Molley May Talks Art, Building a Creative Career and the Importance of Experimentation
The artist is one of many mentors making creative education more accessible.
Being a young creative has always been tough, especially with the added pressure of succeeding and staying creative when the world goes through an international pandemic. Whether you’re painting and using physical mediums, or working on digital art, one of the biggest conversations has always been whether you need a formal education to pursue a creative career. New online platforms like Daisie believe you don’t.
Daisie has been building an online community of aspiring creatives as well as established professionals, where everyone can meet and share their respective stories and work. The platform has also changed the way we view education by carefully curating a network of 250+ mentors spanning fashion, music, film, art, and more to change learning and make it more accessible for people all over the world. Education is no longer tied to physical spaces and schools, but instead exists entirely online where you can now learn from your peers through workshops, live conversations and more.
We spoke to artist Molley May, who is one of Daisie’s mentors, about her journey to becoming an artist, her career journey and how social media has played a role in building her platform. Keep reading for our full interview, and download Daisie to tune into Molley May’s next workshop, and lessons from hundreds of other creatives, here.
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What made you want to pursue a career in art in the first place? Do you think a traditional arts education is fundamental to success in the industry?
I think for me I never made a conscious decision to pursue art as a career, there was just no chance that it wasn’t going to form a large part of my life. I’ve drawn and made things from the moment I could hold a pencil and making is tied up in everything I do – I process all of my experiences through drawing, writing or craft. I feel lucky that I get to finance my life by drawing right now but I don’t think of it as a career, it is a lot more than that. In terms of formal art education, I do think they can be important but are not always essential. I studied an illustration degree and loved being there and spending three years just faffing around with screen printing and in the studios, but I do feel that my current practice was formed after I left education and the boundaries of marking schemes – I needed freedom and unlimited time to form what I was interested in making. I think schools can help by giving you access to a wealth of resources and things to try out, but it’s very important to remember that they can’t give you everything.
Your art is heavily influenced by observing the natural world around you. How did you find your personal style and aesthetic? What were some of the challenges you faced along the way?
I kind of disagree with the idea of ‘finding a style’ – this is something that a lot of people get very caught up in when pursuing art and illustration. You don’t need to ‘find a style,’ you already have it, the way you make marks on the pages or the colors you choose is your style. I think the more important thing to focus on is embracing the way you draw personally rather than trying to form this style of making that you think looks more trendy, or forcing it in a way that you think you should be drawing-like. Realizing this was a huge relief for me and came with a massive jump up in my personal development and practice, I felt a huge weight of expectation lift off of me and actually began to enjoy drawing for the first time.
I came to embrace my natural line by drawing a lot and drawing a lot of things that I found interesting to look at. I take a lot of photographs of things I see that interest me and later at my desk will crop certain areas or zoom in on textures. I love textures and form so natural shapes appeal to me greatly, but I also love fashion so draw a lot of clothes, again usually for their textures or the way they fold and crumple. Working out what I actually enjoy drawing and looking at helped me a lot in engaging with my own mark-making.
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How does social media influence the way you make art?
I’ve had to reshape how I approach social media in the last couple of years as I became aware that looking at all these thousands of images a day wasn’t making me feel great about either myself or the things I make. Now, I try to use it more as a way of connecting with friends and other makers rather than as a source of inspiration. I have met so many amazing friends through Instagram, some I will likely never meet in real life, but it feels amazing to have these connections
What advice would you give up-and-coming artists?
Try and find a way of making something that you genuinely enjoy! This means experimenting and not being worried about it being bad! I wouldn’t be making the work I make now if I hadn’t decided to experiment with mediums, working with oil pastels has changed my practice almost entirely and I’m so grateful. I would also say that try not to make too much work that you feel like you have to be making, the moment you start feeling trapped it’s time to make something else. This obviously feels risky but the payoff for how you personally feel about what you’re making will be worth it! You have to like your work first.
I would also advise seeking part-time work. I usually love to have a part-time job alongside my art practice, it gives me financial security and means that I don’t have to try and monetize every single thing I make – something that very quickly sucks all the joy out of the making. Also, it will get you out! I find that taking breaks away from drawing and talking/thinking/writing about drawing are so healthy and helpful. Be where the people are, and talk about coffees, bikes or the cinema – give your brain a break.
How do you think online communities like Daisie are helping young artists pursue their careers?
I think the access to learning and workshops Daisie provide are incredible – the workshops I have previously ran have all been free to attend and this feels so important to me! Having the opportunity to share ideas and discuss approaches to work with young makers is an honor – the art world is already steeped in money and privilege, we should all be talking, sharing opportunities and resources more openly and working with Daisie allows me to do that.
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How has Daisie helped you find a community and develop as an artist?
I think the other great way that Daisie has helped me personally is the connections to other makers all over the world. It’s unbelievable to me that people in Brazil, Cambodia, Finland and India all logged in to watch me talk about oil pastels in my bedroom in Bristol! Working with Daisie has helped me learn that I do have something to teach or offer to others, which has been hugely validating and encouraging.
What’s next for you?
I’m really not too sure if I’m honest! I’d like to try and maybe put a magazine-style book together of oil pastel drawings, I love the idea of playing around with folds and flaps. I’ve also just got into making drypoint etching on a pasta machine with Tetrapak! It’s so fun and such an accessible way to make prints at home. I’m also playing around a lot with scale – my drawings are slowly getting larger and larger – so maybe something bigger than me is next!