Louise Howlett is a London based artist who also goes under the name, Paper Scalpel Paint. She makes modernist inspired images using a repertoire of drawing, found imagery, & collage to create her own visual vocabulary. She works from her home in London under the watchful gaze of her beloved black cat, Mars.
Tell us a little bit about the name of your Instagram account, Paper Scalpel Paint. How did you come up with it?
I was forced into taking a name other than my own when trying to open my Etsy shop last year. All the possible alternatives I had in mind were taken. I work a lot with collage so paper, a very sharp scalpel and paint are things I utilise all the time.
How would you describe your art style?
I make mainly abstract work and much of it comes about through calculated chance and an ongoing process of editing and refining. Shapes resembling familiar objects might take on new identities or summon up an imaginary backdrop or landscape. I also use old typography but the letters aren’t really symbolic, they nearly inhabit the space as a character might inhabit a stage. There is always a nod to the modernist movement in terms of balance and interplay. I have a bit of a butterfly mind so in terms of making work I like to mix things up quite a bit. If a way of working becomes too comfortable or predictable I’ll try making things harder for myself by constructing images in a different way.
Where have you been most excited to see your work displayed?
I find any chance to show work incredibly exciting and challenging. However, the biggest thrill is having complete strangers purchase work and knowing that they will be engaging with a particular piece for a long time.
If you could describe yourself using only three words, which words would you choose and why?
Daydreaming vinegar drinker.
What’s the most fulfilling thing about being an artist?
Constantly reinventing, developing, refining and moving. Bringing an image to a state of resolution is immensely rewarding.
What are some stumbling blocks you’ve run into with your work and how have you gotten passed them?
I used to be very self critical and found it very hard to accept a compliment. This really held me back for many years because ultimately it stifles any creativity and stops you moving forward. These days I am much more forgiving and if I make something that I feel is mediocre I just move on and see it as part of a longer process.
I went through a number of years of not making much work at all and coming up with all sorts of excuses as to why I wasn’t being productive. I think there is a myth that artists have to be ‘inspired’ all the time. That creates so much pressure. It’s more important to just try and put in the hours and then the good stuff will follow on from that. My internal mantra each day is “just start something” !
Who is your biggest influence?
There are so many artists and photographers I could name check but many of my friends who are artists are a huge influence. Knowing that we are all struggling with many of the same doubts and obstacles somehow makes you feel more validated and less alone.
Artists that have been an influence are people such as Edward Burra, El Lissitzky , László Moholy-Nagy, Lucienne Day, Eva Hesse, Julius Bissier, Philip Guston. I also love graphic artists such as Olle Eksell.
Have you ever received negative criticism? How did you respond?
Not so much blatant negative criticism but apathy and indifference which can almost be more perturbing. However, if it’s not someones cup of tea then that’s fine. How an image is perceived is very personal thing.
Do you feel like your life’s experiences have influenced your work? How so?
To be honest it’s through observation rather then specific life experiences. Whatever is holding my interest usually comes out in a piece of work in some way, although sometimes I don’t realise it at the time. I made a series of collages recently that were very architectural and they seemed to evolve from nowhere. I live in an area of Inner London where the ever changing London skyline is constantly poking into view so subconsciously I had absorbed this information as churned it back out in a series of collages.
What do you enjoy most about being a creative woman?
There is nothing better than being completely immersed in what you’re doing and knowing that you’re pulling stuff out the air and trying to make something out of nothing. When something works it’s a very good feeling.
Pictures are the property of Louise Howlett. Please do not use without her permission.