10 Questions With Oriana Fenwick

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What does art mean to you?

“Art is the best way to make visual the elements of life or thought that are not easily accessible through words or gestures. Through art whole new worlds can be brought about.”

What is your background, what is your story?

“I grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe surrounded by a very artistic family. I used to watch my mother for hours making her pictures in her studio. I remember being especially fond of her pencil drawings and from an early age desperately tried to be as good as her. Practicing my own drawing skills on every surface – much to my parents dismay – I slowly but surely got better. My obsession never stopped. I loved challenging myself to capture my surroundings just as they were.

My mother and I moved to Frankfurt, Germany when I was in my early teens. I’m sure the change of surroundings had an influence on my art, seeing as I became more and more interested in the human form and generally organically shaped objects as motifs. My ability to draw always played a role in my life though I never really thought I would seriously pursue art or illustration as a job later. After my A-levels I applied to the art college (Hochschule fuer Gestaltung) in Offenbach, more for fun than anything else thinking that I would be better off studying something “serious” such as medicine. When the admittance to the art college came through I felt unexpectedly different about the situation. It suddenly made much more sense to pursue a job that incorporated my talents and true interests. I haven’t regretted my decision since.”

What inspired your works?

“I feel mostly inspired by the human form and other organic shapes. I also find that banal objects put into different and unusual contexts can be very interesting. Sometimes it is the odd expression in someone’s face that can be unexpectedly inspiring or the gloss of a person’s hair.”

How do you feel when you are creating? How do you feel when you have finished a piece?

 “The actual process of drawing is to me a way to let go and relax. The feeling you get when you know something is working out just the way you planned it is hugely thrilling and captivating. I usually strive for scientific perfection whilst working on an illustration. 

Depending on whether I’m really totally satisfied with my work or not usually determines how I feel once I have completed a piece.”

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

“Unusual and unexpected visual experiences using what I find in my surroundings. I love the unexpected “WOW” effect.”

What medium do you gravitate towards and why?

“I almost exclusively use pencil for my drawings. I love the depth you can bring into a picture using just different shades of grey. Pencil is also very forgiving – if not entirely satisfied with something there is always the possibility of reversing what it is you don’t like, it gives you more control over the situation than paint for example. So many people are strictly against the use of erasers, but I don’t see why they should be prohibited when trying to achieve a desired effect.”

How do you feel when people misinterpret your work?

“I don’t believe in misinterpretation. I like to let people see what they want to see with regard to my pictures. I don’t like telling others what to feel but far more try to grant them the freedom of using their own imagination.”

What advice do you have for other artists?

“Do what makes you happy and stay true to yourself. Find out what your own talent is and go with it. Don’t compare your work to that of other’s – easier said than done but very important. Only this way can you avoid distraction and develop your own visual language.”

If today was your last day, what do you want people to know about you and your works?

“I hope I managed to make the one or the other person happy with what I do.

 (A platitude on the side: I always start with the left eye when drawing faces)”

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