Today I bring you and interview from Campbell of Bethandbell. Campbell is a talented artist who creates all kinds of paintings and illustrations, including a series based on old video games. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Campbell!
Like all children, I started making things as soon as I could. My parents were really encouraging, which helps a lot, and then in school I became the “guy who was good at drawing”. Which is just one of those niches kids get placed in to by their peers. It can be a good thing for the individual, but it’s usually pretty crippling for everyone else.
My first real clear interest in art was through comics, so my early work was heavily influenced by that. I just wanted to be a comic artist drawing all the time. Then, after high school went went on to study fine art at university. There wasn’t really an illustration course that was available in my town, so I went with the nearest thing.
I fell in to painting during university and my style diverged a lot. I was still doing figurative work with a strong narrative, but I was experimenting with materials a lot more.
Now I’ve taken all of that and fed it back in to the comics I’m making. The 8 Bit Dreams series is kind of a bad example of what I generally do because it’s so stripped back. It’s just black ink pen and simple watercolours. Very conservative and basic. They had to be though because I knew I was going to be doing hundreds of these drawings and didn’t want to kill myself in the process.
You could create pictures of anything, how did you arrive at the subject matter of old NES games and the like?
I was a huge fan of the original Nintendo Entertainment System when I was growing up. It was a world of stories and sounds and adventures that was just intoxicating. The project came about as a silly thing I tweeted, and one of my friends said “you should do it”. So I thought about it for a week, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, “could I do it?”. So I did a few test drawings, to nail down a style. Then I did it for about a fortnight before telling anyone, to see if it would be feasible.
A lot of my previous works had sort of skirted around and gently referenced video games. I use a lot of axonometric perspective in my illustrations, which I’ve pulled from some of my favorite games. I think this was the first time I’d ever directly addressed video games as a collective force.
Since you do create art based around awesome games like Mario Brothers and Bomberman, I suspect you might have some geeky or nerdy tendencies. What are they?
Yea, I used to be a lot geekier when I was younger. I used to play Warhammer 40,000 and Magic the Gathering and collect super hero comics, read Choose Your Own Adventure books and play Pokemon. Basically, anything nerdy, I was in to it.
I don’t really do many of those activities any more, I have to be a bit more conservative with my time.
When I’m not illustrating, I work at the state museum, which is a real treat.
Oh geez, favorite game of all time? That’s really hard to nail down because so many different games represent different things to me. I would probably have to say Super Mario Brothers 3 is probably my “ultimate” game. It ties together a bunch of important things, the mechanics are perfect, the aesthetics are beautiful, classic music and sound effects which are all grounded with a crystal memory of the summer I got the game. That time in my life is so clearly linked to that game.
That’s what this series was about for me in part. The way these games connect with memory. The way childhoods are annotated with sounds and pixels from these imagined worlds.
I have done more “serious” projects. My paintings tend to be a little more sombre, especially my last exhibition “New Perth”, which was all about civil disobedience and revolution. 8 Bit Dreams was a real shift away from that type of work for me.
What would you say to other similarly minded people who are trying to get started with art and creating?
Give yourself permission to be crap at what you want to be good at. You have to be crap before you can be good, that’s just the way it is. There is no such thing as “natural” talent in the arts. In sport, you can be born taller or stronger than someone else. That doesn’t happen in the arts. We all start at 0 and have to work our way up from that.
Finally, Where can we find you and your art?