We came across Graham Bradshaw’s work online and since then have been so impressed with his attention to detail and creativity in his drawings. We asked Graham to answer a few questions about his life and work:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Liverpool but we moved away when I was very young. I was raised in a small village called Chinnor in Oxfordshire. Chinnor sits right on the edge of the Chilterns & is a really nice place to grow up; home to all my childhood memories. I now live in Rugby, Warwickshire with my wife, three children & a loopy German Shepherd. I work full time as a Team Leader for a company called Cemex which has long 12 hour shifts but lots of time off in between. I’ve always been very hands on & mechanically minded, fixing, designing & making things has always played a part in my line of work. My favourite subjects at school where always Art, Woodwork & Metalwork. Drawing is something I do in my spare time; usually late at night when all the kids are asleep. Sometimes I’ll be up until the early hours because that’s the only time I get to draw. I find drawing very relaxing & once the headphones are on, the pencils come out & the iPod’s set to shuffle I’ll drift off into my own world & lose myself for while.
How would you describe your work?
I feel that my work is very much like every other graphite portrait artist. This is something I’d like to break away from rather than continuously drawing portraits of celebs, people’s family members & animals. Please don’t get me wrong as I do enjoy drawing these things but I’d like to start combining ideas and making my work different if that makes sense. The drawing ‘Lost in a dream’ was my first attempt at breaking away from the normal. Although surreal, the drawing still holds a realistic vibe. I think the best way to describe my work at the moment is ‘evolving’.
How did you start out as an artist?
I began drawing at a very early age. At first I drew cartoons that I’d send in to Phillip Schofield. Phillip was really cool! He showed two of my cartoons on his children’s show on CBBC & also read out my name twice. The first cartoon was Scooby Doo & the other was Count Duckula. I received a letter & badge from the BBC to say thanks for sending in the drawings. I was really chuffed about it & remember wearing my badge to school every day for weeks. It wasn’t until I was twelve that I discovered my ability to draw people. It sounds bad but I stole my brother’s Derwent pencils & FHM magazine to draw Sherilyn Fenn. It was kind of accidental really but that’s where it all started I guess.
How has your style evolved over the years?
From the age of 18 I gave up drawing for years. My parents always told me I had a wasted talent but you know what it’s like being young; all I wanted to do was hang out with my mates & party. I’d draw the odd picture from time to time but never really took it anywhere. In my twenties I spent a lot of my time learning how to play guitar. I got good on guitar but I always knew I’d never be as good at that as I was at drawing. In 2010 I decided to start drawing again & began sharing my work online. I’m constantly competing against myself with every piece I draw striving to make every drawing better than my last. Back in 2010 my work was soft & lacked depth. Over the last two years my style has become a lot more detailed, accurate & realistic but most importantly it has depth. I now know the exact pencil grades that suit my style & the paper I need to use; back in 2010 I didn’t have a clue & was still experimenting.
Do you have your own studio? How have you made the space work for you & your creativity?
I don’t have a studio as such but I do have a room that I share with my German Shepherd who snores a lot. In the room I have a large angled art desk that has a massive canvas of New York City above it. I love New York, it fascinates me, unfortunately I’ve never been there but it’s always been on my ‘to do’ list.
What is your favourite piece of work and why?
That would have to be ‘Lost in a Dream’ simply because it’s the first time I’ve really let myself go creatively. The drawing is a concept rather than just copying from a photograph.
Who or what inspires your work?
I’m inspired by a lot of things but mainly my kids. They often ask if they can see my drawings & if I’m drawing one of them they get really excited. Music inspires me a lot & listening to my iPod while I draw is a MUST! I can’t draw without music. If I’m having a tough time with a drawing I’ll change tracks to get a more uplifting tune which drives me to keep going. Artists who inspire me are Hyper-Realism artists such as Paul Cadden. I’d like to become Hyper-Realistic in my drawings but what I don’t want to do is copy another artist’s style. Finding my own direction & having my own ideas is my main goal as an artist.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an artist?
I’d tell them that there’s no such thing as one big break! The only reality in art is hard work. If you’re serious about becoming an artist then you’ll get your rewards, but if there ever comes a time when you stop enjoying what you do… give up!
What are the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of being an artist?
Wow that’s a tough question because there’re so many. The best feeling is completing a commission that the owner loves & gets emotional over. Then there’s the sense of achievement when you’ve completed a piece, the moment when you stand away from the art board for a while & admire your work from a distance. I also love it when you’re in the process of drawing & you get that feeling that it’s going better than you expected. Posting your new piece on Facebook & sitting there refreshing the page to see how many people have liked it; sad I know but any artist who doesn’t admit to doing this is a liar.
Posting on Facebook isn’t just exciting but it’s also a very nervous time for an artist. The most rewarding part is all the amazing people & other artists I’ve met since sharing my work online. One of my most memorable moments was when my artwork was seen by a member of the film industry. I was invited to Pinewood studios for the day to visit sets for The Da Vinci Code & Children Of Men. The Da Vinci Code was amazing; I don’t want to ruin it for people but they couldn’t get permission to film inside the real Louvre in Paris so they recreated the entire gallery at Pinewood. There was still blood on the floor when I went in because they’d filmed the opening scene the morning I was there. I wasn’t supposed to see the set because I was actually on my way to meet Tom Hanks. Tom wasn’t available because he was filming on another stage at the time so the guy I was with asked if I’d like to see The Louvre instead. I never did get to meet Mr Hanks but that day still remains one of the best days of my life thanks to my artwork. There’s more but I’ll let you (Derwent) reveal that when you’re ready.
What are your top tips for budding pencil artists?
My main tip is to be patient; never rush and always believe in your ability. If you ever get tired or start to struggle leave it alone & come back to it later. You’ll always see your drawing from a different prospective when you’ve been away from it for a while. As for techniques I’ve found that a tortillion (smudge stick) works great for accurate detail & blending. I often get asked how I keep the paper so clean. Most artists already know this but for those of you just starting out, try using a blank piece of paper to mask out the areas where you place your hand during drawing, that way you won’t smudge your work.
Thanks so much to Graham for sharing his thoughts with us. Find out more about Graham and his work by visiting: