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You are in the Fantasy Art category - Fantasy Illustrator - Brian Froud - Transcript of Interview

An Interview with Brian Froud by Fairies World®

Fantasy Art Home Page Brian Froud
Exhibition in France

Artist name: Brian Froud

25-01-03, Brian Froud talking to Fairies World®
Copyright© 2003 Fairies World® & World of Froud®

"I want to expand everyone's awareness of what fairies are about, for them to have access to the sacredness and a personal spiritual journey"

Brian Froud is unquestionably the present day master artist of Faeries. It is his dedicated passion, vision and foresight and his work with Alan Lee that has influenced a generation of young artists, many represented within this book that enthusiastically endorse this artist of faery genius.

Born in 1947, Brian Froud graduated with Honours from Maidstone College of Art in 1971 with a degree in Graphic Design. Soon afterwards, he began working in London on various projects ranging from book jackets, magazine covers, advertising as well as illustrating several children books.

"Fantasy was always there. One of the artists I was a great fan of I discovered, was Arthur Rackham. When I was at college I did a lot of work on Fairy Tales but when I left college the work that was coming in was anything but fairy tale. I wanted to move back into that area and be more specific which is what I felt."

Fairies World®
Where did you meet Alan Lee?

"Well Alan and I had the same agents. In those days the agents had like booths in their offices and Alan and I had a booth. He was the first to move to the country and I instinctively knew I wanted to move to develop my work so we shared a house together. Once I got there I started to paint pictures of trolls and faeries"

Fairies World®
How long did it take to put your book 'Faeries' together?

"Six months, we did all the research ourselves, we were hoping for more time. I was then living in a different house just up the road and working fairly independently on it. We used lots of watercolour and pen and ink, gouaches. Now I tend to work in Acrylics, color pencil and gouaches in it as well. Sometimes it is just pure watercolour, anything that feels right at the time really. When I first started using more gouaches, there was a very frightening moment when I couldn't do it any more. What was interesting as it transpired, and was happening I was instinctively trying to move another direction into more color whereas before it was mainly brown. I could almost start the left hand side of the painting and work my way across filling in the figures and I would get to the other end and all the tones were just matching and it was fine. But I didn't want to particularly do that again so that is why I started to use acrylics, because I could put washes on top, which you can't with gouaches, you can with acrylics and I was slowly building up the color and actually getting richer in color. It turned out it was an emotional stage of change really."

Fairies World®
Were you able to harness the change once you were getting used to it?

"Yes, and I suppose I studied browns and greens because I liked and studied Rackham, he had a technique of the browns that give a sense of the past. I was doing that when we did the original 'Faeries' book it was indeed a look back as we were dealing with traditional faeries and being as accurate as possible in focal descriptions of faeries. Over the years I was moving towards a very individual expression of faeries of how I experienced them, so that is where the color change came in, more blues happening, it is more of an internal vision I suppose."

Fairies World®
Why fairies have you always drawn them? Did you doodle on your school books like Picasso did his doves?

"Not that I can remember though I did like to draw aeroplanes I suppose they have got wings! The thing that got me into illustration I remember 'Quality Street' confectionery used to have a picture of a soldier on the boxes, a Napoleon type in his hat, I really got into uniforms I have always been interested in old military uniforms, the Shako and all that. One of the first illustrations I did before I left college was of the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was only at college that I got into studying about fairy tales and reading about fairy tales and reading more about the philosophy and the whole spiritual aspect of it. That really fascinated me. I really got deep into it. I think it was subconscious, I mean when I discovered Rackham the thing that struck me most about him was his drawings of trees and the trees had wonderful faces, and it threw me immediately back to when I was young because I was always climbing trees, always up a tree, always in a relationship with a tree. And it suddenly reminded me how I felt about trees. And what I felt is that they had personality and soul. That led me straight into faeries really."

Fairies World®
Does music influence you?

"Not specifically, but I do like to play music whilst I am working. Music can be very important, in the early days it was, Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span, because they were singing things I had never heard Rock bands sing about before. It was about death and people being cut up and thrown down wells, because they were all border ballads, they were songs about fairies written in the mists of time, very early 12th century 13th century but couched in modern tales, and that was really how I did a lot of my early work, listening to that."

Fairies World®
Lorenna Mckettit seems a popular musical person with other modern day faery artists?

"She is interesting, she is very lyrical she is indeed singing some of the old songs plus a lot of new things though she had a personal loss and hasn't been recording this last three years but yes I do play hers as well. They are outstandingly wonderful"

Fairies World®
Is there a message you like to convey in your work? I suppose with what you have produced this last 30 years you have evoked it already?

"I did a talk at my son Toby's college and showed some work, it was such a shock it was 30 years old, it's not bad, it's OK, I just can't believe I've been going that long really!"

Fairies World®
Have there been ups and downs in this career pattern? Has it always been an up?

"Definitely ups and downs but probably because I specialised in fairies and they come in and out of fashion and favour. They are always there but it is how the world sees them! I always talk of the fairies being like the sea, so sometimes the tide is out and they are a long way away, and sometimes the tide comes in, and so the tide went out for quite a while, but the tide is coming in really fast now, and it is quite fascinating how that happens."

Fairies World®
Can you see it and feel it in your own position?

"Yes, but the secret is not to give in, you have to keep going, you just have to believe, you've got to believe! It is interesting, once you step onto the fairy path, which I did once, it's a simple step, there is no way off, they don't want to let you off! You can if you want but you know it would be a terrible thing to do. It's very interesting, people often think that dealing with faery is a retreat from reality and I say 'no' it is not, it is actually a re-engagement with the world. They, the faeries, won't let you get away with anything, so you have to constantly be checking things, you have to be in balance. In a way it is a very moral thing, there is no wrong or right that is what is great about it, there are no rules. Unfortunately that means that each time you have to single out whether that is right or wrong. That is really tricky. They will help you. The open heart is actually very important. Alan and I were invited to be in a book years ago when we first started which was, 'Once Upon a Time', and the publishers said, we can't pay you, it turned out it was our break through, and directly from that we asked to do other work. It got what we were doing in a focused way out into the world and suddenly it opened up the scene."

Fairies World®
Who do you draw for, commissions?

"No I draw for myself. Actually for years I have always done that. Though way back I can remember a commission using an image from the original 'Faeries book', 'The Fachan' from the West Highlands of Scotland. I had to redraw it and put some Whisky barrels in the background, and actually it was terrifying because it actually threw me back to what I used to do, having to do this, having to draw whisky barrels, having to do what was written on the side and having to do the research of what they looked like, I thought Oh God here we are again! But I found in the early days it was almost self commissioning I would work to win the awards for it. When you had an art director came in and said I want you to do this, nothing happened, but, if you art directed yourself and I did a lot of things for men's magazines where I would draw the picture and then they would write an article around it, and I was always winning awards for that, so this gave me a clue how to approach things and from then on I was always creating pictures first and allowing other people to respond to it by putting the words with it. I used to illustrate the words but that got really boring I could never understand why people gave me the words and then the illustration that went with, it just duplicated the words. That didn't make any sense so I would either do the picture that I would describe as being between the words, it's the bit they haven't quite described, so that the whole experience of the book became larger that way. Most of my projects nowadays, in fact for years have been my concepts, I either commission a writer or I write it myself, and get a publisher that way , which puzzles publishers 'cause they can't figure it out. They always think where are they in it, or why they sort of lost control when you sort of fling in a project. They also get puzzled because they say, what is this? And I say I don't know, then they think I am mad, but you see you have got to be open to the potential of what you are doing, if it is only at the end you realize what it was, but at the beginning"

Fairies World®
When you conceive an idea do you get something out first?

"No! I suppose that is a reaction to when I used to do book covers, you have to do roughs and show them what its going to look like. Once you said you would show them what it would look like that was really hard work, to show them you could do it. Now of course I know what it looks like, and what comes from it, so I like to keep the surprise. I have lots of loose drawings and sketch books but they are never finished because the finished bit comes when you actually paint the picture, when everything comes into focus and into rest."

Fairies World®
I imagine you have a lot of sketches waiting something you envisage at the time, yet remain unfinished?

"Yes, they are just waiting for the right moment"

Fairies World®
Is there one particular favourite picture or character that for you is the ultimate?

"No not really no, there are many. Each time I paint a picture it is always superb, and then I think, Oh God this is rubbish, and then I do the next one and Oh no, this is rubbish, and it really is rubbish, and then I think, what was the other like and it wasn't so bad after all!"

Fairies World®
Do you destroy your images?

"No I never destroy, I'm such a stubborn old so and so. People say give me one of your mistakes, I say I don't make mistakes! I do actually make mistakes but I cover them over I just won't let it go I find ways of incorporating mistakes in it. I always find ways of rescuing something. I don't want to give in, I don't want give up on something. Whereas Alan he would, if it didn't work out he would just do it again I was talking to him about that this time, when he was over in UK from New Zealand where he has been working this past three years on Lord of the Rings, he said he had just been looking through a lot of his old art, he looked at it and thought 'What was I thinking about this was fine', he had done three or four versions of something and they were all OK. We slow down as we get older."

Fairies World®
When you start a picture do you start with the eyes?

"Yes, it could be a little lump a little dot or something and then it starts to happen"

Fairies World®
If you have two characters again both with eyes?

"Yes, mine are always really fluid, it is tricky doing faeries because they are fluid, you don't want to pin them down you've got to keep it open, keep the emotion open, you've got to keep the experience open as well, you don't want to shut it down by you getting in the way as an artist."

Fairies World®
What about wings, fairies don't always have wings? Do you see a colored wing?

"A wing is just an extension of an expression of a faery, of what the faery is, yes but they are made up of emotion. I've always toyed with the idea of doing a train spotters book of fairy wings because somehow each wing is so individual, it's unique, but encapsulated in it is pure idea and emotion."

Fairies World®
That beautiful faery you have on the front of your current CD. How did you conceive that image 'Dreamweaver?'

"That is coming from a burst of energy I feel that is happening with the faery a spontaneous expression really it is pure energy. I think often you experience faeries as pure energy first and then the human mind tries to channel it into something that understands. The human mind that understands the human form wants to put a face, wants to put a body on it. It is all just levels of reality, you can experience it, like on a first level which is very real but very straight forward, but as you keep going through the layers it become more and more abstract, but it is still the same thing, you are just experiencing it on a different level, that's all"

Fairies World®
Your other wonderful characters do they just come out of the hedgerows?

"Well yes, but my experience of hedgerows is that I just doodle them in a sketch book, and Sneezle in particular came about from Wendy looking in a sketch book and picking out and developing it."

Fairies World®
Are there any self portraits in your work?

"I don't think you can but help to put yourself into everything you do, because that is how you experience the world through yourself. I mean we are the funny lump thing that goes around with us, so you do that yes, but occasionally I do put myself in. Yes, there are a couple of self portraits. It puzzled the editor of the 'Good Faeries Bad Faeries' book when she said I don't understand who this character is, who is it? (It's the one about 'The Faery that is Oddly Familiar!') I wonder if it's me? I said no, Its oddly familiar, think about it!"

Fairies World®
When did you first meet a pressed faery?

"Ah well they rescued me. The wonderful thing about the pressed faeries is they came to rescue me, because I was trying to get my book 'Good Faeries Bad Faeries' published and no publisher would publisher it. They kept saying nobody cares about faeries noone is going to read a book about faeries. I thought my goodness what have I got to do to prove to them that people will read a book about faeries and lo and behold Lady Cottington came to the rescue, and every time I would mention the story of Lady Cottington squashing the Faeries between the pages of the book people would be looking at me horrified, they would move for a moment of actual disbelief about faeries to utter belief because they were horrified! Because they were suddenly really believing in the poor plight of a faery, so when that book was published it paved the way. There was such a great response. It is really important to discover that they were just psychic impressions, because one of the purposes that I do is to try and to help bringing the faeries back into our consciousness, so it is no good me being involved in a book that killed them off, it is not my purpose. Once readers have discovered that it is actually a metaphysical book everything I do has a metaphysical aspect to it, I keep approaching the same thing but different ways, I keep coming at it from different angles, some people don't understand that, some people don't understand the purpose of humor in metaphysics, it is very important just as a way of communicating it doesn't have to be heavy and serious."

Fairies World®
Do you see the pressed faeries as worrying to young children or parents being cautious about them?

"I never sense that myself. I've found always the best way is not to pre-think problems, I always assume that children live in the same world we do I always approach it that way, so I don't specifically do books for children that are for adults however I always assume that children will read them. That's a very big part of it. I think its best to always be direct and honest as possible in everything I do, and I have to say that I've never had any problems, though I had one letter of complaint about Lady Cottington, which was a very bizarre one, a woman had bought it for her daughter who turned out to be twenty one years old and how shocked she was it wasn't what she was expecting! But that's the only one. I've never experienced otherwise any problems from children themselves, they love it!"

Fairies World®
You really have this calling and passion for faery?

"We worked for years, you mention the word faery, people will retreat because they have stuck in their mind what they think faery is, and it is always small and diminished, in fact again this new book will show people its not, it's huge and it's multi faceted and it's going to be an eye opener."

Fairies World®
Is your art child safe?

"My art's not safe, I don't want it to be safe, it's not meant to be safe, its controversial, it takes you into deep areas, it's a journey, its starts off in safe areas but it gets into deep waters."

Fairies World®
You seem to perceive the faery world is for everyone if they believe

"One of the interesting things that over the years we've been developing our ideas for the World of Froud and talked to publishers about working on projects and I would also have galleries where they would intensively want my work to be exclusive. I would keep saying the world we are talking about is not exclusive, it's inclusive, and everybody can join in its part of bringing everybody in and not cutting things off, everyone's first impulse is to cut it off. I need to own this, I need to own a bit of it. Actually, it's not like that at all, it is a thing that should go on enlarging bringing energies and enjoyment and pleasure, yes faeries are for everyone."

Further information on the Fantasy Art of Brian Froud
Not to reproduced in whole or in part with out permission

A Tribute to Brian from Artists Around the World

Pictures and Quotes

Brian Froud Stencils

Brian Froud Meeting with Fairies World®

The Artists of Fairies World® are Available for Commissions
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