Interview with Amanda White, Collage Artist and Painter

Amanda White at a solo show in England

Amanda White at a solo show in England

As I talked about in my last two posts here and here, I love collage art and collage artists.  I am always in awe of what artists can do with paper and things that most people would normally throw away, so I was especially interested when Etsy profiled the collage art of Amanda White, who sells her renderings of the homes of famous British writers, among other items, on the site.   It turns out that she is also a very successful painter.  I was so fascinated by her story that I reached out to her for an interview to share her story with my readers.

Paradise Birds, Paradise Flowers painting

“Paradise Birds, Paradise Flowers” painting

Q:  You’re English, but currently reside and work in the Canary Islands on a banana plantation.  How did you end up there?

A:  I am in the Canaries because I married someone from here.  I am, as I say on my Twitter profile “marooned in a banana plantation” because I had a horse and was looking for a stable.  This house had a stable and was for sale.  So this is where we ended up.  Even after years of development in the island, we are still secluded.  Isolated even.  Marooooooned!

Q:  You studied theater design and art history and have an extensive background in painting.  Your works have been exhibited and collected.  Art has obviously played a big part of your life.  Were you always creative as a child?  Did you come from a home where creativity was encouraged?  Did you know early on that you would become a working artist?

A:  I have always drawn and painted.  I believe my first published work was a scribble of a train done when I was 18 months old!  My mum submitted it to a newspaper.  Going to art college was a given.  I didn’t even consider anything else, though my English teacher hoped I’d give English Lit a go at university.  And just look!  All these years later I am combining my love of art and literature in my current work!

Q:  You describe yourself as an artist working in the naïve style.  Does this mean you are entirely self-taught?

A:  I’ve always thought of my work as naive.  Always been more drawn to line, simplicity and surface pattern than depth and perspective.  Though I’m not naive in the sense of being self-taught.  A foundation course and three years studying theatre design and art history rules that out.  I’m a member of the Association of British Naive Artists so that probably makes me officially naive now!

Q:  You describe your influences as magpie-like and list as your influences, your favorite places, local history, patterns in the landscape, flora, fauna, patchwork, folk art, embroidery, books, Staffordshire pottery, other artists, found objects, etc.  That is a varied and long list of influences that inform your work! You must never run out of inspiration.  Would you describe yourself as naturally curious?  If so, how has this curiosity been your guide for what you do in your artwork and in your life?

A:  As I say, I studied theatre design which is when I developed my love of researching texts and historical periods.  I love history and jotting stuff down in school exercise books with my black biro.  They have taken over from large sketchbooks.  I feel like I can make a mess in them and I’d be lost without them.  Sometimes the smallest jotting or a sentence copied from a book can set off a large image.

Notebook pages filled with ideas and doodlings

Notebook pages filled with ideas and doodlings

Q:  You currently have a store on Etsy, AmandaAWhite, where you sell collage artwork of famous writers’ houses.  Please share with us how you gravitated towards collage and why you chose writers’ homes as your subject matter for this technique?

A:  The collages which have taken over my creative life lately came about by accident.  A strange conjunction of events.  I had fallen in love all over again with a house I had visited as a teenager – Keats House in London.  I wanted to portray it somehow but felt paints weren’t the way for me.  Then a couple of weeks later, back home in Tenerife, a great pile of Vogues appeared by the bin.  My daughters had been clearing out their rooms.  I thought what a pity to throw out such lovely glossiness and something clicked – and I knew I had found my medium for Keats House!

Keats's House in Hampstead

Keats’s House in Hampstead

Awhile later I put my first efforts on my website and not long after received an email from Keats House inquiring about them and that’s how my Writers’ Houses cards and prints came into being.  It was such a thrill supplying them to the shop in the very house one of my greatest literary heroes lived!
John Keats's House, aka Wentworth Place

John Keats’s House, aka Wentworth Place

At around that time – three years ago – I opened my Etsy store with several more portrayals of historic houses, and not long after, the curator of Monk’s House contacted me with a view to stocking my take on Virginia Woolf’s house.  So Etsy gets a big thumbs up from me!
Virginia Woolf's Monks House

Virginia Woolf’s Monks House

Q:  Do you actually travel to the estates you depict – the ones that still exist – for research, or is all your research done remotely through other sources?  When you have visited estates, do you find that you carry away with you a piece of the soul of the artist, and is this something you try to capture in your work?
A:  Some of the houses I visit during trips back to England, some I visited years ago, and some I have only seen through books and Googling.  I generally go for the ones associated with authors, poets or artists I admire so I can get into the atmosphere better.  I try to think my way into the house and occupants – a throwback to my theatre design days, I suppose.  It’s important to me to get the right feel. A lot of detail goes in, but believe me a lot more is discarded along the way.
Q:  Paper and scissors, or paint and brush?  Do you have a favorite technique between the two?
A:  Paper and scissors!  Even before I started collaging and was involved with acrylics and canvas, I was paper and scissors inclined.  I would draw out my images on paper with pen, then cut details out and enlarge or reduce them with a photocopier, then piece the whole together with glue before tracing the design and transferring it to canvas.  In a way cutting up old magazines is a good deal simpler!
Q:  How and when did you discover Etsy?  When did you make the decision to sell your artwork there? Do you have any plans to sell some of your paintings and other artwork on the site?
A:  I can’t remember how I discovered Etsy, probably through Facebook.  It’s a brilliant place to sell as well as showcase my cards and prints.  I’ve had several shops and museums approach me via the store. I do sell some smaller original collages there, mostly portraits which are a kind of spin-off from the historic houses.  I hope to place even more in the shop in the future.
Collage: Portrait of the Artist as a Schoolgirl

Collage: Portrait of the Artist as a Schoolgirl

Q:  Please describe your process for creating your collages, from inspiration to the actual creation.  How long does it take for you to complete a collage piece once all the research is done?
Work in progress - Virginia Woolf's house

Work in progress – Virginia Woolf’s house

A:  How do I create a collage?  Well, once I fix on a writer and a house I do a bit of library and internet immersion with lots of doodling in my notebooks.  Then I go through my drawers of magazine clippings and select a swatch of colours and patterns, then I start assembling.  I may think I know what I’m after but often the clippings take over and go in another direction.  For instance, the one I’m working on at the moment is Coleridge’s Cottage.  I was convinced it would be Kubla Kahn-ish with exotic flowers but what took over were the greens and ghostly whites and voila – it became Ancient Mariner-ish all by itself!  This is what I adore about collaging – the serendipitous nature of the materials themselves.  And the transformations.  For instance, if you look closely at the mud path in front of Wordsworth’s cottage it is in reality a photo of a vast tyre dump I found in a National Geographic.  Virginia Woolf’s roof is made from a burnt-out forest in north America!  I am very fond of old National Geograhics!  Sometimes a collage can take a few days, more often a few weeks.  It all depends.
William Wordsworth's Dove Cottage

William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage

Q:  What has been the reaction to your collage work?  Do you find that your work attracts lovers of books and/or architecture, or do you find that you attract all kinds of fans?  Are fans of your paintings also fans of your collages, or have you picked up new fans with your change in artistic technique?
A:  I seem to have a lot of literary-minded followers on Twitter these days, but there are also people on Etsy and Facebook who liked my paintings and have continued with me on my collage journey with my scissors and glue.
Q:  Do you sell your collage work in venues other than Etsy?  If so, where else can we find your work?
A:  I sell my work through Etsy (of course!), through my website, and Facebook.

Q:  What has been your proudest moment as an artist?

A:  Proudest moment?  Make that plural!  Whenever anyone likes my work enough to put their hands in their pockets to pay for it!  It’s wonderful to know an image resonates with someone to that extent.

That said, it was a pretty good feeling when one of my drawings was purchased by a national gallery – Manchester Art Gallery, to be precise.
Mr Dickens and His Dog in Doughty Street, Christmas Eve

Mr Dickens and His Dog in Doughty Street, Christmas Eve

Vanessa Bell's Charleston Farmhouse

Vanessa Bell’s Charleston Farmhouse

I just love how Amanda uses pieces of magazine paper almost like paint in her renderings of artist’s homes, which just goes to show you that one needs to be open to whatever is around oneself when it comes to creating art.  You never know where and when the Muse strikes inspiration!
Thank you, Amanda, for your time and graciousness in answering my questions :0)
Who are some of the collage artists you admire?  Who are some of your favorite British writers?  Please share in the comments.

About Serena Y Lee

Serena worked in the biotech industry for 18 years before leaving to pursue her life purpose - to live in freedom with creativity and simplicity. Her love for baking, creativity, and story-telling compelled her to start blogging to share her ideas with a wider audience.

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