A beauty in person and a beauty at heart, what a pleasure it was to finally sit down and share toasties and tales with Penny, illustrator, animator and visual storyteller. What started as a yarn about travels and dream projects with a detour into daring stories about midnight crimes, finally descended into a lengthy discussion of the human condition and the pursuit of happiness. Light topics indeed. But so great to find an instant soulmate unafraid to share, explore and go deep.
This probably explains the inexplicable draw of Penny’s work – she’s not afraid to open her heart. Seemingly simple to behold at first, I find each illustration or animation beguiling in its ability to make you identify with the emotion it conveys, be it innocence, insecurity, connectedness, hopefulness or even simple revelry in home life bliss. Penny works and reworks each picture until each tilt of the head and the slightest hunch of the back is just right.
Between our conversational sojourns into philosophy and existentialism, we got to find out the gritty truth behind Penny Likes Paper…
A lot of your pictures depict children and wistful characters. Is there a story behind them?
Many of my characters recur, I have such a love and connection to them, they’re like my babies! There’s Poppy, Toby and of course my nameless “vulnerable girl”. But in all honesty, they’re not exactly self-portraits but they do represent and express different parts of me in their own ways. I often draw when I’m feeling a little blue and on the other hand am also a happy optimist so perhaps these aspects of me come through.
What is the favourite part of your illustrative work?
I love animation. It’s really what captivates and motivates me and is my absolute favourite thing to draw and put together. A lot of people have asked me why I don’t get into computer animation but the imperfection and individuality that comes with handmade animating is so beautiful in itself. It is hard work and can sometimes take ages because I have to make backgrounds (a little like sets for a movie), then I draw the characters over and over to make the movement look flowing, and after that each figure needs to be painstakingly cut out with a scalpel. Then I can start photographing and putting the images in order. But once it all starts coming together the payoff is totally worth it.
My guilty pleasure are my paste ups. It’s a swift and sneaky form of graffiti and the thrill of pasting up a sweet picture in the middle of the night is so much fun. I’ve done a few during my travels, so you will find Poppy and co traipsing around in places like Amsterdam, Copenhagen and all over Perth too, and now I’ve decided to do one in every city I go to. I think it’s a nice way of interacting with the places I visit – I take something away from every trip, so this way I’ll be leaving something behind as well. Kind of like a reverse souvenir. Or maybe it’s just an expression of a super primitive urge to go, “I WAS HERE” – haha! I prefer to think it’s the former!
One day in Copenhagen, I was keeping an eye out for good spots to paste up on, and when I saw a mural with big, slightly ominous-looking black birds I thought it would be sweet to do one with little Poppy interacting with them. First I wanted to have her being carried by one, but I thought that might look a bit sinister, haha…So I had her feeding them with a little bag of seeds instead. I didn’t know who the artists were (turns out it was a collaborative mural by two Danish artists), until one of them posted a photo of my piece on Instagram and somebody tagged me. I wasn’t sure how they’d react but they were super lovely about it and said they were going to try and keep her there when they went to do touch-ups. Gave me the warm fuzzies!
My latest project is a music video! It’s going to be two and a half minutes, the longest animation I’ve ever done. It’s been a real a labour of love and it is so close to being finished, I can’t wait until it’s released! After it’s finished I’m planning on getting stuck into more animated projects and submissions, as I’ve got so many ideas that have been bottling up whilst I’ve been occupied with this project!
I also recently had one of my illustrations letterpressed by Little Press, and I’m absolutely obsessed with the way it looks and feels! I may be tempted to do more runs in the near future…
Globetrotter or homebody?
I think I’m an equal amount of both! I’m always torn between the desire to lay down some roots and to just up and go. I’m the biggest homebody when I’m here but there hasn’t been a year since I was 19 that I haven’t gone abroad. Having said that, during my late teens and early 20s I followed every single impulse that took me away from home. I’ve got a much bigger appreciation for the comforts of home now than I did then, and I’m not quite as impulsive.
Hand drawn animations are such rare beauties these days and Penny sure makes gems. By the end of our time together, Penny had convinced us to pledge ourselves to a life of hard crime and join her on a paste up mission – and I can’t wait! Can’t wait for our sneaky midnight date and can’t wait to see what she does next.