ‘wow’?
While doing research for A Level Art, I came across Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s painting ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’ online, and was struck by it instantly. I quickly found out (to my dismay) that it was in a private collection, so I didn’t think I’d get a chance to see it ‘in the flesh’. Then earlier this year, Leighton House Museum in Kensington put on an exhibition called A Victorian Obsession, which included several pieces from the Perez Simon collection. ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’ was the centrepiece of the exhibition, with its own separate gallery that was scented with Jo Malone’s ‘Red Roses’. The painting had a bench in front of it where people were sitting just to take it in for a while. I got as close as I could, and I still couldn’t tell how it was done – it’s the kind of thing where you know it’s paint, rather than see it. Allegedly Sir Lawrence had fresh flowers shipped to his studio while he was working on it so each petal would look as real as possible.
10. What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
Keep going – I don’t feel qualified to offer any advice beyond that!