Here’s your new favourite artist: Allie Webb.
Her infectious knife slices depict the kerfuffle of late nights in bars, amidst the whirling confusion of passion, dank discussion and drinking. Having started by studying Communication Design at RMIT in Melbourne, she first turned her hand to graphic design. Allie invited us into her working arena set inside her Sydney home. Come get monochrome with us.
You have quite the art room, want to tell us a bit about it? The layout and the shelving, the tools?
Sure, it’s an old bedroom we converted into a studio a few years back. I’ve got a high timber table that my print press sits on, and two big desks I work from. I’ve got shitloads of art books I’ve collected since I was a teenager so I’m never short on reference material. The walls are covered in prints, old booze labels and artwork I love. It’s a really busy space. The tools I use range from cheapo ones you can get from any art store, to a couple of pricey Japanese ones. I really don’t see much difference between them.
So linocut prints huh? Want to talk through how you came to this as a viable form?
I can’t remember exactly where, I guess I started in high school, but didn’t think much of the medium. I started playing around with it a few years ago while I was designing a book and then worked out it suited my style. I’ve always loved German expressionism, Max Beckmann and Otto Dix. The strong bold lines, kind of ugly and chaotic. It’s not a very peaceful medium, especially when just using black and white. Your eyes are always flicking around the print. Sometimes I unintentionally make optical illusions, some areas look as though they’re twisting and turning. The scenes look alive.
Your pieces are quite large-scale, how much evolution happens once you start cutting and etching?
I start with a loose sketch and draw the major figures or focus. I copy that to the plate, then finish the drawing as I cut. Sometimes I rub areas out and change them completely halfway.
Can you talk through where your inspiration for these scenes come from? Movies, real life? Imagery created through words in books?
I like people watching, especially at bars and restaurants. People on dates, someone having an argument or a couple making out inappropriately at the bar. Much of my work is centred around the table. I love looking at different decades, the trends in food from the 60’s or the crazy patterns from the 70’s. Sometimes when I’m finding it hard to describe a person I’ll look at a movie or photograph for reference. I like the painter Balthus, he creates incredibly unsettling scenes full of tension and mystery. Even his still life pieces are creepy and ominous. Not that I’m trying to make freaky scenes, I need every picture to have a sense of humour about it. A bit goofy, more like Botero.
If you had all the time in the world would you go bigger with the size of each piece?
Yes! I would love to do giant ones as big as walls, I’m just working my way up to some larger scale pieces as we speak.
Do you listen to music when you cut?
Yeah, you have to listen to a podcast or music while cutting or there would be many a dull, silent hour. I like a mix of stuff, jazz, blues, soul, new shit…Waylon Jennings and Mary Lou Williams for happy times, Leonard Cohen and Cat Power for sad times.
Do you have a favourite piece?
My favourite piece is usually the latest one.
I see your man Anton has featured in a print…
Yep, Anton is the apple of my eye.
…and do you cut in secret characters or messages only you would know about?
Yes, actually in the latest one titled “The Argument” I drew Anton to look like someone else with big chops. I’ve never really thought about that before, but I guess every scene I have someone in mind when creating them.
Have you been thrown into a mad invite only exclusive international linocut print club? Maybe you can start one?
Hmm, I’m not familiar with many linocut printmakers, but I’m sure there are lots of them.