Artist name: Brian Froud
25-01-03, Brian Froud talking
to Fairies World®
Copyright© 2003 Fairies World® & World
"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
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
"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."
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"
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
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."
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."
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."
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"
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!"
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."
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."
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"
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."
I imagine you have a lot of
sketches waiting something you envisage at the time, yet
"Yes, they are just waiting for the right moment"
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!"
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."
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"
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
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."
That beautiful faery you have
on the front of your current CD. How did you conceive that
"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"
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."
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!"
When did you first meet a pressed
"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
Do you see the pressed faeries
as worrying to young children or parents being cautious about
"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!"
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
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."
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
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