This week Brighton Journal spoke to Candy Medusa, a local artist and marine biologist whose work is inspired by all things nature. Candy is the founder of the eXXhibition project, a project that runs beach cleans that encourage upcycling litter into art. Her work has been exhibited locally with the Royal Society of Marine Artists at Mall Galleries London, as well as internationally in Dubai, Norway and New York. Candy has been creating isolation comics inspired by the booby birds she saw as she sailed from Panama to Galapagos with the eXXhibition project. They are sure to brighten your day.
What are you doing today?
Drawing booby birds!
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I used to have a studio, but it turned out to be more of a prison for art supplies – any time I wanted to draw at 4am I couldn’t get to my pencils, so now I do my creative work at home. Every surface that I set aside to work on very rapidly gets covered in the many and varied trappings of creating, so more often than not I end up drawing at the kitchen counter.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I’ve worked on so many exciting things! I did some rotoscoping (drawing over frames of film) for a clip for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s production company hitRECord and that got shown on US television and on a big screen in LA. That was cool! I’ve had my work selected for exhibition with the Royal Society of Marine Artists at Mall Galleries London, and I’ve also had pieces exhibited in Dubai and Norway and New York, although that would have been exciting if I’d got to go there along with my artwork.
I think the most exciting thing though is just the small scale stuff getting to work with people who aren’t necessarily artists but are keen to have a go. I’ve done a lot of workshops collecting marine plastic pollution from the beach and then upcycling it into art, and it’s really exciting to see people getting into both marine conservation and creativity.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I didn’t decide to be an artist. I decided to be a marine biologist. The art thing happened anyway.
What are you currently working on?
Just before lockdown, I was lucky enough to sail from Panama to the Galapagos as resident artist with the eXXpedition project. Whilst sailing, I met and fell in love with the booby birds who hitched a ride with us. They are the funniest birds, like a cross between a seagull and a dodo.
When I got home, I started working on illustrations of the boobies for an exhibition about my trip (the exhibition ultimately got cancelled by corona) and as I was looking at one of my illustrations on the third day of lockdown, I started imagining what the birds might be saying to each other about quarantine, and I drew a comic about their experience of isolation.
I never intended it to become a thing, but it somehow took on a life of its own and became my lockdown project; I’m posting a new isolated booby birds comic on facebook, insta and twitter almost every day, @candymedusa
It’s great fun to do and I’ve had such lovely feedback from people saying it brings joy to their day while stuck inside.
What are the key themes in your work?
Nature, ecology, environment, marine biology, conservation, fighting plastic pollution, that sort of thing. And my dog.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
My work upcycling marine trash into art is designed to raise awareness and encourage engagement about plastic pollution. The thing I hope people notice is that my upcycled art is made out of the stuff they use and throw out every day that ends up in the ocean, and hopefully that makes them think about what they can do and consider simple changes they can make as individuals to reduce their plastic footprint.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
With upcycling it’s about giving new life to the things people use once and discard, making something beautiful out of something appalling, and starting a dialogue about what we’re doing to the planet.
With pen and ink, the thing that attracts me most is that you have to live with your mistakes and not agonise over whether it’s right or whether it’s finished, because that’s it, the ink is on the page it’s done.
With digital media it’s the opposite, so I often use that for things like environmental posters, which are likely to need several rounds of changes.
What equipment could you not do without?
Who or what inspires you?
Nature. The world around us that needs protecting.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
Living by the sea is pretty much essential to being able to clean the beach, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I wasn’t somewhere coastal. Brighton in particular is full of people who want to save the world and are very receptive to the message I’m trying to get across, plus there are so many artists here, it’s a great place to work.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
That’s a question from the before times, remember when we could all do our favourite things? Just being by the sea I think. I never take it for granted.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Incredible, beautiful building, full of wonderfully immersive sculpture. There’s a sculpture there of Pan with little bear cubs by Emmanuel Fremiet, it’s just perfect, I could look at it all day.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
It’s probably a bit of a cliched answer, but Frida Khalo. Her art is amazing, but more than that I’d just love to meet her and hang out, she was such an amazing, strong woman who went through so much, and I’d love to talk to her about politics while sitting in the sun with dogs and monkeys.
Second choice is probably Dali as that would surely be a laugh, we could take the anteater for a walk.
What’s your favourite colour?
Purple. Always purple.