GALLERY ARTIST INTERVIEW: E.R. WHITTINGHAM

How old are you?
I’m 26 years old. 27 in May.

What is the primary medium you work in?
I mainly work in acrylic paints. I also work in Copic markers. They’re a good in-between for painting and a simple drawing.

What is your favorite medium to work in?
Acrylics. They’re affordable, easy to use, long lasting, dries quickly and are vivid in colour. You also can’t beat a good old-fashioned pencil to paper.

What is your favorite subject matter?
If it’s spooky, fantasy/fairy tale or pretty, I’ll most likely love drawing it. Some of my favourite subject matters include vampires, bats, skulls, ghosts, snakes, birds, tattooed women, the circus, fairies, mermaids, zombies, Frankenstein monsters, tiki idols… darn, it’s a long list.

What art tools do you use, and do you have any tools or brands that you recommend?
In terms of paints, I use Winsor & Newton’s Galeria acrylics. I can’t say I have a go-to paint brush yet but I’m finding Daley Rowney brushes have been great so far. One thing I will recommend is that all artists should have a B pencil. They’re softer than a standard HB pencil and thus easier to erase. Ideal for sketching ideas.

What sources would you recommend for artists that are interested in pursuing your art medium?
Growing up, I learnt to draw and paint both during art classes throughout my education, and through various ‘How to Draw Manga/Fantasy/Horror etc’ books. (I still have my copy of “How to Draw Fantastic Horror Comic Characters” by Steve Miller because I love the art in it). I have been self-teaching and observing to refine those skills in the last few years or so. Pinterest is ideal for drawing tutorials, as well as inspiration for work, and I recommend taking life drawing classes if you can. One book that has been invaluable for me is “The Art of Animal Drawing” by Ken Hultgren. I struggle with drawing quadruped animals, and this book has been so useful in helping understand their anatomy, construction and movement; and making them look convincing in my work.

How and when did you start creating artwork?
I’d say I ‘officially’ started creating artwork when I was about nine years old. I found that not only that I could draw (for a kid, anyway) but I actually LOVE it!

Who or what are your biggest artistic influences?
My main artistic influences are: Tim Burton, Jasmine Beckett-Griffith, older Disney films and vintage American animation, tattoo art, classic horror, Leilani Joy, fairy tales, the classic rides at the Disney parks (especially the Haunted Mansion), and Don Bluth.

What piece of art do you most closely identify with?
That’s a tough one. I’m not sure if this counts but I tend to be drawn into certain pieces in some way, shape or form. For example, ‘Pale Medusa’ by Jasmine Beckett-Griffith really speaks to me somehow. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but I feel somewhat connected to it.

If you could give any advice to your past-artist-self, what would it be?
Keep working hard, and draw what makes YOU happy. Don’t do it just because your art teacher said so, others want you to or because it’s trendy! Listen and take on board constructive criticism that’ll help you improve. And it’s OK to mess up sometimes.

What is your absolute dream project? If you could create anything in the world, what would you create?
It would be so awesome to create a gothic/fantasy 2D animated or puppet film or TV series – something like Don Bluth, Tim Burton or Jim Henson would make. I studied animation at university but found I have very little patience to fully animate a film, no matter how short it is! I honestly have so much respect and admiration for animators and puppeteers.

What is your ultimate goal as an artist? Has this changed over your art career?
As what I wanted to be has changed over time, so have my career goals (I have wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, animator and voice actor, manga artist and a puppet maker to name a few). But now, and perhaps all this time subconsciously, my ultimate goal is to become a licensed Disney artist, creating artwork to sell at the Wonderground Gallery and the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. Disney has been a massive part of my life since childhood, and some of my favourite aspects of it are the art, the history and the characters (especially the villains). To be able to paint and depict classic Disney characters in my style to sell at the Disney parks would be such a magical experience!

What is your favorite plant and/or animal? 
Plant-wise, roses are my favourite flower but I love depicting most plant life in my work. Also, partially thanks to my love for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, I have a soft spot for carnivorous plants. As for animals, I absolutely love reptiles and birds. Snakes and crocodilians are among my firm favourites, along with bright colourful birds like parrots, peacocks and flamingos. I also love elephants, rabbits and, of course, bats.

Is nature something that you’re drawn to? 
I’d say so, yes. It’s something I always enjoy drawing, painting and observing. It’s all so diverse and magical. And nothing beats a good walk in the woods or a David Attenborough documentary.

Can you tell us about the pieces you created for this gallery? 
The pieces are five of the main animal characters from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” in my signature skull headed animal style. In the series are Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear, Hathi the elephant, Kaa the python and Shere Khan the tiger. The idea behind this is that they are supernatural spirits of the jungle – flora and fauna intertwining and connected with each other. They do not just live in the jungle – they are the jungle.

Baloo is a sleepy sloth bear, so there’s moss and leaves growing from his long fur (like a sloth, funnily enough!). Bagheera is less “intertwined” than the others because he was born in captivity and escaped when he was an adult. Instead, he is more like a shadow or ghost slipping through the jungle treetops at night.

Hathi is one of the oldest animals in the jungle so he has all sorts of moss, vines and tree bark growing all over his body. Kaa is an old, powerful and more importantly HUGE snake, so he is depicted as being part of the tree. And the villainous Shere Khan has a limp so his foot is rotten and decaying with fungi growing from it, with a battered cracked skull to show his ferocity.

Are there any messages that you’re aiming to convey with the art you created for this gallery? 
Doing a skull headed “Jungle Book” series has been on my ever-increasing projects list for some time, and I thought this would be perfect for the show. Perhaps if there was a message to convey; it would be how old, mysterious and fantastical nature is, and how connected flora and fauna are. Without one, the other cannot thrive.

Would you like to share any stories/experiences/special memories that revolve around the theme of this gallery? 
This is a little bit random but a few years ago, my sister took me to a crocodile zoo for my birthday. We watched juvenile Nile crocodiles being fed three times because it was that fantastic to watch and I held a baby alligator. That was such an awesome day.

If you could invent any kind of plant or animal, what would it be/look like/what kind of environment would it thrive in? 
Being a reptile, bird and bat lover; dragons are honestly perfect for me! I’ve always liked the idea of painting a tropical or rainforest dragon, with characteristics of creatures like iguanas, constricting snakes, parrots and maybe a leopard. Maybe even the camouflage ability of a chameleon! I also really like the idea of teeny tiny dragons with insect wings living among flowers and peoples’ gardens.

Have you participated in the Artist Lodge Gallery before? 
This is my first time. I’m in the UK and have unfortunately not been able to participate in the Artist Lodge Gallery before. Once it went virtual, I saw an opportunity. Though I’m still kicking myself for not applying to take part in the Haunted Mansion show!

Anything else you’d like to add?
Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife!

YOU CAN FIND MORE FROM E.R. WHITTINGHAM HERE:
Website
Instagram
Facebook

*Please note that all artwork is reposted with permission from the artists. Please do not use, alter, or repost the artwork without direct permission from the artists. Each artist may have a different Creative Commons license on their work/images and you will need to contact them directly in order to obtain permission for your uses.

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