This is the first time we’ve featured the work of Cumbrian artist Fem Sorcell. The 27-year-old painter and illustrator has been living in Sheffield for two years now, and it is here that her work and identity as an artist have taken shape.
Have you always been interested in art?
Since I can remember. I’ve always been creative in general. I think when I was quite young, 7 or 8, I just used to draw by myself and I realised I liked that better than anything, better than socialising, and I just carried on doing that.
Did you study art formally?
I studied textiles and surface patterns at Leeds College of Art, but it wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t built to work in a fast-paced environment. I found I’d invest loads of time into one piece, whereas textile designers – hats off to them – have to create multiple pieces within a short time frame. It was the wrong course, but it’s okay, it led to other things.
What did you do after you realised textiles weren’t for you?
I actually got really sick of doing art and moved to Sheffield to get away from it, but that didn’t work. I got a part-time job and I met a girl who asked me: “What’s your thing?” I told her I “supposed” it was art and she turned around and said, “I’ve got a job for you.” She took me to this really big wall and was like, “There you go.” Within the first month of being in Sheffield I was back in the loop.
What is it about the Sheffield art scene that keeps you here?
It’s the people that have kept me here more than anything. I really like how humble they are, it’s quite different to other cities. There’s more of a ‘grassroots’ feel, but I also really think there’s something bubbling within Sheffield. There’s a high population of artists – it’s just waiting to rise up.
On your website, you describe your work as ‘intricate, floral gore’. Can you tell us a little more?
I think I’ve always been obsessed with finding the intricacy and beauty within something. Even if to the eye it doesn’t necessarily come across as beautiful, I’ll dig a little bit deeper and try and make it beautiful by making it more intricate. With floral gore, I think it’s the juxtaposition of my stuff being quite feminine and pretty, but – and I don’t always realise – it’s a little bit gory sometimes. It’s got a bit of an edge.
Your work features a lot of human figures, particularly feminine ones. What is their significance?
I really love watching how people socialise and interact and what vibes they give off. It’s something I’ve done since I was young. So when I’m drawing people, I’m drawing my perception of them. I think with the feminine figures, it comes more from within. I try to portray beautiful, strong women. I just really enjoy drawing them.
What are the biggest struggles artists face in trying to make a living from their practice?
It’s different for different people, but for artists generally, I think it’s that we think in a certain kind of way. Artists make art because they love it, they’re often not business-minded people. For me, I draw and then I put it in a drawer, I don’t really think, “Oh, I need to sell this to make a living.” So, being more business-minded and being proud of it being a business. Also, I think you can either get sucked into the everyday way of life, working 9-5, 5 days a week, or you can be strict with yourself, work 3 days a week and live to your means so that you can put that extra time towards working on your own stuff, it’s finding a balance. So, finding balance and being business-minded.
What’s on the books for 2017?
I’ve started a series called The Sonder Series which is about the realisation that each person is living a really intricate life that we don’t really know anything about. I’ve already got a few images which are going to feature in this new set of work, which will be… around [smiles]. Also, fingers crossed I’ll be taking part in a street art festival in the summer, we’re just waiting to hear back on some funding.
Interview by Danielle Mustarde
Images courtesy of Fem Sorcell