Say hello to this week’s Featured Artist Joni Belaruski, 38, based in Clapton, London. Joni uses figurative form of both humans and animals to devilishly blend darkness with light to create strikingly original artworks like no other.
Her work varies from personal projects on paper, canvas, drum skins and board to commissioned walls, festival installations and illustrations for books and the music industry.
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve always drawn; I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t scribbling one thing or another. It was completely natural and felt inevitable that I would always be doing this in my life. Saying that, I didn’t take the traditional route towards the arts. I kind of wandered off the beaten path by getting into music and playing drums, then I finally started a degree in Fine Art at the grand old age of 28, but didn’t finish it as I just wasn’t comfortable in that environment. I’m glad I made that decision though – I started to develop a style in my own time and tentatively put images of my drawings out there on social media, and it gained traction from there.
What inspires you to be creative?
So much! David Attenborough, horror films, climate change, punk rock, death, dancing, bodies, the rhythm of life, the written word, a desire to connect, my own emotions, great art, good food, friends…
How would you describe your creative process?
No one piece ever really begins in exactly the same way as another. I’m driven by ideas over medium, which will dictate how it’s executed. I’m a bit gung ho when it comes to starting a piece – I tend to work stuff out as I go rather than establishing a definitive composition before beginning. I’m not going to lie, this has the potential to be either really great… or really bad! The trick is in deciding which is which. Luckily, I like to keep things simple.
What’s your favourite medium to work in and why?
I really love using acrylic paint pens. They come in a whole range of sizes and allow me to tackle a subject at large scale in pretty much the same way I’d attack a smaller drawing. I also love simple pen and ink – I carry them with me everywhere, along with a small sketchbook.
How do you tackle a blank canvas?
Like swimming in the cold sea – dive straight in. If I think too much about what to do and how to do it I’ll rattle my brain into inertia and get nothing done. I think the best way to deal with a canvas is to make it ‘not blank’ as quickly as possible so I’ll start with a wash to get rid of the stark whiteness (unless that’s what the painting requires) and then we’re raring to go.
What do you find the most challenging about the creative process?
Its cyclical nature; going through bursts of creativity and struggling to get everything in my head out before it all disappears and before the creative pendulum swings back and it’s harder to get motivated. I’m pretty sure this is a very common phenomenon across the artistic board! I find it frustrating if I can’t accurately express the ideas I see in my mind’s eye, whether that be down to limitations in my own technical ability or something else. But that’s an impetus to keep learning and trying to improve.
In which ways do you differentiate your work from that of other creatives?
Well, no-one is ever going to be more me than I am! That’s not to say I haven’t had comparisons drawn between my work and that of other artists, but I think this is unavoidable these days. All I can do is maintain integrity and keep doing my own thing, and hopefully my work will have some degree of originality.
What are your most essential tools?
I can’t go anywhere without a pencil, pen and paper. And my camera!
What’s your studio/workspace like?
I share a studio space with my partner who’s a pianist, so there’s a beautiful creative mix of art and music going on every time we are there. We also have a drum kit set up should we ever fancy a jam. I adore the room – with two large windows it’s very bright and when I walk through the door I can get into the right headspace. It’s a little messy and I like plants so I’m slowly adding to the collection.
Do you have a favourite art tip that you can share with our readers?
Get stuck in! Don’t let fear of failure or making mistakes stop you from putting pen to paper or paint to canvas. You can always start again or paint over the top.