Saturday 3 August 2019

Brian Froud

In all my years I can't say I've changed a great deal honestly. As a child, books and films were some of the biggest influences on my life and who I was, and the same is still true today.
As a young, impressionable girl I remember my love of picking up beautiful books filled with wonderous pictures (again, nothings changed). 'In Search of Forever' by Rodney Matthews, 'The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were' by Michael Page and Robert Ingpen (with illustrations by various artists) and 'Faeries' by Brian Froud and Alan Lee were the ones which have stuck with me all my life and left a lasting impression on me, as well as moulding me as a person.
So when by chance I saw that Brian and Wendy Froud would be appearing at Fantasy Forest Festival, giving a talk but also present all weekend, I knew what needed to be done.

As a child never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would meet these incredible people with off the scale talent in real life. And I admit, part of me still feels that way; disbelief. Meeting Brian Froud was a big deal, to 6 year old me reading about Kelpies and Redcaps for the first time, but also to aging Alice as an Artist herself.

Brian was certainly the most humble, down to earth artist I've ever met. I felt rather embarrassed taking my tatty old copy of  'Faeries' to him, but he signed it all the same, which was important to me as its been with me all my life, and I intend to keep it that way. He was more than happy to indulge my ramblings and also discuss the upcoming new 'Dark Crystal' series which Netflix are due to release, and we happily agreed on a passion for 'real' things and what they bring that CGI just cant.

Brian's talk was an incredible insight into his mind, methods and world. Clearly nervous and it would appear not particularly fond of public speaking, Brian immediately won us over jokingly asking if he could go home and he'd made a mistake agreeing to do this (though I do suspect there may have been some truth in his words), but he talked on about his work and the thinking behind it. He was truly in his stride when he got out a portfolio and began to share new artworks with us all. All previously unseen by the public, mostly painted in the last few months. I didn't fail to appreciate what an amazing, once in a life time opportunity this was. My eyes were out on stalks.

Brian shared pieces in his trademark style of a composition bursting with countless faeries, he discussed these pieces being quite 'flat', which I'd never actually considered before, but is entirely true. They were nothing short of stunning and moved me so much. I felt like a child thumbing through 'Faeries' seeing Froud's art for the first time. Then came pieces which were quite different, much more close-up, in your face faeries. Their personality really shone through, their naughtiness, their cheeky sidewards glances, their mystery. And though very different they are equally engaging and have the same curiosity-inducing, mystical beauty.   

Brian talking about his pieces in detail was fascinating. What different elements mean, and the fact one day he could simply no longer paint with watercolour washes anymore. It just wouldn't physically work, which is incredible! So started working in acrylic instead. His mention of 'The Green Woman' was also very intriguing as I am planning a Green Man series later this year myself, definitely food for thought!

For me, the most interesting insight was hearing Brian talk about being what being an artist is to him. Hearing him say he hates painting and its a total nightmare initially shocked me, but when he talked about wishing there was an easier way to get to the end result, without all the torture and torment, I began to understand what he meant. I remember for many years a hideous frustration at seeing what I wanted to create in my mind and not having the artistic skill to achieve it. While I'm not for a second suggesting Brian could ever not achieve what he put his mind to, art can be a difficult, heart wrenching thing. Something else I thought was fascinating was his comments that creating artwork is just constantly trying to fix what you're working on and resolve a piece, but knowing when to stop and not tip a painting over the edge meaning you have lots more fixing to do. A very true sentiment even though I never thought about painting like that.
Brian saying he thinks hes very boring and has no imagination was really quite baffling! He gave the impression its not really him creating these creatures, but they create themselves and come into being through their own will. He lets them take on their own personality and creates them all from shapes or lines, and doesn't seem to consider his own imagination to have any part in the matter.

Something which was honestly refreshing, was hearing Brian talk about his belief in Faeries. I think without this belief Brian couldn't really create the compositions which he does with such beauty and conviction. It is a wonderful thing to believe that there truly is still some real magic in the world, and Brian has helped capture that for countless people with minds wandering astray from the world which we live in. Brian may think he has no imagination, but I think him and Wendy have minds, and hearts nothing short of glorious.

Thank you to Brian and Wendy for their time, kindness and being absolutely wonderful souls!

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