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A Brief-As-I-Can History of Me...

Hello all!

(Wow, I'm actually writing a second post for my blog! I feel so committed! Go me! And this one has pictures! PICTURES!)

For my second blog post, I decided to write a brief little history (or as brief as I can because I can waffle when I write) about me and all the influences and inspirations in my early days that have helped me (both consciously and subconsciously) to become the artist I am today. So before I begin, I'll be referencing a lot of influences both old and new but I won't go in depth into them here. In fact, I'll probably end up missing quite a few because there are so many! I intend to do separate entries on them in more detail as part of my 'Artistic Influences' blog stories so stay tuned. :)

So let's go back in time where it all began...

*cue flashback music and sepia-toned imagery*

I was born and raised in a small town in Hampshire, England. (I am still living there now but if you're reading this in the near or far future, I may not be living there anymore.) I'm lucky to say I had a great upbringing with a loving and caring family, and I was learning all the time. So for my first batch of artist fuel in my life: I was raised on Disney films, old cartoons such as Scooby Doo and Tom & Jerry (these guys will probably get a solo blog entry later), and fairy tales. Whenever I stayed at my nan's, she would read to me from these two big fairy story books; one of which she had as a little girl! My favourites were Thumbelina and The Discontented Daffodils. (Look up the latter, it's a neat little story.)

Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951) was one of my favourites of my childhood and continues to be today.

I hear you. You're probably now asking: but HOW did you get into art?!

Well, my dear reader, I shall tell you...

Like most kids, I drew. But the art bug decided to properly bite me when I was about nine. I can't remember exactly how but it goes something like this. I loved reading Jacqueline Wilson as a kid. And pretty much all of her books were illustrated by the awesome Nick Sharrat. His style was simplistic but illustrative, clean, friendly and more importantly recognisable! I think I owe Mr Sharrat for sparking my love for art so if you're reading this, Mr Sharrat, thank you! (And Ms Wilson too for the amazing books and for asking Nick to illustrate your stuff!)

Nick Sharrat, the guy that started it all.

So anyway, I copied one the illustrations from a book and...well, it actually turned out rather decent for my age! And everyone agreed! So I copied more and more, starting to imitate his style in my own drawings. And it was from that day forward that I decided the following...

I want to be an artist when I grow up.

So from there, I drew whenever I could. Whether it was for projects, in my spare time or gifts for my family, I drew and drew and read for a bit and drew!

By the time I got into secondary school, I'm not sure what triggered it but I developed an interest in the gothic and spooky stuff. I remembered that I loved drawing bats, skulls, spiders, you name it. Yet I was (and still am) a huge wimp with blood. :P But yes, most of my early teenage years were spent reading Goosebumps and Darren Shan, discovering Tim Burton films, drawing creepy stuff and manga, and obsessing over one film in particular...

This is Halloween, this is Halloween...

I can hear you all cheering. Yes, this film was my bible for a while. I would buy whatever merchandise I could, draw Jack and Sally almost non-stop and developed a weird crush on Oogie Boogie. (Alright, I can hear you sniggering! It's not my fault that Ken Page has such dulcet tones!) Stay tuned. I'll be doing an entry on this film at a later date.

...Shut up!

But it wasn't just the adventures of a spindly skeleton I fawned over. I fell in love with the Muppets, Alice Cooper, Beetlejuice, the Disney film Hercules (Hades especially), Emily the Strange (I was called this often)....basically, everything that most teenagers from the noughties wouldn't even give a hoot about. I was considered (to quote Lydia Deetz) 'strange and unusual' at school...and I was proud of it.

So I went to college and naturally studied Fine Art. I then stayed on another year to do the new Art Foundation diploma they had introduced. I'm so glad I did. Not only did I make some of the best friends there but it also made me realise that I could study what I have subconciously loved for all this time. Animation.

So after finishing my diploma, I packed my bags and went to study Animation at University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Here, I spent some of the best years of my life! I developed an interest and appreciation for puppet-making and animation, I rediscovered and fueled my obsession with classic American animation and Disney, and did a hell of a lot of baking! Both my classmates and my tutors were rather thrilled with the latter.

One of my creations at uni: a bratty witch and two idiot ghosts made from pillow cases and wire.

Another one of my creations: a sinister scarecrow. He currently resides in the UCA Farnham Animation classroom, where he plots evil schemes involving stealing peoples' legs.

But the most important thing I learnt at uni was this...

It's OK to be yourself as an artist.

Instead of making us do things all the same stuff for our films; my amazing, wonderful tutors encouraged all of us as individual artists and filmmakers: they told us to make films about what WE loved, using what WE loved making and were good at (for me at the time, this was stop motion). Because of this, my class was full of individually talented people who have gone off to do different forms of art an animation! And that's also what I did!

I graduated university with a first (yay me!) and decided to try and make it into the world of puppet-making. BUT despite an amazing three-month apprenticeship the Puppet Kitchen in New York, and a week's work placement in the National Theatre's Props department; I gradually realised that it wasn't for me. I still love and appreciate the world of puppets and puppet-making, and it still remains an important part of my journey, as it developed my love for model-making.

My personal project from my apprenticeship in New York. The Carpenter still sits in my studio space silently judging everyone.

So after coming to this decision, I came up with the idea of perhaps combining painting and model making. I did a bit of drawing and painting throughout uni but as coursework came first, it drain whatever little creative juices I had left. So with that, I came up with the idea of Ophelia.

Ophelia. My first painting as E.R. Whittingham...

To this day, people still love her. Perhaps it's because it's something different, something a little creepy, I'm not sure. But the lovely compliments I get from her still make me smile.

After Ophelia, I found an old drawing that I did on a back of a cereal packet, inspired by the amazing Corpse Bride concept artist Carlos Grangel. So I decided to pick up the paint brushes again and do a painting of her....

And I never looked back.

I joined a starting-up-a-business course to learn how to become a freelancer, and at the recommendation of my mentor, I visited the Sorting Office Art Studios in Eastleigh. I then joined the studio in November 2017, where I began to hone in my style based on my new rekindled love for painting, animation and the gothic. For the first time, I finally felt like I was going in the right direction with my artistic career.

So that's my artistic journey is as a small a nutshell as I have managed to force myself to. Like I said, I'll be doing more detailed entries of certain artistic influences and favourite films in future entries.

So for now, stay tuned and thanks for reading my second blog entry! I'm very slowly getting there and I cannot wait for all the artistic adventures that lie ahead of me!


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