Verso caught up with Bella Whittaker as she embarks on her final weeks of her Visual Communications degree from UniSA, to discuss her art practice. Bella is the face behind 'BABES', a brand which encompasses art, illustration and rocking threads. She has sold her 'BABES' all over Australia as well as internationally. We were so thankful Bella could spares sometime to talk over her achievements so far as well as how and why she started creating 'BABES'.
Verso: How did you decide to become involved in the visual arts?
Bella Whittaker: For me, it wasn’t a decision. As a kid I was just naturally drawn to the arts and it took up a majority of my free time. I have been raised in an extremely creative family where making and creating is encouraged. As kids my sister and I would work with a wide variety mediums including acrylic, watercolour, marbling, tie-dye, clay, Lego, everything. For me, drawing sets me into this meditative state where I can zone out for hours listening to music. On the other hand I also love challenging myself, and testing the knowledge I have with new mediums. It can be as safe or as adventures as you want it to be. Creating is just my default setting I guess…
Verso: What’s your most proud arts achievement?
Bella Whittaker: Ooh, good question. This is tricky… I’d have to say top two greatest babe achievements so far would have to be getting a babe to every single state and territory in Australia. This was a huge goal of mine and was achieved so quickly. I honestly couldn’t believe it. The other would definitely be getting a babe to America and a few to Canada. For people to appreciate my art enough to have it flown to the other side of the world is so incredible and makes me feel so genuinely humbled. I can’t even wrap my head around it.
VERSO: What are the main concerns of your practice?
Bella Whittaker: My designs and illustrations represent strong, happy people living life, being boss and killin’ the game. I think this reflects my carefree and optimistic personality. While some of them look a little sassy, they are visually exciting to look at, making you feel invigorated.
VERSO: Describe your studio…
Bella Whittaker: Shambles. I have a ‘Creation Station’ out the back of the house where I get messy with paint and clay and sewing. But when it comes to watercolours for exhibitions and commission pieces I use the dining room table. It’s like three meters long so understandably I spread out and use the clean open space. I also really like having conversations and being around other people whilst I’m working. I then usually blu-tac the pieces to the nearest wall like a collage to get an overall vibe for the body of work - this is what I did for my last exhibition. No one else in the family really appreciates this method of work, there are babes EVERYWHERE.
VERSO: Can you describe your making process?
Bella Whittaker: The body of work created for my last exhibition was inspired by my trip to Italy with uni. I looooved the gypsies in Florence with their layered skirts and shawls. They looked like they would have had some great stories to tell. So for me, my process generally starts by getting inspired by something that interests me. That’s the most important part. Wanting to make a comment or a visual interpretation of something. I then sketch it out; pen it in and watercolour over the top. I don’t tend to re-do pieces if I don’t like them, I’ll take a new spin on the concept and see if I can improve it in another way.
VERSO: What about Art keeps you coming back every day?
Bella Whittaker: Drawing makes me really happy. I love being able to express how I’m feeling with colour or lines. Seeing other people enjoy my art too is an incredible feeling. The support I am now getting globally encourages me to push the brand further by experimenting with new ideas. It’s just good vibes all round.
VERSO: Do you have tips for other artists?
Bella Whittaker: If you’re looking to sell art and design, do it though Instagram. I wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful exposure wise without it. It’s so amazing and has really helped my brand flourish (all around the world). Instagram has wonderful facilities for selling art and keeping in contact with likeminded people. Not only does it do that, but I love following illustrators and designers too so it provides me with a fresh mood board of ideas and concepts everyday.
VERSO: What artists/writers/ and/or creative people are your trophy people?
Bella Whittaker: Ohh @Manjitthapp is AMAZING. Her style is so uber duber groovy and I love the range she has on her illustrations. Definitely check her out on Insta. I also take inspiration from my mum’s illustration style. She always drew girls with flowy clothing and big hair with lots of flowers.
VERSO: Do you have a five-year plan?
Bella Whittaker: Next year will be my first year without studying full-time since I started kindy so my plan is to relax and develop babes as much as possible. I love doing my graphic design work as well, so freelancing is also part of the plan. I would love to do a short course in making silk screens. I feel like they have so much potential so I can’t wait to get cracking on new things. I guess I don’t really have a plan set in stone thus far but the dream would definitely have to be to have a successful brand of clothing and art.
VERSO: What’s next? Any exhibitions or shows?
Bella Whittaker: I’m in my final week of studying Visual Communication at UniSA so graduating is next. BUT I can’t wait to get back into working on babes without feeling guilty about what I should be doing - uni assignments. I’m looking into getting babes printed and embroidered on to clothing which is suuuuuuper exciting. My third exhibition has just wrapped up at Swedish Tarts so I’m looking for a new space to hold some art. Please get in contact.