'Counting Sheep' is a wonderfully surreal pageant of sheep, owls and others on an exotic floral backdrop ... We recently caught up with the artist responsible for this bizarre world: Ruth Ishbel Munro.
LR: What clients do you design/work for?
Ruth: I create illustrations for anyone who could use my particular style which, it turns out, is quite a wide variety of people. I've worked for Lark Rising, magazines, bands, independent movie makers, even pubs. I would love to do work for publishers of adult and children's books, advertisers and graphic designers ...
LR: What inspires you?
Ruth: Various creatures and plants, which frequently creep into my work ... It is hard to say why I am drawn to these natural things, but I think it might have something to do with observing not only human nature, characters and narrative but the nature, character and narrative of all living things.
I enjoy car boot sales, charity shops and flea markets, looking for all sorts of things to directly, or indirectly, inspire my work. Patterns, funny combinations, and mouldy books can all be worked into an artwork. I can be inspired by the general melancholy surrounding personal items, or old advertising prints that tell you so much about a time you haven't experienced. I like to include the history of things within within the work, so it can tell a more personal narrative. I am regularly inspired by other people's stories, problems and general psychology . I try to embed this within characters in my work, but I could never wholly imitate a person within one picture, as everyone has so many layers.
And, lastly, I spend a lot of time watching films, and I'm always looking for a new directer to be inspired by. The directors I am watching at the moment are Aki Kaurismäki and Jan Švankmajer. Films appeal to me because of the aesthetic beauty, the strong narrative and how easily they affect your emotions and thought process.
LR: Do you admire any particular artists or designers?
Ruth: Growing up, my absolute favourite illustrator was Chris Riddell. His attention to detail, and the particular way he exaggerates everything, to make every character unique and interesting, is something I have always tried to imitate. Another illustrator who I admire is James Jean. His work is truly breathtaking and other-worldly.
Meg Hunt is my recent favourite. She is an illustrator that I admire for colour, pattern, sense of humour and twitter updates!
And there are so many more illustrators I love ... Yuko Shimizu, Anke Weckman, Gemma Correll, Jillian Tamaki, Marcos Chin, Rikka Sormunen, Keri Smith, Penelope Dullaghan and Sam Weber.
LR: When were you last really affected by someone else's art?
Ruth: I'm not sure if this counts, but I recently went to see 'Up', which is a truly visually stunning film. My husband and I were getting soppy over the idea of the 'adventure of life' together, and the importance of friendship over material sentiment. But if a family film doesn't count, then I saw some brilliant artwork at the Eden Project, the highlight of which was a very creepy collection of sculptures by Tim Shaw, hidden within the plants and collectively called the 'Rites of Dionysus'. This consisted of rabbit heads on sticks, nymphs ripping open a goat, and various naked folk dancing about. It felt like being transported to a rather frightening fairytale world.
LR: Your work is combination of hand painting and digital manipulation. What is it about these techniques that appeals to you?
Ruth: Hand painting is sensuous, scary and full of happy accidents. It is exciting because you are creating something instantly, and it is constantly evolving, yet at the same time the action of using a brush and ink pen is calming and almost meditative. I've painted and created things since I was tiny, and could not imagine separating the visual from touch now, without it having some detrimental effect on my work.
Digital manipulation adds an element of control, so you can go back on decisions, remove accidents that didn't work, re-position objects and more. It also helps get a perfect colour palette for each piece, as you can tweak the colours until it is just right.
LR: What's on your Ipod while you're working?
Ruth: I usually listen to a mixture of science or philosophy podcasts (with a couple of illustration and freelance ones). When I want to listen to music, I will listen to a mixture of soul, Motown, Disney, girl punk, rockabilly, freak folk, ambient contemporary classical and some other stuff that I'm not sure how to describe. I am currently besotted with Spotify.
'Bicycle Girl', recent personal work by Ruth Ishbel Munro.
'The Seventh Seal' by Ruth Ishbel Munro. This print was part of the award winning CinemaScope exhibition at Boxbird Gallery, May 2009.