For our “X Questions With” series, we’re speaking with talented individuals from around the world who have inspired us with their creativity and passion. If you have a story to tell or someone you’d like to see profiled, let us know in the comments or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
Today, we’re chatting with Holly Cox, a multitalented English artist bringing Art Nouveau into the 21st century. Here’s what she has to say about following your passions making art happen.
1) Please tell us a little about yourself
Name: Holly Cox
City: Reading, England (between London and Oxford, so it’s in the perfect place for Museum visiting).
Places: I’ve lived in the U.K. all my life.
Education/Training: I have a degree in English Literature but my art is self-taught.
Occupation: Writer, sometimes artist, occasionally other things.
Passions: My passions include the writing of Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee, Theophile Gautier, Isabel Allende and Catherynne Valente; Alphonse Mucha’s art; visiting the Ashmolean and Victoria and Albert Museums; the beautiful film The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, which has had quite an influence on my art and writing; the music of Monteverdi and, at the moment, I’m watching the DVDs of “Versailles la Serie” which I adore.
Favourite Quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – attributed to Oscar Wilde.
2) We first saw your art on Twitter when you tagged us in a photo of a sketch. We were blown away by the detail in these ocean-themed images. What inspired you to choose this subject matter?
Thank you! I have always loved the sea and when I started on those sketchbook pages I had just finished reading a book on the myths and legends of the sea. I’d loved all the tales I’d read and wanted to create something that captured some of that magic and mystery. I choose to include a Merman rather than a more traditional Mermaid as I thought Mermen had gotten a pretty unglamorous write up. I wanted to create a beautiful Merman.
3) There seems to be an Art Nouveau feel to much of your work. Is that a strong influence for you?
Absolutely. Although there are many art styles I love, from Anthony Van Dyke’s sumptuous portraits to Arthur Rackham’s illustrations, Art Nouveau art has a special place in my imagination, especially Alphonse Mucha’s beautiful, dreamy style. Every image is unique, elaborate and captures something bold, new and emergent. I also adore artists like Aubrey Beardsley who could conjure an entire world with just a few curving ink lines.
4) How did you get into sketching and watercolours?
I’ve tried most mediums over the years but watercolours just felt most natural. My Mum used to let me use her watercolours when I was a child and, although I did not appreciate it at the time, many were artist quality so I suppose I started with the most flowing and pigmented which might explain why I found the effect so pleasant. Like me, Mum was a passionate amateur when it came to art and she had plenty of books on art and history around the house to inspire me.
5) On your Instagram page you also show photos of your research and inspirations for writing. Can you tell us a little about the project you’re currently working on?
Since finishing my degree, for which I also studied Creative Writing, I have been working on a series of novels, The Night Rose series. Inspired by my love of Victorian gothic fiction, the books are set in 1880s London, Paris and Venice and focus on themes of love and immortality. I was lucky enough to have a tutor with an MA and Doctorate in Gothic literature and she and I would discuss the themes of classic novels like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. When I started writing, I wanted to find a new way of looking at these ideas which were such staples of the Gothic genre; hopefully I have. The first book is now finished and out in the big, wide world looking for a publisher.
Fairy tale research for my writing in my new Nova Stella #paperblanks A photo posted by Holly Cox (@mauveink) on
6) Do you prefer the writing or illustrating side more – or do you feel that they work hand-in-hand?
I probably focus more on the writing (and the inevitable re-writing) especially as I don’t only write fiction, I also write perfume reviews as part of the online fragrance community. However, I’ve always felt as if the writing and illustrating go hand-in-hand as I often draw characters whilst I’m writing about them and some of my drawings have inspired me to go back and write stories based on them. The sea-themed pages you saw on my Twitter page inspired me to write a short story about the sea and submit it for a competition.
7) Why did you choose Paperblanks as your art and writing journals?
Probably because they are so beautiful! I’ve been using Paperblanks since I was sixteen when I saw one of the Lyon Floral journals with a beautiful Peacock on the cover and I just had to buy it. Since then, I’ve probably gone through about forty or fifty Paperblanks journals, using them as everything from first drafts to a daily diary. I even used one of the Ultra notebooks when I went to Nanowrimo write-ins last year. My favourite bookshop in Oxford has a wall of Paperblanks and I go there every couple of months to pick out some new ones. I have also received quite a few as Christmas presents from family members who know how much I love them. Because I’m writing historical fiction every scene requires a lot of research and I’ve found Paperblanks are the perfect place to contain all the notes, clippings and sketches because the covers are so inspiring.
Stack of #paperblanks A photo posted by Holly Cox (@mauveink) on
8) Has anyone, or anything, in particular inspired your creativity and artistic passion?
The first credit has to go to my Mum. She’s never stopped pursuing her love of art through pastel drawings, knitting, sewing, etc. She inspired me to paint, gave me a love of history and museums and taught me to sew; now I make my own 1950s-inspired clothing and hats. Oscar Wilde has also been a huge inspiration, probably because I live in the town in which he was imprisoned and wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” I admire his work tremendously and wish so much that he’d been able to write another full-length novel.
9) Any advice you would like to share with aspiring artists?
It’s a cliché but I’d have to say, follow your passions. If there’s a book you want to write, write it. If there’s a drawing you want to create, create it. The best time to start is right now because the more you practise, the better you’ll get at whatever you choose to do.
About Paperblanks®: At Paperblanks, we believe that art should have a place in all aspects of life. That’s why we follow the artist’s way in everything we do – creating, crafting and releasing designs we believe have the power to touch people. For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.