Attending a top class art college or university is the holy grail for many aspiring artists but Stephanie Kane decided to go her own way and manifest opportunities within her industry for herself. By creating a plan to keep motivated outside of any traditional forms of training or education, she was able to experiment with her style and create her own narrative within her work. As result, she is now an award winning artist, having been featured at TATE Britain and collaborated with brands such as Apple. Here, we find out more about her creative process, the motivators behind her work and how she feels about being classed as a “female artist”.
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve always enjoyed art the most out of everything. I went to London College of Fashion to do a Fashion Illustration course. I really didn’t like it so I dropped out after a year but I think doing that was the really the starting point that propelled me to into my career. There is so much stigma attached to art school dropouts and everyone just assumes that you’re laying on the sofa in your mum’s house till 4pm. I made a plan and thought if I can exhibit every single month of the year then I can just keep going. Exhibiting is quite difficult, especially because usually you have to pay to even have your work considered or looked at in the first place. So I tried to worm my way around as much as I could and I managed to do it. Ever since then, it’s been a snowball effect.
What were the biggest challenges of that process?
Trying to find open call exhibition spaces where you didn’t have to pay. It was so hard to balance because if I spent my money on art materials, then there wouldn’t be anything left for potentially paying someone to even look at my work. It was a very difficult time.
What would you say is your signature style?
I work with more traditional mediums, like oil paints or pens. Then I like to complement it with a more childish medium, such as crayons. I think by mixing the two together, I get more precise lines from my oil paints but with the crayons it’s really free. That gives my portraits their unique stamp.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Looking at people and studying their faces. The shapes I usually draw with the crayons are influenced from the human face. Also, before I start painting, I usually want to create a certain colour and then that spurs me on.
A lot of your work is based around people. What draws you to them particularly?
I used to do a lot of self-portraits but I think that’s mainly because I was the only person available when I was working late in the night. I don’t do that anymore. Usually I like to work with friends – people that I know or I’ve gotten to know – because then I can understand how their face moves and works. I feel like I can get their personality and capture a bit more than just face value.
What is your motivation behind only painting women for your collection Girls?
I just started doing it and then realised after a point that I was developing a theme. I follow Guerrilla Girls a lot and I received a postcard in my first year of uni, which was the most shocking thing I’ve ever read to do with art:
“There are less than 3% of women in the Met museum, while 83% of the nudes there are all of women. The representation levels are so messed up. So by painting other women, that’s my little snide comment at the art world.”
Do you feel you face any challenges as a female in the art industry?
Sometimes I wonder if I were a man, what would I be but then obviously you can’t think like that; I’m not a man and it’s not going to happen any time soon. The one thing I have been annoyed at is that my name is always followed up by the words female artist. I don’t know why I need to be introduced as that. If you view David Hopkins’ name in the newspaper, it’s never followed up with male artist. It’s never done for men so why do you have to put female artist after every woman’s name? It dampens down their practice.
Who do you look up to, in terms of other artists?
Shantell Martin, I watched a presentation she did years ago that really inspired me to try out different mediums. I was asked to be in the TATE Britain with one of my friends who was doing a performance and I decided I needed an iPad to draw and then project it somewhere. At that time, I didn’t have an iPad so I didn’t know how to use one, but just seeing Martin’s work inspired me to believe that it could be done. That led onto my global campaign with Apple and other projects like that.
What would be your dream project?
I really want to work internationally. In the last year I’ve started to collaborate with more brands and be more commercial and I feel like that’s really exciting. I want to start working with household type products and be more accessible.
“If someone gives you an opportunity then always try and push it to the next level. Even if that opportunity is not there, then go make it happen yourself.”
By being more commercial, do you worry that a brand’s influence might affect your artwork?
It’s more exciting than worrying. With commercial projects, it’s about putting your own mark on the work and then I can still come back home in the evenings and paint whatever I want.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where I’m becoming a bit bored with galleries: how they act and display work. With my latest shows and exhibitions, there’s a definite comment on which I’m really excited to share.
Follow Stephanie on Instagram @stephaniekkane