Artist and illustrator Carrie Francis from Pontypridd is very artistic. She’s also autistic but, as far as Carrie is concerned, that’s a gift she wouldn’t give back in a hurry.
I’ve spoken to several creative types with autism or Asperger syndrome over the years and in each case every one of them has dismissed the idea of the ‘condition’ being a disorder. In fact, most have perceived their autism as something they would never change and Carrie Francis is no exception. Carrie took time out of her university studies to enlighten us a little more…
Have you always been creative?
I’d like to think so. According to my parents, I started on the walls of the house and the cupboards and doors and I gradually progressed to paper! I was very fond of the show Art Attack (when it was presented by Neil Buchanan), and I used to do art attacks on the living room floor with anything I could find and could get hold of, including pillows and tea towels! Luckily the family dog escaped being included – although I did used to ‘decorate’ her with plastic kids jewellery and anything else really (she never protested).
How has your autism affected your life and your art?
It has affected both my life and art in positive and negative ways. I have the social awkwardness associated with autism … and I’m an absolute perfectionist – but the latter allows me to put all the detail that I am able into my artwork. However, this also means that sometimes the works take a very long time to complete. Despite all this, if a cure were to be found for autism, I wouldn’t want it. It’s made me who I am.
What is your favourite media?
I have dabbled in different types of media from acrylics and pastels to shoe polish and coffee (much better for painting rather than drinking!) – but pencils, coloured and graphite, are my preferred medium. It took me a while to get into them but I got there eventually. I feel more in control with a pencil than I do with a brush – if you’re doing really intricate work in a painting and you have a paint brush with bristles that tend to go out of place, it can make a bit of a mess.
How long did the Sherlock painting take you to complete?
It took a month on-and-off. Depending on their size, any of my hyper-realistic portraits take between on average a week to a month (with a couple of rare cases taking four to five days and one took three months). They become a labour of love. The Sherlock piece was literally an experiment and it was the first piece of work I had properly drawn on black paper. The piece was done with coloured pencils and white ink (because I couldn’t get the effect I wanted with a white coloured pencil).
What artists’ works inspire you?
I’ve never exactly been inspired by other artists, but there are several artists I do enjoy. I’m more taken by the older artists such as the Dutch Masters because of the impressive realism. One of my ultimate favourites is an Art Nouveau artist called Alphonse Mucha. One form of art I’ve never been fond of is abstract art – just not my cup of tea. One modern artist that I have grown really fond of in recent years however is a Russian-Israeli painter called Leonid Afremov who only uses a palette knife in his work. His work is very colourful, without being psychedelic, which I really like, and the amount of detail he gets with just a palette knife is incredible.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m hoping to go into business as a freelance illustrator. What I really want is to earn my living by doing what I love, which is drawing – I draw therefore I am.
Do you accept commissions and how would someone go about that?
Yes, I do accept commissions. The only commissions I’ve completed so far have been through family and friends. I don’t have a website as of yet but I’m working on it… so the best way to contact me at present is by email email@example.com
Portraiture is my speciality, but I have done animals and pets, and I have also done the rare aeroplane and there is a galleon on the waiting list. However, I am not taking any commissions at the moment because I am in my final year at university. I will accept them to put onto the waiting list, but I won’t be able to start them until I finish my course early next summer.
Artist & Illustrator
This feature has been produced with the kind support of Beechwood College and the Good Life Foundation.
All work copyright Carrie Francis.