Oscar Mitchell is an Illustration graduate of Falmouth University. His body of work is defined by his highly expressive characters, brought to life with a strong use of line, block colour, pattern and brushstrokes.
Oscar’s flair for illustration came from a lifetime of doodling and taking notes, filling the blank spaces of his textbooks and revision materials at school with interesting observations and imaginings. “I remember one day drawing a nose (kind of line drawing sea gull shaped) and thinking ‘cool, I think I’ll keep doing noses like this’. Then came eyes, body shapes and everything else which resulted in a ‘style’ of fine liner pen drawings of strangely proportioned humans plastered over any blank space,” he says.
Many of his pieces make use of gouache to create flowing scenes fully inhabited by his characters, laden in quirks and idiosyncrasies. The pieces capture movement, gait and personality with effortless ease. While some pieces are pervaded with intricate patterns, others are allowed to swim in negative space. “I think it just tightened up over the four years I was in Falmouth. I started initially doing painstakingly intricate cross hatched fine liner drawings and for the past two years I have really only used gouache paint,” he says.
Oscar chose Falmouth to pursue his foundation diploma, in an effort to try somewhere entirely new and far from what he knew at home in Glasgow. His decision to stay on for his BA was born out of connection: “I’d met a group of incredibly nice people there and things with a girl (classic) had just started working and I think I just wasn’t ready to leave such a relaxed, creative place,” he says.
He goes so far to cite the people he has met at Falmouth as his favourite, and more important part of his university experience. “It is nice to be inspired by what your friends are doing even if it’s in completely different area of the arts. Friendly competition is healthy I think. What may have been lost in terms of my choice of course was certainly made up for by the town I was living in and the people around me. That and pasties,” he explains.
Nevertheless, the first year of his degree proved challenging. “I had one rather humiliating crit experience which really damaged my confidence,” he explains. But he came to realise, above all else: “that the point of university isn’t to do things for the benefit of the course but for yourself…Going into the creative industry doesn’t demand grades, but a portfolio of interesting work from a hardworking, happy person.”
Oscar is open to taking risks, even when they don’t pan out as successfully as hoped. A children’s book he illustrated for a project at university, Pétanque stands out for his as an example: “It was a risk to combine my style of fashion illustration with my children’s story and this time it didn’t quite work…I am still enthusiastic about writing a children’s book about pétanque (French boules) but it is something I will change entirely,” he says.
Experimental with his style over his course, Oscar is a self-confessed perfectionist. “Every mark, brush stroke and colour should be how I imagined it and if anything goes wrong, I’ll start again. It’s a bit pedantic really and easier said than done to start again when you’re three weeks into a painting,” he says.
Eventually, Oscar hopes to more to New York having been “blown away by the creativity and bustle around Brooklyn” on a trip there last summer. But for the time being he’s happy with Cornwall and occasional jaunts to Europe working on an assortment of creative projects that pop up – both illustrative, and exploring other avenues of art. “I have just returned from Croatia where I was helping a super talented cinematographer shoot a film entirely on super 8,” he says. “It is this kind of new experience and learning which I love and will continue to pursue.”
G . F Smith
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