Who is Hannah Shillito?
Hannah Shillito is a contemporary artist who has lived all over the world including Tokyo, New York, London, Cape Town, the Himalayas and Milan and is now based in Brighton, UK. Her work has drawn attention from celebrities with clients including social media sensation Arron Crascall and punk poet John Cooper Clarke as well as Bimini Bon Boulash in a Barclaycard advert!
A native of the north west of England, Hannah’s love of colour and maximalism is brash, honest and playful and her distinctive personal style emanates joy and vibrancy with its punchy statements and attention grabbing fluorescence. She exhibits alongside some of the top names in contemporary art such as Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, all over the UK and Ibiza, and has featured in two editions of British Vogue.
Having worn many hats as a freelance writer and photographer, poet, children’s author and teacher, Hannah’s love of words as well as images are brought to life through contrasting and bold colours and compositions. As the artist explains, “A picture tells a thousand words but I like to condense those words and pack a punch.”
How did you get into making art?
So I always loved art when I was in school. And I grew up with my grandad, who was a photographer. He was on tour with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, so it was definitely in the family, and my uncle was also a photographer. I did a photography diploma, but my dad wouldn't let me do art beyond GCSE because he said it wasn't academic enough. It wouldn't get me a proper job, so he said if you want to do it, you will do it in your own time and not in school.
So I just continued doing it all my life. And then, when it was lock down, I started drawing a lot. I've done lots of different media. But I started drawing again when it was lock down just for something to do. Then I ended up drawing 100 Brighton women and ended up getting a solo exhibition from it. And that's where it catapulted into Galleries and things like that. So before that, I hadn't done it professionally, but I got spotted when I did this drawing project.
What’s your artistic process and how do you find inspiration?
I think being a mum, and I've got to work around my little one. And I also teach as well, so a lot is going on. I don't really have much of a process as such because I'm so busy, but I kind of like that my brain likes being really busy in that way. So I do art whenever I have the time and can do it anywhere. I do a lot on my phone or my computer. I do it on found pieces, pieces I find in flea markets and thinking, how could that jazz up old pieces?
Because I also like sustainability and using old art that needs a bit of a zhuzh, a bit of a touch-up and making it more exciting. In Brighton, sustainability is quite a big thing, but I think it's important, and there are so many pieces of art that are so beautiful but aren't in fashion anymore. It's wild to me so many amazing pieces of art aren't getting seen anymore. So I like taking them and making them a bit more modern.
What motivates you to create?
Everything, really. This is corny. But, since I had my little one. I feel like I have been even more creative than before; I know a lot of people think maybe be becoming a mother. You have to stop everything. And you know, it's all about the kid. And obviously, my kid is the most important thing in the world. But something happened when I had her. That made me even more creative.
I've been reading a lot about Mothers as artists because it is quite a big thing at the moment about women artists not getting the same recognition as men. We haven't throughout time. But this idea that motherhood can stop you. And I and I think it can be used as a genuine creative force. I can give birth to a child. I can give birth to all my art creations as well. It probably sounds corny, but having her made me more creative than usual.
Is there a specific environment or material that's integral to your work?
I'm still developing because I feel like I'm still very new to the professional art world, and I've been lucky enough to meet amazing people who have seen something in me and taken me under their wing. At the moment, I've been doing a lot of screen-printing and a lot of hand embellishments coming across from my found artwork and the graffiti art I was doing. But I don't think you have to stick with one thing, and I like to play around with many different things. I do want to have a distinct style so that people go. "Oh yeah, that's a Hannah Shillito."
But I think it's very important to grow and be able to experiment as well because a true artist would experiment with different things rather than stick to the same. I started with my illustrations and am now working on these massive, big iconic images. I'll always be colourful, but I'll always be developing. It's all about trial and error as well. Ultimately, you'll always respond to what your clients like, but you must also do something you love.
Professionally, what’s your goal or dream commission?
Well, I really want to be in the Saatchi Gallery. I'd love to do the stART art fair. But that being said, I just want to see where it takes me, I can't believe it in such a short time, I am where I am now, so who knows what could happen.
Can you tell us the story around some of the pieces on EDIT1ONS?
So with 'Eat, Sleep, Dave, Repeat'. This one came about a while ago because I love David Attenborough; how could you not? Then I brought it out again because of the uproar about one of his episodes (Wild Isles) being cancelled for causing offence. I thought that was just messed up. I think how ridiculous. When it's only the truth, the environment is more important than people's back pockets. So I thought I'd re-release it, as the editions didn't sell out the first time. Then I wanted to send some of the profits to Greenpeace as well.