We caught up with Kitty after her talk to find out more about her practice and her future.
Tell us about how you got involved with Plymouth Arts Centre…
I met Plymouth Arts Centre Assistant Curator Lucy Rollins at one of Visual Arts Plymouth’s artist workshops, and she was really encouraging and positive about young people getting more involved in Plymouth’s art scene. She later approached me about working with Plymouth Arts Centre on the PAC To The Future project.
What involvement have you had with the Finding Fanon exhibition before your talk?
I spent two days helping to install the exhibition and learning about how curators work, and I was also able to meet and interview the artists, Larry Achiampong and David Blandy. I then prepared my talk and led people on a tour around the exhibition.
How did you prepare for giving the talk?
Once I had interviewed the artists I went through my interview notes a lot. I also visited the exhibition several times and went to PAC Artistic Director Ben Borthwick’s talk about it which was a few weeks before my own, and I studied the artists’ websites. I also spent a morning with Lucy, who helped me go through my notes and ask myself new questions.
On the day, what was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me was my anxiety right before giving the talk! I was afraid I’d mess up and say something wrong and embarrass myself. I can be quite shy and quiet and it was a big step for me to lead a talk. I prepared myself really well by having my talk all printed out, but then I worried that reading it straight off the paper wouldn’t really be engaging with the people there.
What’s your favourite part of the exhibition?
I like Finding Fanon 2 the most because it is like the artists are on a journey in a game world. Using machinima to make art is really exciting and I’ve never seen it used that way. I’ve seen other machinima like Minecraft music videos before but this has made me look at them in a different way. Machinima is quite popular with young people who play games so I think that Larry and David’s project could be really inspiring to them.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from the experience?
It has been really interesting learning about Larry and David’s exploration into their family backgrounds and their thoughts on that. I hadn’t thought that much about colonialism and its impact on pop culture before but now I have been thinking and learning about it a lot and it is opening my eyes to the pop culture I enjoy and to history.
I hadn’t even heard of minstrel shows before Larry told me about them and I was really shocked that people made them or watched them. I’ve started looking at how different people are portrayed and how much representation they get. I have always been aware of how differently girls and women are treated in pop culture especially games but Finding Fanon has made me start thinking about race and how people from different cultures are represented.
Tell us about your practice!
I am an illustrator working in zinemaking, posters, and comic and game art. I am really into character creation but I am trying to tell more stories, and I like to create female characters who are fun and have realistic body shapes, personalities and regular clothes instead of over sexualised clothing which is really common in comics and games unfortunately.
A lot of my influences are from comics like Squirrel Girl, Lumberjanes, and Giant Days which are based around female characters I can relate to. I used to draw in more of a manga style but I have been trying to break away from that and develop my own style because I want my work to be more authentic and personal to me, although I still love and read lots of manga! I mainly work in pencil and ink then scan to digital to clean up for printing using Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint.
I do use colour with Promarkers and watercolour paints (I use a Sakura Koi set) but I am restricted in what I can afford to print so I have been working a lot with just black ink and crosshatching to achieve different shades and textures. The items I use every day are my Pentel brush pen, some Kuretake Mangaka brush pens, and Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencils.
What’s next for you?
I am starting college in September at PCA doing an extended diploma in Graphics Illustration and Game Arts (GIGA). I have always been home educated so this will be a complete change for me and I am a little bit nervous about it, but excited too. I am part of a group of young artists called YEA Plymouth and we have some projects coming up, including a zine that we are producing for Plymouth Art Weekender 2017.
I have been organising regular zine workshops which I hope to continue, and I am working on my own zine Gurt Noodle, which I plan to have ready for DevCon this Autumn. I also write a blog about art and local events. I have lots of plans, I just need to focus on fitting it all in!
Kitty McEwan is a student artist living and working in Plymouth.