-Studio visit photography and interview by Judith Carnaby
Perched on a steep hillside overlooking the log-filled port town of Lyttelton is the home studio of Hannah Beehre, a New Zealand artist and illustrator. As an illustrator Hannah goes by the moniker Frankie Pip, and works with diverse clients in the nearby city of Christchurch as well as developing connections throughout New Zealand. Frankie illustrates in a variety of styles, including detailed pencil sketches, comic-style illustration and hand-drawn type, which come together through their lively personality and playful sense of imagination.
Frankie’s studio makes the best use of her home’s spacious garage. The space is warm – the hot summer sun softly filtered through a plastic-sheeting wall. The plywood ceiling gives the studio a cosy feeling, and there is lots of room to experiment and play. Bristly paintbrushes, collections of photos, eclectic images and reference books are scattered around the studio, all materials used as part of her contemporary art practice. A hard hat hanging among a large selection of work tools hints at previous work as a gallery technician.
Frankie’s illustration workspace is contained mainly to her desk, with daughter Parker’s play space nestled close by. Frankie fits her illustration work around being a full time parent, and in the following interview she talks about her work and explains how she manages to balance a career as an illustrator alongside motherhood.
INTERVIEW WITH FRANKIE PIP
Judith Carnaby: A sense of fun and lightheartedness features throughout your work. Can you share your process in creating the work?
Frankie Pip: I own a big dog. She needs a lot of walking and that’s where I do a lot of my work. Just daydreaming the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. If I can see it (in my mind) and I love it, I’m ready to work. Most of the time the final product won’t end up like my initial daydream but it gives me a starting point and a standard to measure the work against. Walking always comes first. Then there is a bit of wrestling while I grapple with the materials. If things are going well I will get some flow and the work will almost make itself. If things aren’t going well I will push on to a place where I’ve got something to look at and critique. I take a break, have a cup of tea, look at something else, and then come back and straight away make a list of changes and work through them, rinse and repeat. That’s the hard way, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Illustration by Frankie Pip (detail from a collage illustration)
Do you find you have a natural drawing style for your illustrations, or do you try and change how you approach each work depending on the brief or client?
I do have a natural drawing style. But the reality of wanting to work for local business means I’m often working for more than one client in an industry. In this scenario I’m really focused on producing something which reflects the client’s individual vision. It means I’m doing lots of quite different things. This part of the work, deciding on the ‘how’, is one of my favourite parts of the job and such a large part of my practice. I think I have a natural working process, although the outcomes may be very different, the way into the project and the pattern and rhythm of the work is often the same.
Has studying and working in the fine arts helped shaped the space in which you work as an illustrator?
My studio is really set up to feed my art practice. My illustration work is so varied moment to moment that I only give a project space on my desk or desktop when I’m working on it. The things I surround myself with are things that make my mind whir and fly out into the deep. That way when I look up from my work I can take a real break. I also have a lot of tools and materials at my fingertips here. A big part of my process is working out what medium will fit the brief best. I am an art medium junkie. I dream of being locked overnight in an art supplies warehouse. I love the way a new medium will change the way you work and think. I end up collaborating with the medium, I think, it has its own strengths and limitations and my job is to work with these to approach my idea, keeping my eyes open for those moments where the medium has better ideas than I do.
Do you find your art and illustration practices feed much into each other or do you keep them separate?
I think they keep to themselves. They have quite different personalities. It’s the reason I work under separate names for my art practice and illustration work. When I’m illustrating I have answers, I’ve got something to communicate and I’m aiming for clarity and immediacy. My art practice is all questions, wonder and wandering. It’s not linear and it’s also quite dark. At the moment I’m working with charcoal, black velvet and Swarovski crystal. I suppose both practices share my obsession with finding the best method but the similarities really end there. I do think that, in a way, they are both necessary for the other – between them they manage to bring me some balance.
How does working from home as a new mother suit you? Has it changed the way you work? I imagine you have had to develop some new time management skills!
I spend more time playing than I ever have which I think helps the flow of ideas and sets the tone of a lot of the work I produce. Little children are magic. Their whole approach to life is creative, experimental, they do the most unexpected things, and they see the world so differently. My daughter Parker is teaching me surprising new things every day. Being a solo parent is a challenge but we have our routines and I am fortunate to have a self cleaning household.
I don’t suffer from procrastination in the same way I used to. I usually can find 2 or 3 two-hour blocks in the day to work. The two hour block is great, about as long as I can sustain deep focus. Breaking the day into blocks means you have to walk away and come back with fresh eyes. Occasionally I will be up at 2am working and I typically work six days a week but I love my job and I feel really lucky to be able to be doing what I do and looking after my daughter.
Thanks for letting us visit, Frankie Pip!
To see more of Frankie’s work see her website.