Brighton, for those of you who don’t know, is a fabulous seaside city about an hour out of London which is famous for its excellent vegan food (it has more than one vegan pub!), its acceptance of weed, vape shops and harem pants, and its status as one of the most (if not the most) LGBTQ friendly cities in the U.K.
A few weeks ago, I went to Brighton for a beach party in celebration of Trans Pride Day. I met loads of vibrant and colorful characters that day, and one such character was the delectable Bryony May, a Brighton based freelance artist who kindly agreed to be the first interviewee for my new blog series ‘Interviewing Artists’.
This is a new blog series I am starting which will focus on local artists and their work. I’ve always loved art, and I’ve always known and appreciated people who are artists and who want to make art a full-time career.
It is very hard to live off your art (in the same way it’s very hard to be a full-time actor or writer), and building a reputation and constantly marketing your work can be a full-time job in itself. I want to introduce lesser-known but no less talented artists to a wider audience, and I want to help promote them in any way I can.
Interviewing artists will start with a brief description of the artist and their work, followed by an interview with the artist which explores their inspiration and themes, and finally the artist will explain the thought, themes and inspiration behind some of their work.
Artist profile: Bryony May
Bryony May is a full-time freelance artist who uses their art to explore the themes of relationships, abuse, and mental illness. You can find Bryony on Facebook and Etsy as Bryony May Mind Strays.
Bryony is a self-employed full-time artist. They run every aspect of their art business themselves, from the marketing to postage and packaging. Every piece of art they make is unique and one-of-a-kind. If you want to buy any of the art featured in this post, please go to Bryony’s Etsy account to find out more.
Bryony is agender and prefers gender neutral pronouns, hence why I am referring to them as ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘their’.
You say on your Facebook page that your art is influenced by mental illness, relationships, and abuse. If possible could you expand on that and on what you are hoping to achieve with your art?
As someone who is affected by mental illness (currently depression and anxiety, in my past, borderline personality disorder) and someone who has lived through multiple abusive relationships and who is always exploring how to create new healthier connections with people, I feel these are the subjects I can portray most knowledgably that I am passionate about in my own life. I hope to provide an insight into how it feels to be affected by these issues,and to show solidarity with those who’ve been affected similarly, to help those feeling isolated by their emotions to feel understood and respected.
How do you think art can be used in the fight for equality?
Soon I will be producing more work alongside my current collection addressing mental illness and abuse, that addresses sexism, homophobia,and transphobia, as these are also issues I feel confident commenting on as I am an agender pansexual, and sexism affects everyone. I want my work to be worn on walls as a badge of honour for a person proud to be surviving in this world as a member of an oppressed group, or as a badge of empathy for a person or company who wishes to show solidarity with oppressed groups.
Are you having much success working as an independent artist? What kind of advice would you give to fellow artists in regards to making money and promoting yourself?
It’s hard work, I look forward to the day I make enough to live off, I am currently living off a finite supply of savings, some months I’ll sell 4 or 5 works, some I won’t sell any. I keep with it because I’m passionate about it, its what I’m good at, its what I enjoy and Its really important to me.
My advice is if your aim is to make money, do something else, if you feel how I do, and you are passionate about your work, get to it! make and make and make and once you have a body of work you feel says what you want it to get an Etsy account, if you’re lucky enough to have or know someone who has web development skills get your own website made and advertise the heck outa it! I have no budget for advertisement so most people find out about my work through me shouting about it on social media, I run so many accounts its hard to keep track of them all myself, I have Facebook as my main one where I share everything then I post my art with links on Instagram and tumblr and pinterest and I might be setting up a twitter account soon, its a lot, but its important to have a big web presence when you can’t afford a physical venue or advertisement.
And make sure you take care of yourself, its not going to pick up straight away, it takes time, it took me well over a year of trying this to sell my first piece and that was to a friend, don’t be disheartened and keep going, and remember to take time off, when you’re in charge of when you work it can be really hard to remember you deserve and need a break from time to time, so don’t forget to let yourself relax now and then, if you’re stressed out your work will suffer anyway so if not for yourself do it for that.
What do you hope to have achieved in 10 years time?
I’d really like to be living off my art by then, I’d like my work to be better known, but I’d also not want to be famous myself ever, I’m not the important bit of what I do.
I’d like to collaborate with artists who are familiar with other important subjects that I feel need addressing but that don’t directly affect me, such as racism, and mental illnesses and disorders I’ve never had.
I have an idea for a performance piece I’d like to create, but it involves a venue and a lot of paint, these things cost money I don’t have, but perhaps sometime in the next 10 years I will, fingers crossed.
All my work is open to the interpretation of the viewer, the meaning I intended to illustrate when I created it is not necessarily the “right” way to view it, I’ll provide it here for context but I encourage you to make up your own mind before reading what I think about it. one of my favourite parts of being an artist is hearing how all the differing perspectives people have effect what they see in my work, I love how it can mean so many different things to so many different people and I never want to tell anyone how it “should” be viewed, so here I simply offer just another perspective.
To create this piece I first drew a rough outline of what the face should look like in pencil then with fine liner I picked out details like the teeth nose and eyes, then I used Ink pencils to add a light skin tone to the face and colour to the eyes, then to illustrate the effect of it being tear stained I dripped water onto the light skin tone areas of ink pencil to cause it to bleed and pool. Then with candle wax I traced the rough outline of the face with a manic sort of line to express the instability of the figure, then letting the wax resist the black ink I filled in the background, using an old toothbrush to scratch more depth into the face with the same ink. Then I dripped red ink around the mouth cavity to emphasise the ripping open of the figure and dripped diluted blue ink from the left eye subtly dripping down through the whole image all the way to the bottom signifying further the pain the figure is in. then finally, I literally tore at the figure splitting the face in half and tearing into the pained creases of the eyes.
Then with candle wax I traced the rough outline of the face with a manic sort of line to express the instability of the figure, then letting the wax resist the black ink I filled in the background, using an old toothbrush to scratch more depth into the face with the same ink. Then I dripped red ink around the mouth cavity to emphasise the ripping open of the figure and dripped diluted blue ink from the left eye subtly dripping down through the whole image all the way to the bottom signifying further the pain the figure is in. then finally, I literally tore at the figure splitting the face in half and tearing into the pained creases of the eyes.
This piece aims to illustrate the pain in concealing my true emotions in previous relationships where I was afraid they would leave me or be over burdened should I express my troubles to them so I would force a fake smile and pretend everything was ok for their benefit resulting only in my own pain growing and a feeling of irrational bitterness towards them as if they had forced me to act this way to appease them when the whole time it was my choice, we would have both benefited from me being more open, but I was still recoiling from having offered up too much of myself in the past, still trying to find the mid ground where I could be open without handing over responsibility, and over shooting.
This piece was created by hand drawing the figures in pencil, colouring the bottom figure in with black ink and cutting them out together and placing them on a tea stained ground.
This piece was created with the intention of illustrating how I’ve experienced the feeling of falling in love when suffering from depression and a feeling of dependence, an uneasy almost literal falling into the other person, letting them engulf me and using them as a distraction from and protection against the incoming ground, placing myself and all my insecurities in their arms to protect, leaving my responsibility to take care of myself with them, without the headspace to consider how that might effect them as they eventually, inevitably, impact with the ground and disperse from my life, my self worth with them, until I learn to love myself again.
This piece was created by painting the paper with a blood red ink ground then painting over that with layers of white wall paint, drawing the hands in black fine liner once the right shade of pink is accomplished and then painting further layers of the white wall paint around the hands, then I carved through the layers with a scalpel to create the heart, and painted further blood red ink on the back to let it bleed through the now weakened area where I carved the heart.
I intended this work to Illustrate how I felt when I was in a relationship where my partner was dependant on me and had carved themselves into my life, they cut away at me, carved their heart into me, attached themselves, I couldn’t escape for fear they would commit suicide if they found themselves without me, I felt trapped by this overwhelming responsibility over this other person who I did care deeply about but could not help, it was like their heart bled through me, they were very unwell and I put them before myself very often as I felt my struggles were lesser than theirs and as such I felt they should have my priority, they kept handing me more and more of their struggles and I just, didn’t know what to do with them, it hurt to hold them, it hurt not to be able to help as they thought I could, and it cut into me, so much so that this person become the only partner I’ve ever dumped, it still hurts that I had to do that, but it was apparent that at best I wasn’t helping and at worst, no matter how they thought otherwise, I was hurting them, and myself, by staying.
If you want to learn more about Bryony or you would like to buy any of the pieces featured in this article, please go to Bryony’s Etsy account or their Facebok page.
Check back soon for more art, recipes, news and general musings about life. Also remember to take a look at my book review website and the cover reveal for the next book on my reading list, Leah by Dana Haffar.