ALT MU had a catch up with the beautiful and vibrant Saffron. She shared her story about becoming an artist, the struggles she faced and her many sources of inspiration. Saffron Reichenbacker is a Brighton based Artist inspired by a dream world of silver screen vamps and Weimar Berlin ghosts. She works primarily with ink sketches, which are then scanned and developed digitally. Using strong lines and bold colours, her pieces commonly take the form of imagined portraits. In these, she creates a mood that brings to life her dark dream vision of the 1920s. Saffron has exhibited in the UK, Italy & America. She loves cats, aerial circus and damn fine coffee.
What is your typical workday like?
Most mornings, I get up at 7ish, have a coffee and do about 90 minutes of yoga. I spend a lot of time in one position so I find yoga really helps balance that. It also really helps me to focus. Yoga is magic! After that, my day can go one of two ways.
The first, (and my favourite), creating new work. I usually put music or an inspiring film on in the background. I draw, draw, draw until something sticks and a character starts to come through. My pieces are usually imagined portraits so it’s very important to me to have a clear vision. The next stage is to begin digital painting, (I do hate that term!). My partner always describes my process as being similar to that of an oil painter. I use literally hundreds of layers. Although I work in Photoshop, each dot and line is hand placed, there are no templates. I adore this stage but it’s almost painful. I work very slowly and always drive myself half mad in the process! Once I have started a digital painting, it’s all I can think about. The early stages of inspiration are so vulnerable that I try to keep in that bubble as much as possible. Other than yoga, I often don’t move from my pc for days! Each of my pieces usually has one particular album as a soundtrack that I listen to over and over to keep me in that zone. It becomes a trigger for my creation.
The second way my work day can go is taking care of the business side of being a full time Artist. Preparing for exhibitions. Drawing mock ups for positioning, framing work, wrapping, labelling, answering emails and doing admin. Also dealing with web sales, packing prints etc. On these days I try to at least find a little time in the evening for sketching.
I also tend to listen to podcasts to power me through. My current favourites are Pod Sequentialism with Matt Kennedy, (from the mighty La Luz De Jesus Gallery) and ‘What’s The Tee with Ru Paul and Michelle Visage’. Anything Ru Paul fills me joy!
How did you decide to pursue a career in art?
It’s in my blood. It’s always been what I did naturally. When I was younger, I was torn between working with animals, psychology and Art. I remember my father saying you must really love what you choose to pursue as a career. Art had always been constant with me. Even when I studied other subjects, I made Art to relax in my spare time. It just seemed logical to follow that. With a job like this, the hours can be very long and it can be all consuming so you must really love what you do.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Wow, there are almost too many things! I’m obsessed with the vamps of silent films and early Hollywood. Busby Berkeley fills my dreams! I adore German Expressionist cinema and everything Weimar Berlin. Also 1930s horror films, Sunset Boulevard, Mexican folk Art…I could list for hours!
I’m also hugely inspired by aerial circus. I began taking aerial lessons in 2012 with the wonderful High top Circus. Initially I just loved the idea of flying around like a vampire bat! As time went by, the strength and beauty of my aerialist friends became a huge inspiration for me. I went on to design posters and merch for my beloved High Top Circus and now have a range of Limited Edition aerialist prints!
What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job is the beginning of a new project. I love the early stages. I make mood boards, find the right soundtrack and watch inspiring films. I try to totally immerse myself in a certain mood that I want my next piece to embody. I spend hours researching then draw and draw until something takes shape. Bliss!
What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
Where were you 5 years ago?
2011 was quite a symbolic year for me actually. It was the one year, I had a total crisis of confidence in my work and career.
After the input of people I really shouldn’t have listened to, I didn’t believe being an Artist was a ‘proper job’ and didn’t feel ‘valid’. Putting so much pressure on myself led to creative block for about a year. I was miserable. What took me out of that place was the people I love believing in me when I didn’t. I still have a postcard pinned above my desk sent at that time from my dear friend Vera. It simply says ‘Only Art Can Save Us Now’ & she was right!
Looking back, I’m very grateful for that low point because it taught me a lot about myself and my career. Being a full time Artist is not an easy job, you do insanely long hours and need a huge amount of discipline and drive. You must believe in yourself and be proud!
What advice would you give to other young artists?
- Don’t be afraid of rejection! Unfortunately it is just part of the job but as time passes you realise that it comes from many different places. Sometimes it literally just means the timing is wrong or someone similar is in the same show. You cannot take it personally, it’s almost a rite of passage!
- Practise, practise, practise! Always nurture your Art and most importantly, play. If you enjoy what you do, it really shines out and draws people in.
- It is also really important to support and encourage other Artists. Community rather than competition benefits us all. Artists unite!
- Most importantly don’t ever give up
What are your future plans? Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
I made some prototypes earlier this year for some giant wooden dolls of my main Weimar Berlin muse, Anita Berber. I’ve also been starting to experiment with articulated paper dolls and pieces that are more messy and ‘hands on’ than my regular style. I’m really looking forward to exploring this in the new year.
I also did my first embroidery collaboration this year with the lovely ‘Vintagemadbym’ aka Muriel Grimont. It was so exciting to see one of my characters take on a new form. There is something very sacred about embroidery and stitching, so much time and love goes into it. I’m excited about our future collaborations!
Finally, I will be doing a solo show in the summer at the fabulous Brush Gallery in Brighton which I’m really excited about.
You can find out more about Saffron on her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Interview by Zelda Zemzare