What do you do when you can’t find the ideal piece of artwork? You create it yourself – and find yourself running an international business. Charlotte Thorneycroft talks to Stephanie Brown about her work…
Have you ever decorated a room and then been left frustrated because you can’t find that perfect piece of artwork to adorn your walls? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Swaffham-based mother-of-two Stephanie Brown when it came to putting the finishing touches to the office in her new home. Eventually she decided that if she couldn’t find something she liked, she would actually make it instead.
Five years on and Stephanie is well known for her bold and striking contemporary art, selling pieces all over the world through her website.
Although she studied Art and Design at college in Wisbech, Stephanie didn’t believe becoming an artist would be a future career option.
“Nobody on the course was encouraged to be an artist,” she says.
“I suppose it can be very difficult to break into, so the tutors showed us more employable ways to use our creativity.”
After moving into marketing from college, Stephanie decided to combine the two disciplines and formed her own design agency – One Vision.
Working alongside her husband Matt, she found time between the business and her two children to play around with designs and create something that would make a statement in her blank room.
The result was an arrangement of red, black and blue shapes on a bright yellow background – titled ‘Open’, the piece represented the idea of an open culture, of open and honest living.
It’s fitting that this piece also opened the door to a new and unexpected career for Stephanie, as friends began to admire and comment on the work she was creating for her own home, asking if they could have some too.
With a re-awakened pleasure in her passion for art, Stephanie realised an opportunity and set to design her first sale piece – ‘Pout’ – an abstract depiction of nine lipstick heads, all a different colour.
The striking design has an underlying meaning as well as being bright wall art, as Stephanie explains.
“I always have something in the background of my pictures so they not only look good but have a greater depth,” she says.
“When I was designing ‘Pout’ I was thinking about the choices people had in history, especially the black community. White people have had so much more choice than black people in the past – which is why there’s only one black lipstick in the picture.”
As you may have gathered, Stephanie can be inspired by absolutely anything – from news stories to popular music – which then develops into a design with traditional pencil and paper sketches before the final piece is crafted digitally.
For example, the tone of her first piece ‘Open’ was set by a track by the band Snow Patrol.
Stephanie releases two collections of 20 pieces every year, and is currently working on a new collection which features a diverse range of subjects from animals to cupcakes. Stephanie admits to listening to a lot of Iron Maiden recently, so the designs should be well worth waiting for!
Stephanie’s collections don’t have specific themes – the designs are as (seemingly) random as the flamboyant use of colour that characterises the majority of her work.
“Each design is individual and although some are black and white pictures I enjoy the energy that comes from vivid contemporary art,” says Stephanie.
“I admire the old masters and people like Picasso but I’m a really modern girl. I have a lot of respect for people like Andy Warhol.”
Stephanie has been flatteringly compared to the great pop artist Warhol in the past, whose influence is evident in some of the thoughts behind her work, although her designs are pure and unique.
“One of my favourite pieces is ‘Kate’, which was inspired by Kate Moss who was struggling with drugs at the time. The eyes in the picture are all different colours and I was thinking about how as a model she has to be another person at every shoot she goes on. The piece is my interpretation of that situation.
“Sometimes the pictures can have something in them that wouldn’t normally be seen as a beautiful, but they still look nice.
“I have quite a few with spiders and skulls on – gruesome things which I’ve combined with something that’s beautiful (like diamonds) to generate a piece of artwork that’s still pleasurable to look at.”
Since her first exhibition in 2006 when Stephanie launched her collection at the Charing X Gallery in London, work commitments for both One Vision and her art haven’t allowed time to display publically, which is an area she would like to explore in the future.
Describing her home as her gallery, Stephanie has amounted a vast array of designs over the years by producing 40 new images each year and is now looking to expand her range in other ways.
Prints featuring the Union Jack such as ‘Our Union’ and ‘Patriot’ all had roots in ideas surrounding the 2012 Olympics, and the formation of communities.
Branching out from the wall art Stephanie is looking into producing these on items such as handbags as they’re some of the most popular from her varied portfolio of designs.
For more information on Stephanie J Brown Contemporary Art visit the official website at www.stephaniejbrown.com KL