This Studio Sunday we meet Natalie Bradford, a multimedia artist based in Michigan. Inspired by the connection between humans and nature, her work also depicts themes of absence and decay. Two of her surrealistic ink drawings are currently on view with PxP Contemporary. Learn more about the artist in her interview below!
Natalie Bradford is a young, emerging artist en route to earn her BFA with an emphasis in Printmaking from Western Michigan University. She splits her time between Kalamazoo and Detroit, where she is from, and creates prints, paintings, drawings, and collages. She has exhibited locally and previously been featured in Average Art Magazine, Wotisart Magazine, A5 Magazine and Juste Milieu Lit + Art Zine.
My artwork is mostly surreal and imaginative and oftentimes deals with themes of absence, decay, humans, and nature. It explores my concerns, anxieties, and curiosity about the future and what happens to our bodies and souls when we die. I create images and narratives of what I perceive to be life after death depicted by the human figure, nature, and animal/hybrid creatures.
When and how did you first become interested in art?
I was always interested in art, ever since I could (kind of) hold a pencil. I started to get serious about it during my senior year of high school when I had to decide on what college to go to and which ones had the best art program. I ended up choosing the Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI, and love it!
Tell us about what inspires you creatively. Can you share a bit about the meaning behind your drawings that we're exhibiting in Faces & Figures?
I’m inspired a lot by nature. My drawings depict birds and human body parts and speak to the circle of life and the temporality of life. Basically, how humans, being organic beings, eventually die and their body goes back into nature to nourish new life.
What is your process like?
My process starts with a very rough, vague pencil sketch to establish important lines and curves and then I move into using a pen. I know using a pen this early on in a drawing is risky since it can’t be erased, but as I work through a drawing, I’ll sometimes instinctively make marks or add pieces that weren’t originally sketched out and it adds another element to my drawings
Describe your current studio space. What is most important about it or one thing that you can’t live without in your work area?
My studio space is kind of split in half at the moment; I have my own studio space through the Printmedia department at WMU where I work on my prints and other class projects, and then I have a little makeshift studio space in my sunroom at my house. That space is where I do most of my drawings. I always keep a stack of sketchbooks and an empty coffee canister of pens and pencils in both studios.
What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you or a quote that you think is especially meaningful?
One thing my now-retired high school art teacher said to me my senior year was that making art isn’t just dependent on talent; he said: “Art making is about 1% actual talent and 99% dedication and time spent on your craft.” I oftentimes put this pressure on myself to make masterpieces every time I sketch, paint, draw, or print. That quote has stuck with me for a long time because it acts as a reminder to myself not to rush the process and really take my time with planning and sketching out my pieces, and working through the actual piece.
Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?
I have three prints that are going to be in a holiday exhibition at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center this November to December! This will be my second time exhibiting work at this gallery and I’m really excited about the prints that will be on display because they are three of my favorite ones and it’s nice to have work in a gallery that’s close to home for me.