Graehound at work, courtesy of Ross Haley of RSH Photography

Disability, fear and… squids: mixed-media ‘thingmaker’ Graehound on inspiration, work and reading about everything

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Graehound, courtesy of Ross Haley of RSH
Graehound, courtesy of Ross Haley of RSH Photography

Multi-talented mixed-media artist Graehound got in touch with a Q&A saying that maintaining a variety of work keeps you sane and staves off arthritis; when the reading stops the questioning starts; and that it’s ok to turn your head off from time to time.

Q: Who are you and what do you do?
A: I am a full-time thingmaker and graduate student who works odd jobs to maintain the ability to be both. Both my studio practice and career – such that it is – can be very accurately categorised as ‘mixed media’.

Q: How do you work?
A: In a very unbalanced manner. Constantly. I have about eight major projects in various states of process at once, thirty tabs up on Google of reference material to draw from (literally and figuratively), and maintain a good deal of variety between works not only to stay sane but also stave off arthritis. I go on a lot of walks and photograph the natural world pretty obsessively to keep learning how to see better, which is ironic, as I’m going blind. In my spare time, I dye fabric and yarn and create both decorative and functional fibre objects. The majority of my income as an “artist” is from my beadwoven jewelry, both sold items and published patterns.

Voltures: Fear by Graehound 2013. 10" x 7". Ink and acrylic on Bristol.
Voltures: Fear by Graehound
2013. 10″ x 7″. Ink and acrylic on Bristol.

Q: What are your favourite subjects and media?
A: I really enjoy the things most people find unsettling… innards, flesh, blood. Basic building blocks for people. Disability. Fear. Squids… okay, that one doesn’t really apply to the established pattern. Atmospheric emotion; the psychological spaces of things – particularly when something has a feeling, but no distinct way to address the expression. I’ve done a decent amount of self-portraiture, as well. People are pretty evenly divided on the importance of recording yourself; many think it’s purely ego-driven, but I use myself as a model merely because it feels less hypocritical to assign the considerations and apprehension I have to my own face than to plaster them onto something that isn’t required (or responsible) to defend them. I have great respect for all forms of accountability, and I think that’s what drives that particular set of works.

Q: What is your background?
A: I have an undergraduate degree in studio art, with an emphasis in drawing. My father is a systems analyst, efficiency expert, the household cook, and generally can build or repair anything you hand him – from a motor to a house. My mother is trained as an anthropologist, but also has an art degree. She worked as a successful, self-employed graphic artist and logo designer for many years before she had children and became a full-time+ mom. She can sell you your own pants and is probably the greatest cheerleader anyone in the arts could hope to have. I state all of this seemingly superfluous familial information because my brilliant parents are the reason I have a lot of disparate bits of knowledge and training, and that is what has allowed me the freedom to be a thingmaker in this economy. As my father aptly quips, “It’s far better to be a jackass of all trades than a master of one.”

Graehound at work, courtesy of Ross Haley of RSH
Graehound at work, courtesy of Ross Haley of RSH Photography

Q: What research do you do?
A: A lot. Whatever I record visually, I try to be as authentic and honest about in creating or capturing its essence. Much of whether or not that is successful (at least, in my work), comes from practicing technique to the point of absurdity and continuing to learn peripheral media. The more you know about anything, the less you’ll know… but the better you’ll be able to fake it to others in the interest of communication. And reading… read about everything. Find alternative news sources, look at old encyclopaedias, new encyclopaedias; read blogs. Read fashion magazines and illuminated manuscripts and graphic novels and strip comics from the ’40s and album leaves and every history book you can get your hands on, from as many different points in history by as many different peoples. Read fairy tales and printer ink cartridges and the instructions to your blender and why Rothkos are more expensive than Warhols and what that means to the current art market. Read lots of business. Hell, breathe business – it’s the difference between eating and more art supplies or neither. And when you’re done with all that reading, question it to death. Ask “why” for every historical moment, scientific fact, and data point you absorb. And don’t stop asking why ’til you receive a properly satisfactory answer.

Show Some Guts: Frankentestines by Graehound 2012. 13.25" x 9". Mixed media on Bristol.
Show Some Guts: Frankentestines by Graehound 2012. 13.25″ x 9″. Mixed media on Bristol.

Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
A: Make things. All the time. Enter competitions you shouldn’t; make unsolicited phonecalls. Write emails to people you don’t know but want to. Be hardest on yourself, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Be impeccably organised. Have and stick to a calendar; you’ll get twice as much accomplished. And when you just can’t continue with something, give yourself a break. That may seem counter-intuitive coming from a workaholic, but go do something – anything – different. There’s a reason your head stopped. It will catch back up again.

For more of Graehound’s work pop over to her website.