Illustrator Pat Bradbury is renowned for his work in the realms of abstract shapes, vivid colour and very well-observed, often hat-based, humour. Recently, he’s been thinking about how to refine his process, and new ways of approaching the balance between readability and abstraction, order and chaos: “My earlier work was busy and intentionally overloaded – one piece of work might have 10 different ideas all jumbled together – and I wanted to break these down and explore them one by one, more exclusively and intensely”, he tells It’s Nice That.
Lead by an interest in “shape, form and play”, Pat has become increasingly interested in setting limitations or focus points for each illustration or drawing, challenging himself with questions like: “Can I work with three colours rather than a billion? Could you work with a limited number of shapes, rather than a billion? My default is to use every colour I have at my disposal and I want to challenge that.”
Through a process of refamiliarising himself with the print process, and looking back at old work, Pat’s been pushing himself to both refine and broaden his parameters. “Sometimes it’s a case of trying to do the opposite of what I’ve done before” he says. “For example, a few years ago I made patterns that were arranged free-hand with balance and harmony being achieved by eye. I wanted to explore what happened when I pushed against this, so created new patterns that employed a grid. It was interesting to see the free forms contained within a structure. Also, once the grid is decided, it allows you to focus on the other formal elements within the piece.”
Another challenge has been considering ways to explore the line between literal interpretations and abstraction: “Could I create a landscape that looks like a landscape, but remains loose and playful? How about a cat? What about the sea? It’s a battle between representation and abstraction, and as a commercial image maker, it’s vital that there’s a degree of legibility to my work. It’s a very odd, foggy, subjective boundary, but I really like that."
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