This week Brighton Journal spoke to local award winning animator and illustrator, Belle Mellor. Belle’s work focuses on emotional honesty, and frequently uses humour to explore its themes. She has created editorial illustration for various clients including The Guardian and The Economist, and is currently working on a commission for British Medical Journal. We discussed Belle’s inspirations, as well as how she’s recently been taking animation “out into the local environment.” Keep reading to find out more about Belle’s wonderful work and upcoming animation workshops.
What are you doing today?
I‘ve just finished teaching an animation workshop with Students at the UEL. I’m also going to be showing some work in the Little Mustard Shop at the start of June, so need to get going on some animations for that.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I have a lovely studio Space in Beaconsfield studios, sharing with designers, illustrators, fabric designers and a translator. I’ve been working from home in the pandemic, which fortunately has been fine (especially because we have a lockdown rescue kitten).
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
There have been lots of lovely ones along the way, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one. I’ve loved doing editorial illustration for various clients like The Guardian and The Economist over the years. I’m really enjoying animation commissions at the moment (recent ones have been for English Heritage, CEFAS and Historic environment Scotland). Since graduating from my MA at the RCA in 2005, it’s felt like I’ve been on a massive learning curve to make commercially viable work (there aren’t too many clients out there who want to pay for old school frame by frame animation!). I’m getting great satisfaction out of having stuck in there with the upskilling, and to be at a point where I can really enjoy the process of making animation to a deadline.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I loved drawing and making things as a little girl. My mum went to art college as a mature student when I was about 11, and we used to go there after school. I was so impressed by the graphics and illustration students and their work (and the chips in the canteen), that I really wanted to become one of them.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished working on some animations about reducing plastic litter. It was a lovely one to work on, and satisfying to be working on a project that could have a little positive impact. Tomorrow, I’ll be tackling an illustration commission for British Medical Journal.
What are the key themes in your work?
In terms of commissioned work, I enjoy getting my teeth into all sorts of topics (quantum physics, Climate change, Indo Pacific relations, mental health, and 13th century Scottish History have all been recent ones). I try to find clear and witty solutions to complex briefs. I particularly enjoy working for clients with an ethical outlook that I feel aligned with.
In terms of personal work, I often start with a strong emotion (anxiety, fear, grief, envy, joy) and then explore the theme. I like bringing a bit of humour into difficult topics if I can, whilst keeping some sort of emotional honesty in there.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
If my work could make someone smile, or think, or feel, I’d be chuffed.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
In terms of drawing, I was always very attached to my ink pen and a pot of ink, although in the last couple of years I’ve made a transition to drawing in Procreate for animation projects. It was hard letting go of the whiff of paper and the sharpness of a real line, but must admit the development has revolutionised my workflow, and made commercial projects so much more manageable and enjoyable! Rather disappointingly, nobody seems to be able to tell the difference anyway! I also use photoshop for editing images, and After Effects for animation.
What equipment could you not do without?
My pen and ink are still there, ready for action, but at the moment it would definitely be my MacBook Pro, Wacom tablet, iPad and Apple pen.
Who or what inspires you?
I find the mix of live theatre or dance and animation really exciting. I loved the shows Golem by 1927 and Norman by 4d Art. A couple of Years ago I made some animated projections for the Dancer Laura Careless, and it was really inspiring to collaborate with a performer.
A really good and fierce bit of ink drawing can take my breath away too. David Hughes springs to mind.
I’m really curious about VR as well – it’s amazing that there is a completely new medium for artists to express themselves. I’ve only dipped my toe in with Tilt Brush, but found it wonderful.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I’m currently playing around with Adobe Aero AR app, and am really enjoying taking animation out into the local environment. In general, I’m like a dog in that I need a good dose of daily outdoor exercise to function, so living near the sea helps me do this!
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
I love the secret highway that appears on the beach when there is a really low tide, so keep a close eye on my tide charts and head down whenever I can. I’m one of the many lined up in the morning for a chilly sea dip too, and love catching the sun rises and sun sets down here. I’m a bit of a Brighton cliché (vegetarian creative gay who likes yoga and sea dips), but kind of like being in a place where I know I fit in!
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
Blimey, galleries seem like a dim and distant memory! I’ve really loved some of the shows at the Hayward Gallery over the last few years – they often feel really well curated and accessible. I went to Nek Chand’s Rock Gardens in India many years ago, and would love to go back one day.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
Can I have one dead one and one alive one? As mentioned above, I’d love to collaborate with the theatre company like 1927. And for the dead one, I think I’d go for Hieronymous Bosch – there is so little information about him, I’d love to know what he was like, and where his extraordinary imagination came from!
What’s your favourite colour?
Yellow is my lifelong favourite (but currently have a soft spot for various pinks and a cheery green).
Belle will be running 1 to 1 animation workshops for artists and illustrators interested in bringing movement to their work, during the first 2 weeks of June in the The Little Mustard Shop. Email email@example.com for more details.