by Kerby Rosanes . November 28th, 2013
Art meets luxury. This is how most people describe the work of Australian artist CJ Hendry. Her works are realistic black and white drawings of objects and items like designer shoes, bags, clothing, etc on huge sheets of paper using just ordinary black pens. At first glance you would even think her works are photographs but as you get closer into its incredible details, you might not believe it was achieved by just using pens and long hours of hard work.
CJ Hendry is a Commerce student who happened to love art and takes drawing into the next level. Her common subjects are fashion items like designer shoes, bags, hats, etc that are smoothly drawn on large sheets of paper using pens creating mind-blowing photorealistic masterpieces. Finishing one drawing can span for long hours, days, weeks and even months to finish. Her patience and incredible attention to detail when working on her masterpieces are shared through her Instagram account.
YTD got the chance to talk to CJ in an interview sharing how she got into drawing, her inspirations, creative process, luxury and Alexander McQueen. Check out the interview below.
I was under the impression that going to university and doing a hard degree with a well paying job would satisfy me… I couldn’t have been more wrong…This past year of drawing non-stop has fulfilled me in ways I cannot even explain. I feel a sense of satisfaction with what I do and believe me I am a better person for it.
YTD: Hi CJ, welcome to You The Designer! How’s Australia?
CJ: Thank you so much, it’s a great privilege to do an interview with you guys. Australia is wonderful. I live in sunny Brisbane so the weather is generally pretty good up here. Overall, can’t complain.
YTD: How would you describe to us your style in art?
CJ: Hmmmm that’s a tough one. There are so many ways to describe my style and I am sure people will have different things to say. I look at finished pieces and feel a strong feeling of simplicity. That might sound strange because most pieces are so detailed in their own right but the intentional use of negative space encourages an uncomplicated reaction with all focus on the object.
YTD: Tell us a short background how did you discover your love for drawing.
CJ: At school in our art classes we were given a brief for each term projects and as young teenage art students, we could choose between painting, sculpture, mixed media, film, drawing etc. and I would always choose drawing. It was the only thing I could do. I drew with chalk and charcoal.
My skills have certainly developed from those naive years but I guess you could say that is where I began to understand the complexities of such ancient form of art. Nowadays, I only use pen. The reason for this is that I really don’t like getting my hands dirty. My nature is certainly obsessive-compulsive so anything that smudges or is not permanent freaks me out.
YTD: How do you usually start your day?
CJ: At the moment, my “studio space” is attached to my bedroom so it is a matter of having some breakfast and then getting started straight away. Early starts are the way to go for me, no mucking around.
YTD: What are your creative inspirations? What do you usually do to stay inspired?
CJ: There is a huge amount of inspiration through advertising. I love everything about that industry. The striking use of product placement, colours, timing and strategy is wonderfully captivating. It is a highly dynamic world and as a consumer, I am constantly aware of how products are portrayed and how I perceive them.
YTD: Share us your creative process. From where do you start?
CJ: It is all about the object. I am a product person and that is obvious through my obsession with the particular placement of each piece. It starts with the acquisition of the product I am intrigued by or have been obsessing over. The product is then carefully arranged to show-off its assets and then photographed over 100 times in various positions and changing lights. The hardest part is deciding on which photo is showing off the most.
Once I have decided on the winner, it is then printed in black and white. I grid up coordinates from the smaller printed photo onto a large sheet of Arches paper (I like to do it old school) and then get started. It is a very backward method with very few steps involved. I have never been a whiz on the computer so I don’t really have an option when it comes to enhancing or editing images.
YTD: We see your realistic drawings in large scales. How long does it take you to finish one drawing?
CJ: The very large drawings take over 200 hours to produce. Once I start on one that is all I do every day until it is finished. I work 16 hours per day until it is completed. Like I said before, obsessive- compulsive.
YTD: What are your tools? Describe to us your workplace.
CJ: Tools are simple: Arches paper in 640gsm, a long 1 meter ruler, various weights of black pens and an architects table.
YTD: Most of your subjects are fashion items like shoes and bags. Any specific reason(s) why chose this theme?
CJ: Luxury has always been something I have desired. When my sister and I were very young, our parents would never spend money excessively especially not on clothing. We dressed in basics and shopping at more expensive stores was never an option.
As we grew older and left school, we got jobs. Having a job meant that we were in control of our own finances and if a whole paycheck was blown on a jacket or a pair of shoes then no one was going to stop us. That is probably how I have been able to justify spending insane amounts on money on luxury objects. My wardrobe could be auctioned off and I could buy a house with the proceeds…gosh that sounds ridiculous but it’s true.
YTD: Which among your drawings you consider most memorable? Why?
CJ: There is no way to pick one. Each piece has been carefully thought out and I have an emotional connection to each and every one.
YTD: Who is your creative hero?
CJ: Alexander McQueen, hands down. His insane symmetry and detail drives my wild and I am constantly baffled by the legacy he has left behind. I have been following him ever since I started buying luxury and have built a collection of handbags, clutches and shoes. Yet to buy a McQueen ball gown but believe me I cant wait for the day that happens.
From an Australian perspective, the clothing designer Dion Lee is another standout performer. Once again, the symmetrical craftsmanship and architectural lines of each form are in a class of their own.
YTD: In your opinion, is formal education in art assures success in the creative industry?
CJ: Yes and no. These will be stories from both perspectives and everyone will have a varying viewpoint depending on their artistic “qualifications”. From my end I have had absolutely no formal training. I am studying a Commerce degree with a double major in Accounting and Finance, clearly I don’t know the first thing about art history. I am sure there will be many people who do not classify me as a true artist and they are probably right, but I actually couldn’t care less how I am judged.
Art as a word means something different for everyone and this particular question has been subject to much debate. The critics are going to rip me to shreds in years to come and I am certainly not going to pretend like I know what they are talking about. I’m just going to keep doing what feels right at the time.
YTD: How do you deal with creative block?
CJ: I haven’t really dealt with that before. My head does not really think creatively. In my mind I am very logical so if it doesn’t make sense then I wont do it. Being the stubborn individual that I am, there is very little that I don’t want to do. Over the last year I have created my life into something I love, so there is never a hard day where I have a block and can’t more forward.
YTD: How do you usually spend your free time?
CJ: Seven days a week of non-stop work is how I function best. If I’m watching TV, I will also be replying to emails or paying bills. I feel very uncomfortable just sitting down and relaxing. If not drawing then I am cramming for exams at the last minute.
YTD: What’s your current music playlist on repeat?
CJ: Audio books are my form of music. When I work, it’s really nice to get involved in each story and this actually encourages me to focus more on drawing. I like to stay up late and sneak in another chapter before retiring to bed.
YTD: If you are not an illustrator today, what would have been your work and why?
CJ: Lets be honest here, it certainly wouldn’t be in finance. Working in an advertising agency would be a very close second to drawing. I would like to give it a go one day.
YTD: A piece of advice to aspiring illustrators out there.
CJ: Gosh, I am certainly in on position to be giving advice. The most important thing that I have learnt is to do what you actually like doing. I never really listened when time and time again people said “follow your dream and do what you are good at”, I thought that was a load of bullocks.
I was under the impression that going to university and doing a hard degree with a well-paying job would satisfy me… I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have failed my way through university and have been kidding myself ever since enrolling. This past year of drawing non-stop has fulfilled me in ways I cannot even explain. I feel a sense of satisfaction with what I do and believe me I am a better person for it.
SEE ALSO: The Beautiful Realistic Portraits by Jennifer Healy
Mind-blowing isn’t it? Hendry’s amazing skill in drawing and creative journey will surely get more awesome in years to come.
Got inspired? Share us your thoughts through the comments below and might as well suggest some artist(s) you want us to feature next!
Have a great creative day ahead!