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Interview Fiona Stephenson

You are a retro pin up artist. Who are your main influences?

My main influence is 50's artist Gil Elvgren, I think he had incredible skill with oil paint and produced really inventive compositions, I try to capture the same sense of fun by creating 'stories' within my own artwork. I also love the work of pin-up artists Joyce Ballantyne and Zoe Mozert from the same period, it was a very male dominated world but they managed to succeed.

How do you explain the popularity of retro styles?

I think some people feel the world has become a very cynical place and retro/pin-up art definitely brings a smile to your face with it's humour and lighthearted approach. From the beautiful faces of the girls to the amazing colours, retro art reflects a time when people felt anything was possible, workers had more money to spend and the future was bright. Women in particular seem to favour the sexy but not sleazy fashions within the images and who can resist the design of those fabulous cars.

Can you tell us something about your career?

I went to art college in my home town in Yorkshire and also London to study Illustration. After college I had a brief stint working in t.v and for magazines, I then went into comics, first as a letterer for Games Workshop, then as a colourist for 2000AD and D.C comics. It was while I was at a comic convention in San Diego that I discovered and fell in love with the art of Gil Elvgren, I decided to recreate his art and teach myself to oil paint on canvas, people started to show interest so I started to create my own original artwork. I now work mostly for companies who want to use my art on packaging, calendars and advertising, it pleases me because this is what the original pin-up art in the 50's was used for.

If you could live in the past, which time period would you choose?

I love the artwork, fashion, music and design of the 50's, I even own a gorgeous jukebox but I wouldn't choose that period to live in, it wasn't a good time for women .Instead I would choose to live in the 60's because women were able to take control of family planning, in the U.K working class people were able to move in to the arts resulting in a boom in great films, art, fashion and music which had a positive influence on the world. Also in this period, being gay was decriminalised in the U.K and it became illegal to discriminate against black people in U.S.A. it was a truely revolutionary period.

What artists (any art form) should be more famous?

It's difficult for me to tell who is famous and who is not but I don't think Enoch Bolles and H J Ward get enough attention. I love how Bolles creates pretty pin-up girls but the compositions and poses are incredibly quirky and bizarre, one of my favourites is a girl riding on the shoulders of a polar bear. H.J. Ward is a wonderful artist using a traditional loose brush style but he worked in a commercial environment, his compositions are breath taking, he manages to fit 2 horses and 5 people onto the restricted dimensions of a magazine cover and it still looks dynamic and full of movement.

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