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Lost City

Interview: Corrina Rothwell on Life as an Artist and the End of Blather

18 May 20 interview: Alex Mace

After almost two years of unleashing the manic brilliance of writer Adrian Reynolds in an illustrative fashion, our regular feature, Blather, sadly came to an end last month. Instead of getting all melancholy about things, we chose to celebrate its time between the pages by catching up (over email, of course) with the local lady behind the brushes: Corrina Rothwell. Under the spotlight we get chatting about Blather’s beginnings, the pleasures and perils of being an artist and the inspirations behind her brand of explosive abstract workings.

Starting from the beginning, how did Blather come to be?
It was all down to Adrian (Reynolds), he's the ideas guy. We've been friends for ages and he was always keen for us to collaborate on something, but the right thing hadn't really presented itself before. Blather provided the perfect opportunity. It’s kind of sad that it’s come to an end, but at the same time I felt like it was at the end of its natural life, partly due to the fact that I no longer work as an illustrator. Two years was a perfect length of time for it to run.

Can you tell us a bit about your other art projects?
I was working as an illustrator until recently – my main thing was funny greeting cards. I'm probably best known locally for my Apostrophe Rage design. But over the past two years I've been painting. I wanted to get back to something more expressive, more hands-on and visceral. I wanted to get my hands dirty and express myself from the heart and gut rather than the mind. Designing cards was all about thinking. So I've ended up really getting into big abstract paintings to the exclusion of everything else. 

How did you get into the industry in the first place? Was art always your passion? 
I've just always done art. My mum and dad were artists, I grew up in that environment. I did go to university to study European Studies, but I dropped out after a year and started making painted cushions on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. I've done other jobs along the way but essentially I'm an artist, that's been the common thread throughout my life and that's all I want to do, ultimately. 

Where does your inspiration come from?
This is a difficult question to answer with the work I'm doing now because it's not ideas-based. I work intuitively, but obviously I'm always soaking up information from the world around me in terms of colour, shape, pattern etc. Lately I've been drawn to industrial buildings and have been collaging small photographic images into my paintings – I feel like this comes from the landscape I grew up in, in Lancashire. I tend not to question it really. I just try and shut my brain off and go with whatever I'm compelled to put on the canvas. 

Do you ever suffer from an inspiration block? 
I get stuck quite frequently, partly because I don't like to stay in one place for too long and have to find new things to do in my paintings to try to keep myself interested and excited.

My go-to solution is usually to just let rip on a big piece of canvas with lots of paint and big brushes, painting with my hands, spraying water, splashing ink – and eventually, something will start to come out of the chaos. Sometimes this process requires wine and loud music too, if I'm finding it hard to let go! 

What have you got in the works at the moment? 
Well, as you know everything has gone a bit tits-up lately! So everything that was in the pipeline for the next few months no longer is. I had an exhibition scheduled for May with two artist friends at the Nottingham Society of Artists which we're hoping to hold towards the end of the year instead. I've been running small painting workshops from my home studio recently, which have been very popular – but obviously I can't do those for the time being. So I'm focusing on continuing to build up my body of work ready for when things get moving again. 

What is it like to be an artist in 2020? 
Being an artist at any time isn't an easy option. It's a pretty precarious lifestyle and, unless you're well established and have collectors regularly buying work from you, you're going to find yourself on a bit of a financial roller coaster. Obviously it's impossible to talk about what it's like to be an artist in 2020 without referencing our current situation which, of course, has made things incredibly difficult for lots of people, not least of all self-employed artists. Our income has dropped away dramatically and we're left scrambling around trying to come up with ways to make money to survive. Personally, I'm trying to ramp up my online sales which is the obvious thing to do. And offering gift vouchers that people can buy and use towards workshops and artwork once this is all over. 

Do you have any advice for young artists? 
Oh gosh – do I? I'm not sure. I didn't do any of this in a sensible way, really! The main things I guess are: you need to be persistent, you need to be tenacious and you need grit. If you really, really want to do this, then you just have to keep going despite the insecurity, the knock-backs, the crises of confidence. You have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul!

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