Zoë Irving is a 17 year old artist and photographer from near Wigton. Her art is bold and beautiful, creating 'outside the box' pieces we can't take our eyes off. For this Creator of Week, we caught up with Zoë to learn a little more about her and her art.
Tell us a bit about how you first got into art.
Well, there isn’t really one specific moment that comes to mind; I guess I’ve always been quite a creative person. The term ‘art’ comes in a multitude of forms, which everyone grows up surrounded by (even if they don’t realise it). I think I grasped onto many of these art forms at a young age.
I am a BIG lover of movies, a couple of my favourites are ‘Titanic’ (1997) and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). My love for movies has now developed into an interest in filmmaking. I think I started taking photos when I was around 11 or 12 when I received my first camera, and this progressed onto making little travel films and vlogs that I would upload to YouTube and make all of my friends watch.
Starting GCSEs was when I really began to focus on fine art. I discovered the medium of acrylic paint, which is the one I always end up being drawn towards. GCSEs soon became A Levels, and there was a period between the end of year 11 and half way into Year 12 where I felt my work improved more rapidly than ever. My current A-Level topic is Self Expression, which has given me loads of freedom - I get to study various fine artists and also explore expressive techniques used within films, such as the psychology of colour and incorporating them into vibrant acrylic pieces.
What do you enjoy most about creating art?
With painting, it’s definitely watching a piece come to life. My recent work has been predominantly portraiture and I’ve found it to be the art that comes most naturally to me. The portraits that are on the more refined side often take a while to complete, but you get the very best feeling when you step away from a painting that’s taken you forever, and see that it’s finally beginning to ‘pop’ and become something you’re really proud of.
Painting also gives me a place to pause and be in my own little world. I’ve been recently struggling to find motivation and feeling quite stressed in terms of keeping up with school work, but the other week after quite a long break from art, I sat on my bedroom floor, put on some Sara Bareilles songs and got to work on a painting - honestly, it felt like a big exhale.
When you decide to create a piece, what kinds of places do you find inspiration?
I feel inspired by so many things! When I’m planning a photoshoot, the first thing I’ll do is go to Pinterest. I have so many boards filled with really beautiful photography, pieces of art and even stills from movies that I just think are interesting and well composed. It feels like these boards are a way of displaying (and organising) the constant chaos of my brain! They also act as a great way of discovering new ideas that I would have never come across or thought of on my own.
I feel heavily inspired by aspects of the modern media. Editorial photography, films, and in particular the series ‘Euphoria’ directed by Sam Levinson has been a big focus of my art and photography. I’m so interested in the ways it utilises colour and elicits an acceptance of self. In ‘Euphoria’, Levinson extracts the inner expressions from the show's teenage characters, and portrays it outwardly through makeup and fashion that defy society’s ‘norms’.
How has lockdown affected your painting/photography? I was going to say that it hadn't really affected my painting at all, but it did at the start. When lockdown one happened so suddenly last March, I had just started my current A Level project, and had so many ideas of covering my friends in wacky makeup with glitter, sequins, you name it. Of course this wasn’t possible, and I needed reference photos so in the end I had to compromise with a series of self portraits which I was skeptical about but actually turned out pretty successful! Since taking those self portraits I’ve started enjoying photography and editing photos more than ever, and have done many shoots with my friends when lockdowns have been eased. This has meant that during the current lockdown I’ve had a great bank of photos to reference for my art.
What are your future plans and goals with your art?
The absolute dream is to one day direct a full length film! At the moment I’m working on portfolio submissions for the filmmaking courses I have applied to study at uni, so fingers crossed! I’ve planned to take a gap year and I would love to open up commissions in both painting and photography once I finish school to earn money for travelling.
Once my art A Level is complete, I’ll also have so much more freedom with painting without the stress of deadlines and sketchbook work to keep up to date with, which will be very nice indeed. I cannot wait to travel with my friends (and my camera) and take some amazing photos around the world. Other career options I’ve always loved the idea of include the videography of weddings, music videos or even travel journalism. But we’ll have to see what happens!
To see more art, you can follow Zoë's Instagram at @zoeirving.art