We are so excited to introduce you to illustrator and painter Willa Bardawil in this Sunday Makers Session. Her playful and colourful artworks depict and capture stories of modern day life in such an affectionate way. In this conversation we speak to Willa about her influences, have a peek inside her light filled studio space, and find out which galleries are top of her list to visit post quarantine!
Your drawing and painting style is truly unique and has captivated us (and many others!) with its romanticism and charm. Does this style come naturally to you or would you say it has developed with practice over time?
Thank you, that's so kind! This style came to me very naturally. I only started drawing and painting again recently, so I feel this is the start of a long journey ahead. I have always loved art and art history so I take a lot of inspiration from works of the past and bring them to my everyday life. I work in fashion so you will see my love for colour and print reflecting strongly in my work. Many of the compositions of my artworks are influenced by ancient greek and roman sculptures or the renaissance period. I love the vibrant portrayal of movement in so many old masters which I try to mimic in my pictures.
Many of your artworks seem to tell a story or capture a moment in time; are these moments personal experiences or derived from imagination?
Totally, narratives behind artworks create an irresistibility and mysteriousness which allows the viewer to really feel the work and add their own take on the story they see, or maybe relate it to a memory or dream of their own. The inspiration for my stories can really happen at any time and anywhere, sometimes derived from experience and sometimes from imagination. Often even a mix of both! I may see a painting I love in a gallery or online, which reminds me of a time I had and then I would reinterpret that on paper. Or I may see a photograph on instagram and think wow that would look beautiful drawn like this and I will go from there. Or I may see a print or design walk the catwalk and feel inspired to start painting!
We have had a peek inside your studio before, and it looks so full of natural light and character too! Is the space you work in and are surrounded by important in inspiring you and your art?
Yes I am very lucky with the large windows and light coming through, it really helps to have a separate space to think and see things in a different perspective to your bedroom or dining table, even though I do work all around the house and often still from the kitchen table. I think work changes with space, as soon as I set up my studio my work stepped up. I am grateful to have the space to pin up images that inspire me or artworks I have done and want to develop further or come back to for reference. Also having that separate space is lovely to come to after a long days work where you can really zone out and leave technology aside.
A handful of your paintings have titles associated with quarantine. Have you found that creating art has helped you in any way during the last few months?
Creating art has really saved me these last couple months. I was put on furlough from my job in fashion and I had never really had that sort of free time since my school days, I've always had a job and I like keeping busy. So I don't know how would have survived without doing art these past few months. If it wasn't creating pictures it would have been something else creative for sure. All of our lives have truely been turned upside down we have had to return to basics of what we really need and what is truely important to us. So many people I’ve spoken too who have had time off have found hidden talents or finally done that thing they wanted to do!
You have mentioned before that your mediums of choice tend to be watercolour and inks, what is it about using them that you enjoy?
I love the fluidity of watercolour and ink. I love drawing with watercolour paint and letting the paint natrually fill spaces and form unexpected shapes and lines. That’s where watercolour is great as you can really let it do its own thing. I also love using soft pastels for sketching. Recently for larger comissions I have been using acyrlic and oil which are fun to use too - I feel my work benefits from a larger scale. I also do some digital illustrations or logo design from the ipad using ArtstudioPro which I love and is so easy to get to grips with.
Have you had any formal training in your career as an artist?
Art has always been a big love but I have never been to art school, my aesthetic is entirely self taught. I have done part time courses alongside university and my career at Ruskin school of art and then recently in London at the Royal Drawing school. It was really during lockdown where I had the time to fully immerse myself in my art. It's always been on my mind to go do a masters and I feel now I would appreciate it more than ever but we will see what happens this year!
With the creative industry being one that is notoriously hard to be seen in, what have you found has particularly helped your art be noticed?
Instagram has been a true blessing in building a community and sharing work. I have met so many amazing small businesses and people via instagram these past couple months, which has led to lots of collaborations and commissions. Thanks to instagram we found each other Emilie and I am selling prints on your amazing site today. I am so grateful to be featured amongst all the talent you support!
Finally, when they reopen again which gallery or exhibition is the first on your list to go and visit and why?
Ah I am so excited! As soon as I heard galleries were reopening I got on booking spots right away. I am going to the National Gallery today, and then Wallace collection and V&A over the next few weekends. I can’t wait to just browse their permanent collections and view all the works in real life that I have studied online these few months.
See Willa's Limited Edition Print, 'Happy at Home'