CS Coates & Scarry

Making Pluto a planet again with Ian Francis

Ian Francis

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?I was born in Bristol, England, and I've lived here pretty much my whole life. I graduated from the University of the West of England in 2001 with a degree in Illustration, although it'd be a stretch to call what I actually did on the course "illustration". I spent a few years after graduating doing part time jobs to support myself while I tried to develop my work in my spare time, and since 2006 I've been fortunate enough to be showing work with some great galleries in the US, UK and Australia.

Q: Who and what are your main influences? When I was at university my work was mainly influenced by Stanley Donwood, Dave McKean and Reggie Pedro. Nowadays there are a lot of artists and photographers whose work I really like, but the strongest influence on my work is just the sheer range of imagery I see on a daily basis. I spend hours on the internet following links about everything from popular culture to apocalyptic disasters and saving thousands of images that interest me. I'm fascinated by the way ideas link together and recur in different places. My work is a way for me to try and make sense of the disparate things I see and the way they relate to each other in my head.

Q: Can you talk briefly about your working method? At the moment I usually start by making lists of elements of ideas that strike me as interesting, and think about how they connect with each other. I sketch out ideas, sometimes in a notebook or on scraps of paper, or frequently in photoshop. Once I have a rough, I start working it up on canvas - sometimes the finished painting looks a lot like the rough, sometimes it changes a lot in the process of painting it. I switch between different media a lot as I'm working, and build paintings up in layers. I like to try out new techniques and media as I'm painting, I enjoy experimenting with things and trying to learn how they work together or against each other.

Q: How long does it take to paint one of your larger paintings? I tend to work on several paintings at the same time, as some of the media I use take a long time to dry, especially oil paint. The largest paintings I did for my last show at Lazarides I worked on for close to a year, but generally most paintings take me about 3 - 5 months. Occasionally things come together quicker than that. I've never really worked out how many hours I actually spend on a specific painting, in a way it would be interesting to know but I don't generally worry about things like that too much. They take as long as they take.

Q: What makes a good day in the studio? They're all good days really, I'm incredibly fortunate to get to do what I do for a living. A really good day is when things come together and start to look like I picture them in my head. I'm still really bad at estimating how much I can get done in a day, so a good day would also be when I actually get done something like the amount of work I plan to.

Q: Have you ever done 3D work or used other mediums apart from paint? I made a clay owl once. It was basically just a lump of clay with some patterns pushed into it, but I liked it. Unfortunately it shattered in the kiln, which has kind of put me off sculpture for the last 24 years or so. I'd quite like to try working with other people in film/video at some point, but I've not done anything like that yet.

Q: How do you spend your time when taking a break from painting? Reading, watching films, trying to catch up on sleep.

Q: Three things you couldn’t be without? Painting, reading. Probably the internet/computers, although sometimes I think it could be a good thing to try giving up for a few months.

Q: If you didn't paint for a living what would you do? I'd like to try writing. I'd probably be a really bad writer. Maybe either the kind of really bad erotic fiction you get in airports, or novelisation’s of Films/TV series etc.

Q: Greatest joy Painting.

Q: Greatest sadness? Screwing up paintings.

Q: If you could be an ambassador for a good cause what would it be? Pluto, let's make it a planet again. There are a million better causes out there, but I'd like the title of Ambassador for Pluto.

Q: Advice for young or not so young emerging artists? I don't know if I'm a good person to give advice, it took me a long time to get anywhere after I graduated. The main thing I would suggest is to concentrate on putting together a good body of work, rather than promoting yourself. Self promotion is neccessary, especially early on, but blitzing every gallery and magazine with work that isn't your best is soul draining and won't really get you anywhere. Take your time to put together the best work you can do at the time, and send it off to people you think your work is suited to, ideally people who are looking for submissions. If your work is good people will want to show it. Also, try and make sure you take influences from a wide range of artists - picking 2 or 3 similar artists whose work you really like and trying to produce work like theirs tends to mean your work is going to look very derivative and uninspired. Having people whose work you find inspiring and want to emulate is a natural thing, especially early on, but try to bring something new to it from other places.

Q: If you could be anywhere right now where would it be? I'm enjoying myself here at the moment, but anywhere... probably New York.

Q: A few of your favourite artists dead or alive? Anna Conway, Alex Kanevsky, Ricky Allman, Yang Shaobin, Kristine Moran, Hung Liu, Rosson Crow, Bruno Dayan, Cai Guo-Qiang, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Fuyuko Matsui.

Q: Tell us a little about Bristol’s art scene? I'm probably the last person to ask about this, I really don't have a clue. I keep meaning to try and find out more about local galleries and shows, I never really know what's going on here.

Q: How was it assisting Mike Stilkey with his installation for the ‘Art From the New World Show’? I thought Mike did a really good job on the installation, especially in such a short space of time. It was an honour to get coffee for the great man, and wash his brushes. It was really strange actually seeing lots of people from L.A. in Bristol, I'm much more used to being the English guy in the U.S.

Q: Do you have any shows or surprises coming up we should look out for? Yes, but I'm not completely sure if I'm supposed to be talking about them yet. I'm currently back in the studio working. Nothing for the next few months.

Ian Francis and Chippy Coates

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