Meet Stephen, the artist and photographer behind ArtySandp on Etsy

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Who and where in the world are you?
My name is Stephen and I live in Ascot, England with my wife of 20 years, Patricia. We’re situated about 10 minutes from Tittenhurst Park where John Lennon used to live and 15 minutes from Windsor Castle. Unfortunately our home isn’t on the same scale, it’s a small house that was built in 1900 and whilst it looks quaint(ish) the lack of natural light is a bit of a nightmare.

My main interests from a creative point of view are collage, photography and writing. I started writing my first book last year but it’s based around quantum physics, decoherence, the theory of infinity, ecology plus a good old conspiracy theory and my brain started to hurt at around 40,000 words – it’s now been put on hold for a few months whilst I ensure that I actually understand the plot.

What Artists on Etsy do you admire for their artistic talent?
To be honest I admire anyone who has the courage of their convictions and produce any form of art. If I was pushed however a few of the shops I would reference are heatherevanssmith (I love her “Romantic Vintage Inspired Photography”), oddballartco (her dark, fantasy style paintings are superb) and fewbluehue (I’m always in awe of complex collage work and I love his approach)

What’s your background?
Rewind 30+ years and I was a teenager being made by my school to choose between either Arts or Maths based studies. I could have done either but I chose the Maths, IT, Statistics and Economics route simply because financially I needed to secure a job. My interest in art had to become secondary to maintaining a career, paying the monthly bills and getting on with life in general.

Last year, after I’d had successful careers (imho) in both IT and Human Resources, I decided that I needed to step away from the corporate world to try and follow my true interest in the more artistic side of life. I haven’t severed the ties completely, there’s still the mortgage to pay after all, but Etsy is hopefully one step on the journey.

What do you think is integral to the work of an artist?
For me it’s space. Not necessarily physical space but definitely mental space. If you’re actually going to create something new you have to have room to think, to explore and to discover without the everyday world intruding on you.

What role does the artist have in society?
The artist is there as a support, a developer and a conscience. Artists can support society by brightening and enhancing the world we live in, develop us through work that we have to explore and challenge us by making us think.

How has your artwork changed over time?
My work has become less derivative and more personal. Initially my artwork was based more on what I believed other people wanted to see. Now it’s based solely on what I see in my mind’s eye, it’s important that I like it and that it means something to me. Though obviously I hope that what I like strikes a chord with others!

What art do you most identify with?
Anything that challenges me and has a complexity to it, a picture of flowers (for example) has its place but I prefer something that makes me think. Not just ‘what’s the artist trying to say?’ but also ‘why do these colours/textures/words work together?’, ‘why does this image/sculpture/piece of writing disturb me?’

What type of artwork do you most enjoy doing?
I actually get the most enjoyment from large scale collages where I can really get involved with the image and what I’m trying to portray. Unfortunately due to space limitations at home I don’t produce these as often as I’d like.

What themes do you pursue?
I like working with abstract ideas/images and playing with words/subjects, beyond that any theme is fair game.

What’s you scariest experience in creating art?
I produced a collage called Dark Places (which at the time of interview is in my shop). It’s quite a simple piece, someone with head in hands surrounded by laughing images and old text set against a red/black background. It was only after I’d finished it and revisited it a few days later that I realised I was that person. The collage reflected perfectly where I was mentally at that point in time – scary stuff but also useful as it enabled me to put a lot of issues into context. (This interview is better than a psychiatrist’s couch, just let me know when my time is up….)

Who is your favourite artist and art work?
My favourite artist is a graphic artist called Barney Bubbles. He produced a lot of artwork in the form of LP sleeves and advertising that meant a lot to me as I was growing up. He died at the age of 41 and personally I think he’s one of those artists who’s given a massive amount to popular culture (well in the UK anyway, I’m not certain whether he had any impact in the US) without receiving the credit he’s due.

My favourite piece is probably difficult to select, all the work he did with Hawkwind has a place in my heart. If I had to pick one item however it would probably be the cover of their LP “Doremi Fasol Latido” (he also named the album) which is a lovely piece of work in black and silver.

Describe a real life situation that inspired you?
Growing up one of my closest friends was a great painter but also a dreamer. He was always going to take on the art world, have an exhibition, become famous but never got further than talking about it. He died last year and seeing all that potential come to nothing was the push I needed to try and escape the corporate world. I often think about him when I’m ‘being creative’, I’m certain he’s looking over my shoulder.

What is your artistic outlook on life?
Art is personal to each and everyone of us. What one person calls art another will call rubbish – and in their own minds both of them are correct. Regardless of whether the finished item suits our personal taste, no one should be judged for expressing themselves, they should be commended for making the effort.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
When I was at school my Art teacher ripped up a piece of my work and threw it at me because it wasn’t what he expected (it was a 2D cartoon representation of his idea). Class hero for 48 hours!

What inspires you to be creative?
Overheard conversations, newspaper headlines, word play, people watching, daydreaming. The thing that doesn’t work for me is enforced creativity, I can’t just sit down and create, I need to have that initial spark in the brain.

What do you dislike about the art world?
Snobbery. There’s too much emphasis on patronage and public relations. Too many good artists are being overlooked and mediocre ones being lauded.

What is your dream project?
I approached the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (it’s a museum of Art and Design) a few years ago about producing a history of artwork used on singles. They didn’t progress my idea – it’s still my dream project.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I don’t think that comparisons work with something as subjective as art. I’d simply like to be considered an individual.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be yourself.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
To be successful enough to escape the corporate ball and chain!

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