Interview with Carla Boulton a professional artist and graphic designer
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We speak to Carla Boulton - a professional artist and graphic designer

I met Carla on Twitter very early on when I first started tweeting and I actually bought 2 artworks from her which hang proudly in our guest room. I was drawn to Carla's daily sketches of everyday life and we started talking about art, business and many other things.

Carla is currently very busy with a collaboration at Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury, the oldest iron-framed building in Europe, derelict and at the planning stages of redevelopment, where she recently participated in a group show. She is showing a series of photographs and installations using Flax fibres.

Carla tells us how she got started and how she loves working in collaboration with other artists....

"As a professional artist and graphic designer, I like nothing more than to collaborate, talk through ideas and work with fellow artists and clients on projects. What’s more I love my work and love to work with great clients. My most productive collaborations have often emerged during good coffee and cake!

My passion is to see the ‘odd’ in every day, to create designs and images of beauty to make the viewer think about the patterns and strangeness in nature and life. Always drawing on paper, walls, clothes on everything, constantly photographing as a way to record ideas for later use – I love to work with clients who are open to ideas who will listen and be prepared to learn about the processes – an educated client is always happier.

Unreachable, acrylic and fibre on cotton canvas

I first showed my paintings and drawings at a gallery in Islington, London in 1988. It was fantastic, I was 18 and I did well with sales, hung out with cool people and got lots of great feedback.

With only the arrogance of youth not the confidence that comes with age and with no funds to continue, I somehow sidestepped and didn’t exhibit again for many years.

Lucking and bluffing (that youthful arrogance thing again) my way into work in the fabric trade drawing pictures to print and embroider onto linings and trimmings was a good start – this was the 80s so being the daughter of a farmer and able to draw flying ducks or leaping horses came in handy.
I come from a long line of business-people, it has never really occurred to me to go and get a ‘proper job’, I am puzzled when others are amazed that I do what I love – I always have . . . making my living in the creative industries: designing, painting, drawing, photographing and making with various stop-offs on the way to manage a Jazz band; project manage for the BBC Proms Education; edit education books and design festival programmes.
Graphic pen drawing Carla Boulton
Drawing in graphic pen on paper made at Shrewsbury Jelly business meeting

In 1999 I began a design company called Naughty Mutt Ltd with my husband, a computer programmer, as a way to bring together everything we both know and can do. From painting and illustration through print design to e-commerce websites, over the years all the disciplines have been used. I feel so lucky, doing what I really enjoy and being paid to do it is a daily privilege, one to be worked at hard and cared for.
In 2007 I realised some aspects of the design business could run themselves without me for two days a week whilst I went back to college to study. I’m quite a confident person but hell it was scary, it was years since I’d been in the classroom and I shook on the first day, in fact later when as a group we talked we found we had all felt the same.
My main aim in returning to college was to challenge the way I create work; in my mind to ‘change my style’. A year later I had trudged a full circle through various media and styles directly back to where I had started. What a relief to learn something about how I work – it’s what I do well and how the images come out that matter to me
I work producing two distinct types of image: black and white line drawings made in very fine graphic pen, sometimes left as mono, often coloured either in PhotoShop or by hand with pantone pens and secondly painting on canvas with either acrylic or oil usually adding fibres as I work. In either style I usually create a series of works based upon a piece of writing or a single image from which I draw many interpretations.

A photograph, landscape or theme from which I am making work can almost become an obsession, I work until the theme is exhausted – yes occasionally this has even become frustrating to me, I go to sleep wondering if I will be able to move-on the next day! 

Since re-establishing myself as an artist I have had five shows, worked on a series of huge murals in a school, sold and sent work all over the World.
Children working on the 5 murals produced under my direction at a school in Shrewsbury, UK

I love to work for and with clients, the part of me which has been a graphic designer for years allows me to take a precise brief for commissions and work with it without compromising the process and the outcome. I always start the commission process with an in depth conversation about how I work and ask the client to carefully browse my previous work preferably in reality rather than just online.

In a real ‘back to my fashion roots’ moment, I recently produced a series of fashion drawings for a client launching a new style-advice business, lovely to work on and a delight to deliver.

A completely new area for me has been sitting in on business network meetings, drawing people as they go about their ‘normal’ working day. I call it pencil-spying. It’s a novelty and several commissions have resulted from these days, it’s such a pleasure and I have rarely found workers to be worried by my sketching.
My current collaboration is an ongoing project and group show at Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury, this is the oldest iron-framed building in Europe, derelict and at the planning stages of redevelopment this is an exciting point to be involved with. The history aspect is wonderful and the opportunity to work with English Heritage is fantastic. My first piece of work for this goes on show in the Cross Mill building of the Flax Mill on 11th/2th September 2010 and will be a series of photographs and a small installation using Flax fibres and plants relating to the lives of the very young child-workers used as labour in the 17 and 1800s. "

If you would like to see more of Carla's work, please visit her website. Carla is happy to take commissions.

Naughty Mutt Ltd
Design for Books, Magazines,Leaflets & Brochures Telephone 01743 340 500


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