Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Making enticing work that is simple yet deep and vivid is a challenging thing to do and artists will often unintentionally overwork their image thus devaluing some of the subtleties. But Ian Hodgson is an artist who can create an image that seems simple and relatively straight forward at a distance, but draws you in and as you inch closer and closer the work reveals new layers, details that could never have been made out at just a glance. Hodgson’s work is a marvelous combination of shapes defined by harsh lines and details barely revealed through soft shades. This parity creates an image that’s readable from afar but pulls the viewer closer and closer to try and reveal more from within the image. His work is simple in color, usually just black on white or white on black, occasionally sprinkling in a colored streak, but the push and pull created by the hard lines and soft shades is striking even without the addition of a bunch of different elements. Hodgson creates a diversity in line, tone, and shape that can give a lot of life to just a single color and when he does decide to add in a second color it feels extremely deliberate and adds another layer to the image.
When I first found Hodgson’s work I was sucked in and constantly pulling up his images to try and find more within them. So, I was obviously thrilled to get to chat with him about his style development, process, and work as a whole. Hodgson gave an awesome interview and paired with his incredible work, I think it makes for a great read. Enjoy!
1. I always start off by asking about background, so what got you started in art? Any schooling? What helped shape you into the artist that you are today?
I’ve drawn since I could hold a pencil, it’s something I have always felt compelled to do. Art education after school followed a bit of an erratic path for me (too busy rebelling and feeling at odds with the world to commit fully!) but after attending many life drawing classes and ad hoc courses I eventually settled into an art degree which helped convince me that I could and should do this art thing.
2. You've got a very unique style in your work, very subtle yet powerful. What were some of your inspirations in developing your style? Be it visual or otherwise. Are there still factors developing your visual language?
I think that once I settled on drawing as my working practice and graphite as my main medium I found that this narrowing down of creative options allowed me to explore the mark making potential of my tools of choice.
3. What goes into your imagery selection? Are you drawing from life? Or is it all off of the top of your head? A combination? And is the piece affected by the model for the imagery or are you fitting an image to a plan?
Many years of drawing from life has provided a good base to work from and has helped develop my understanding of proportion, perspective etc but I tend to draw more from memory and imagination nowadays. We are all bombarded with visual imagery, I observe faces in the real world, on screen, in photography etc, I watch how light emanates or plays over surfaces and store what I see to memory for use in my work.
4. Your work often features a contrast between softly blended shades and hard lines, what comes first or do you go back and forth? Is the interaction between the two planned out rigorously or does the interaction sort of reveal itself to you as the piece develops?
I find that if I plan anything out to rigorously the work becomes a bit safe or stilted so I try and approach the creative process a bit more loosely. My starting point can be either a hard line or a soft ground and I try to build a dialogue between the contrasting elements as the work progresses.
5. You tend to work in very soft materials (chalk, pastel, etc.), is this because you can achieve the soft shades and harsh lines in your work with one material or tool? Do certain materials lend better to certain imagery or do you just have to experiment with each piece?
I find the range of marks that can be achieved with soft/dry materials more than satisfies my creative output although I do keep threatening to splash out with paint again at some point so watch this space...
6. Your work very rarely features color, but when it does it really stands out, is the addition of color a narrative or strictly visual choice? How do you decide when a piece warrants color?
I found using colour in the past a bit distracting, unable to restrict myself I could end up in some kind of kaleidoscopic trippy nightmare so I realised that removing the temptation and sticking to monochrome made more sense! I’m not sure what causes my decision to
incorporate a random pop of colour here and there but I do like how the occasional addition can create a dramatic effect in a sea of grey...
7. Expanding on that, you often switch back and forth between white and black paper. What are the benefits to one over the other? Both in terms of visual and narrative. Or are these just two aspects of your work that exist separately?
I think that both black and white paper hold equal merit. My work often focuses on finding light in darkness (literally or metaphorically) and the papers require different techniques to achieve this goal so alternating between the two can reset and kickstart the creative process.
8. Your work tends to focus heavily on the face, highlighting it with soft shades and expressions and then gesturally forming the body around it. Is this a strictly visual choice or is there a deeper meaning to it in each work? Further, is there any significance to eyes almost always appearing closed in your work?
I try and explore emotional states through my figurative/face work, a kind of psychological portraiture. The less worked, more gestural representations of the body helps draw the attention back to the face. I usually draw eyes closed or looking down to signify a contemplative state or to represent some kind of internal dialogue.
9. In your opinion, does your work overall represent an established and deliberate narrative or reflect a series of different processes?
The themes of identity, place, light and dark have been established for some time in my work and through this narrative framework my creative processes developed.
10. Finally, PLUGS! Where can people find your work? Any shows coming up? Anything and anywhere that people can find you that you'd like to share, let them know!
I’ve been a bit reluctant to commit to many exhibiting opportunities due to a planned move from my home in Brighton up to Yorkshire at the start of 2020... I’ll be part of a show in Brighton in May of next year and will have representation in a couple of art fairs, details of
which I’ll post on Instagram nearer the dates.
Macy's stores across the United States are using my work in their menswear department displays and they have just commissioned a new piece which is currently being made into a huge Lightbox for their store in Stanford, California.
I have representation with:
Naked Eye Gallery in Brighton
Hope Gallery in Batley Yorkshire
Eric Buterbaugh Gallery in Los Angeles
Website (in dire need of an update…!!) www.ian-hodgson.co.uk but
Instagram @ian.hodgson is my preferred social media platform.