For Oliver Macdonald Oulds, illustration is not just a means to express himself but a problem to be solved. “I can be quite methodical in my manner of drawing, setting myself exercises as if it were homework rather than something enjoyable,” he explains. At the moment, he tells us, the London-based creative is fixating on wire fences.
“I can’t work out how to draw wire fences in a manner that you know the material of the wire is there, but can also see the action taking place in the distance on the other side of the fence. The problem being that the more you try to draw the wire fence, the more you obscure the view behind it,” Oliver tells us. “These visual problems really intrigue me with drawing.” An incredibly technical drawer, Oliver’s innate fascination with how he can solve these problems means his portfolio is experimental and loose in nature, flitting between styles, mediums and subjects.
Oh, and it should be pointed out, the Macdonald Oulds are clearly a talented bunch, as just last month we featured Oliver’s younger brother Leo. This, he tells us, stems from their parents encouragement of the arts. “I had been interested in Illustration since before I knew that name for it. I was always drawing Batman as a child, and my parents allowed my brothers and I to draw on one of the walls in our childhood home, so I think that made it seem like a really exciting activity,” Ollie explains.
When he finally realised he wasn’t going to be Batman when he grew up, drawing him for a living became the next best option and so he pursued a creative career, studying on the illustration and animation course at Kingston University.
Oliver’s portfolio largely comprises of reportage drawings, but these don’t always act as captures of singular moments. Instead, they often portray a passing of time, rather than mimicking a photographic snapshot. “Whilst I don’t do much painting at the moment, I was really struck by this quote by Pierre Bonnard: “Let it be felt that the painter was there.’ You could substitute the ‘painter’ for any practitioners’ role,” he muses.
As well as acting as durational pictures, Oliver’s illustrations are an exploration of memory. He explains: “Having recently moved to a new flat in North London from South London, I found myself missing the old view. I used to enjoy washing the dishes at my old flat because the sink was in front of the window and we were quite high up, so I could spy from our window on the gardens below. I found myself wanting to revisit the view and so I started trying to draw it again from imagination and instead of getting frustrated at the lapses in my memory of the place, filled in those gaps with drawings of bushes, trees and rusting washing machines.”
An associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins, this is an activity he now replicates with his students, getting them to draw their bedroom as they left them that morning. “The composition of an image when working from memory can be really surprising, often seeming like you are floating above a room rather than stood on the floor within it,” he adds.
What makes Oliver’s portfolio the most exciting, however, is its refusal to stick to one style. Instead, he discovers something new, plays with it for a while until it feels squeezed of all potential and then moves on. “I don’t strive to have a signature style, but there are definitely phases that I enjoy going through and then returning to time and time again,” he tells us. “Almost like learning a new way of making an image and adding it to the repertoire.” It’s a process which imbues his drawings with energy and zest; you can feel his eagerness to learn and progress in every stroke of pen, pencil, paint, or whatever other tool finds its way into Oliver’s hands.
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