Hi Rima! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about pencils. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Hello, gosh that could be a potentially very long answer! Here’s the shorter one:
I’m an artist using oils, watercolour, pencil, wood, word, story, music, puppetry, animation and clock-making to attempt to conjure a kind of gateway between this world and that. I feel like the world I paint is the world of folktale but also one deeply and strangely familiar to people. I’m interested in scratching at the wild edge of our imaginations and in finding beauty in otherness.
I live with my partner Tom and our mad lurcher Macha on the edge of Dartmoor where we’re about to start building our home on the back of a vintage army lorry. I have a long-held love of living on wheels, and close to the trees and hedgerows. The land here is potent and inspiring.
Your website & blog are wonderful and give a very evocative sense of your interests and how important the outdoors is to you. Could you tell us about how things like your interest in folklore and the travelling lifestyle play into your artwork?
I was born in London to artist parents, and lived in the city for some years after leaving home, hoping that it would be the place to become a “successful illustrator” and then I could run to the woods as I had always longed to do. But ironically my work took off more fully after leaving the stifling concrete of the city. I lived in the hills of Scotland for a while before travelling the UK in a handbuilt wooden house on wheels, selling my artwork as I went. This half-indoor, half-outdoor life makes my blood sing and my heart feel truly alive. I had a little painting desk in the back of the truck, as well as far too many books, a woodstove and all other necessary comforts. Now the wild wide expanse of Dartmoor where I live these days has spoken most clearly to me, and I feel kin with the mossy granite and gnarled oak trees of this place. I find cities very hard now. And wheels are calling again, so Tom and I will be happily nomadic before too long!
As for my interest in folklore – it’s hard to explain, but I have always had a strong interest in peasant life and belief. I feel like folktales passed down through the generations hold an old and powerful magic, which we can still experience listening to a story around the fire under the stars. This is the world I feel drawn to. In my reading about past times and traditions, I’m uninterested in the rich and powerful histories, much more fascinated by the stories and experiences of ordinary people. This is still the case now too: the faces of the people who pass me by on the street, and the experiences of those who are on the margins of society for whatever reason, are what draw me most strongly.
Could you tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece?
I think I’m having ideas all the time. They used to call me Rima Dreamer at school! I feel like the place I depict in my work is there constantly, adjacent to this world, and I just have to access it with a certain state of mind. I like not to make too detailed sketches before creating the final piece, because I prefer the magic of conjuring to occur within the actual work, rather than having to copy a piece I feel has worked from my sketchbook onto the final page where it will not be alive.
I tend to work quite intuitively as I draw. Almost always beginning in pencil, I then put the paint on once I’m happy with the image, be that watercolour or oil paint. With watercolour paintings, I always finish with pencil too, after the paint has dried. Knowing when something is finished isn’t always easy!
What are some of your favourite materials to use and why?
I do enjoy a fine propelling pencil for its detail and versatility. I love the unexpected occurrences you get with watercolour, and I am always delighted by the process of working on wood – I paint very thinly in oils, so the grain can be seen faintly through the image, enriching it.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
That’s almost impossible to answer! There are a few of my pieces which I feel are real successes, but often my favourites change according to what I’m working on at the time. I am particularly fond of the large wooden painted clock I made – called Come Away O Human Child – it’s painted on a large gnarly slice of wood, and has a working clock as part of the painting. The image is of a kind of blind old pied piper character who is a one-man-band instead of a piper. Behind him follows a gaggle of odd-looking children. There are rats nesting in his beard, and the clock ticks around the drum on his back. Sometimes you just make a piece that you feel really works, and this is one of them. It hangs on our wall at home, and isn’t for sale :)
I also love the process of making stop-frame animations, though painstakingly slow, I am fascinated by the fact that I can make my images come to life with movement and entwine music around them too.
What is your earliest memory of drawing?
I grew up in an artistic household – both of my parents are sculptors, and so image making was always happening in our house. I was endlessly drawing and making things, and helping in the woodcarving workshop. I don’t remember when I began making drawings, it feels like I’ve always been doing it!
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Um, yes, but I am slow at filling it. I always envy other artists who are avid sketchers, unconcerned with showing their rough and haphazard workings to the world! I dream of being one of these people, pushing boundaries and coaxing out new techniques and ideas through endless sketching, but I’m afraid I’m too much of a perfectionist. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I like to use that energy of discovery which normally goes into a sketchbook in my final pieces.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
Small always. I wonder sometimes whether this is because I’ve always lived in small houses, but I’ve never been inclined to fill huge canvases with huge expressive brush sweeps. Instead I crouch in dark little corners with tiny three-haired paintbrushes creating a whole meticulous world on a small knot of wood or corner of paper.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I’m always desperate to fulfil many ambitions with my artwork, but never have enough time! The delicious ideas sit on my shoulder for years prodding me, as I spend too much of my time trying to make a living. I want to make and write illustrated books. I want to create a travelling puppet show. I want to make more animations. I want to make bigger (but still minutely detailed) paintings. I could go on!
Where can we see your work next? And where else can we get a hold of more of your work?
Well, I’m taking part in a wonderful exhibition this summer down here in Dartmoor with seven other artists, Alan Lee and Brian Froud amongst them. The exhibition will be based on a mythical storytelling theme, and runs from 22 June – 7 Aug at the Green Hill Arts Gallery, Moretonhampstead, Devon ( greenhillarts.org )
I’m also taking my stall of artwork to some fairs and festivals this summer. You can find details of all of these on my blog – intothehermitage.blogspot.com – and you can buy prints any time online from my etsy shop – thehermitage.etsy.com.
Rima’s work appears in Issue 1 of Tiny Pencil Issue – available to buy here.
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