We’ve been wanting to interview Nettie Wakefield since we came across her incredible artwork at Banksy’s Dismaland a few years ago. Her unique pencil portraits of the backs of people’s heads are mind-boggling detailed and brilliant. She also recently had a show in LA where she made two bronze sculptures of a blow up doll called Brandy. What’s not to love about that eh?
Hey Nettie, how are things?
A little sore actually, I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday and my legs have currently left the building.
How many pencils go into a haircut?
Ha ha, I like that. 2h, mechanical HB and 8b usually.
When you get bored in meetings do you people stop talking and just watch you doodle?
I honestly don’t remember the last time I was in an actual meeting… which wasn’t in a bar. That makes me sound rock and roll – but I’m not.
You did a show in LA recently featuring portraits of a blow up doll called Brandy as well as two bronze sculptures of her – where did that inspiration come from?
When I was doing my residency at Banksy’s Dismaland, I met a couple of LA artists who were also present for the whole six weeks (I was just there on weekends) and we formed a bond. In the rain. When I was in LA, the following January for a group show called ‘Expiration date’ (where I drew a semi-deflated Brandy for the first time) we reconnected and I got to visit their amazing studios and see all the wonderful work they created. One of them works specifically in bronze. At this stage, Brandy was just a pencil drawing but I could suddenly visualise her crumpled self as a polished bronze statue – and that was it. I started preparing the cast and nine months later she became 3D. I ended up with two identical sculptures so I wanted to create this dichotomy of the beauty of the sculpture in itself as an art piece but also its dark symbolism. Brandy 1 is hung on the wall where viewers are able to touch it with white cotton gloves whereas Brandy 2 is situated in a diorama on a sofa surrounded by accoutrements showing evidence of our mystery man after use: a laptop, recently removed suit with Paul Smith underwear, half-eaten pizza, tissues and Brandy’s original box.
Was it a relief to do get your hands into sculpting and not around a pencil for a bit?
Yes it was! It was great to have a new challenge, and there were new challenges everyday! Also, to be working in LA in a completely new environment. Working with sculpture is something I never considered before or even knew I was interested in. I’ve always been so focused on drawing.
Are you still illustrating a fishy cook book for Mark Hix? How’s that going?
I am – slowly but surely coming along. Ive done about 12 of the 20 drawings I’m supposed to do. The deadline for the book has been pushed back so I think the launch/show will be in April next year at some point. The cookbook is called HOOKED with recipes and anecdotes about fishing, catching a fish and failing to catch a fish, more importantly what to eat when you fail to catch fish. When the book is done there will be a book launch (in his art gallery – HIX art) combined with a showcase of all the drawings and couple of paintings done for the book, there will also be some of my previous work and the idea is that it will all curated by the fantastic artist duo, Rob and Nicky Carter.
Where can we see more of your work?
The Hix exhibit in 2019 of course, and next month I’m doing a charity group show organised by Ben Eine at Jealous Gallery with The Big Issue magazine, which opens on 8th November and another group show in Spring 2019 for the Katie Piper foundation, which is also at Jealous Gallery. For more permanent work, if you’re ever at Soho farmhouse, the Groucho club or Cecconi’s in Dumbo, NY, then you can have a glimpse too!
Illustrations from https://nettiewakefield.net/
Interview: Josh Jones