Some of you may have noticed the excellent pest images on the Rentokil website and read the blog post about our pests “Getting a Facelift”. Well, we thought it was high time we spoke to the creative geniuses Paul and Bridge from Blue Sky Creative who undertook the massive fine art project of preparing all of the detailed pest drawings that we now use online.
Danusia: Tell us about yourselves. What are your backgrounds? What do you do now?
Bridge: I started my art career creating artwork for the children’s TV programme “Art Attack”. I worked as a teaching assistant in the art department of a local high school; this led to the beginning of my training as an art teacher and progressing onto complete my BA Hons degree in Fine Art. Paul (my husband) and I opened an art gallery in a local village. Currently I work as a commercial artist and photographer for our own company, Blue Sky Creative.
Paul: I worked for many years managing challenging behaviour and learning difficulties care homes, then progressing to teaching Information Technology at an emotional behavioural difficulties school. I have recently completed my BA Hons degree in Visual Design and Communication at Ashford School of Art and Design. For many years I have created websites for local businesses and now work with my wife for our own company, Blue Sky Creative.
Danusia: I love Art Attack! But how did you get into pest-related art? Do you study for it?
Paul: Bridge has a BA Honours degree in Fine Art. We have an eye for detail and this transposed itself with the in-depth research we do into each and every pest we draw. We now feel like we could consider a career in entomology (hehe).
Danusia: So do you think you need to have a background in entomology then?
Paul: No, although it would have been helpful! Researching and studying pests is key to make sure the correct anatomical components are in place.
Danusia: What “drew” you to this job?
Bridge: This job was a chance to combine our Fine Art and digital skills. Caroline came to our art gallery opening and soon after sent us an e-mail asking if we knew any artists willing to complete a pest database for Rentokil’s websites, we were extremely happy to oblige.
Danusia: How is drawing pests different or similar from drawing other things? I know I have asked you for several previously not drawn pests for various blog posts (thisvsthat, unbelieveable truths).
Bridge: Drawing pests is easier once you have completed a few as you start to understand the way their bodies are built up. Saying that, we did end up with a nine legged tarantula! He looked great! (It was our son who spotted the mistake)
Paul: Similar to regular fine art in the use of form, tone and shape.
Danusia: Do you think drawing pests improves your skill as an artist? And if so, how?
Paul: Yes, definitely. The pests are in such high detail for recognition and identification purposes. It helps build fine motor skills and perfect the use of media – the pests were all completed as a sketch, then onto watercolour and pastel layering.
Danusia: What is your process for drawing a pest?
Bridge: We spend several hours researching each pest. Rentokil kindly gave us access to their research laboratory with vial upon vial of actual pests, this made it easier to create our initial sketches. The only downfall was that some pests are so very tiny we had to rely on microscopic photography examples (some had also changed colour after dying which creates some issues!). After initial sketches we use a watercolour wash to give the base colour; then built up detail layer by layer, using watercolour paints and pastel pencils.
Danusia: Do you have loads of specimens around your studio? Does it ever give you pest-related dreams or nightmares?
Paul: Yes and yes again. We live with test tubes from the labs and our artwork as a constant reminder on our walls. Bridge has had a number of nightmares where she has actually left the bed, believing there were spiders in it! We carried out some work in South Africa at our friend’s web design studio. We should mention our friend is absolutely petrified of snakes, but we may well have cured this phobia?!?! Also, whilst on safari, we met a tour guide who had just been bitten by a Yellow Sac Spider and had severe bruising and swelling to the back of his leg. Knowing all the details on the pest, we were able to identify and advise the poor guy!
Danusia: Wow, artists turned DIY medics. Do you do any other forms of art? Is it also pest related?
Paul: We do. Blue Sky Creative now offers web video, web design, photography and logo design. The Rentokil contract is the only pest related commission we have at present.
Danusia: What’s the best thing about drawing pests? The worst?
Bridge: The best thing about drawing the pests is expanding our knowledge in the world of entomology and getting so much better as time has gone on, we are now on approximately pest number 340. The worst? Double checking our research to make sure we have the right pest and confusing Latin names!
Danusia: Which pest has been your most favourite to draw? Your least favourite?
Bridge: Whilst drawing the pests, part of the brief was not to make them too horrific or too cuddly, this was extremely difficult in the case of the flying squirrel! He is sooooo cute; the guys at the offices had to check that I had not made up a character. My worst would have to be any kind of mite. They are so microscopic and ugly that it was extremely hard to get them just perfect.
Paul: The Crazy Caribbean Ant was most definitely my favourite-with his long dangly legs, I could just imagine him with a rasta hat on, ha-ha. My worst? The rat, Bridge ended up completing him in the end, his nose was either too pointy, his tail too long, or his feet too white… we just couldn’t seem to get him spot on. I tend to leave the bulk of the drawing to Bridge.
Danusia: Have you found working with pests has made you less squeamish when, for example, you find a giant bug in your bathtub? I am still really bad for getting my husband to remove spiders at home.
Paul: No, not really. We just know what they are called now!
Danusia: How do people react when you tell them what you do?
Bridge: They are extremely intrigued and think we are slightly mad. They are seriously impressed by our portfolio of bugs!
Danusia: If you could change anything about pests, what would you – as an artist – change?
Bridge: We would make everything larger so that we could study the detail more closely.
Danusia: And on that note I think we can bring the interview to a close. Although I am not sure I would want pests any larger than they already are. Would you?
Bridge is an artist, designer and photographer with a passion for travelling and scrapbooking. Born in 1981, she studied Fine Art in Kent. (BA Hons). With her husband, Bridge set up an art gallery in Bilsington-The Barn Gallery. Now Bridge is the Managing Director of Blue Sky Creative, with her husband Paul Houlton.
Paul Houlton was born in 1968. He has just graduated with a Visual design and Communication degree and is now putting all of his attention into Blue Sky Creative. Paul concentrates on hosting and developing websites for local businesses, using his new skills within viral marketing and web video to promote websites. Paul hopes to develop the company within the photographic, fine art and web industries over the next few years to be one of Kent’s top design studios.