With an artistic practice that includes poetry, short stories and philosophy, George Samuel Bothamley currently specialises in pure pen and ink drawings, often featuring cityscapes and portraits. Inspired by Classical art and Romantic literature, he seeks to fulfil Renaissance ideals in a contemporary world. In discussion with Aesthetica, Bothamley highlights the place for traditional art within the industry.
A: Renaissance influence perhaps plays one of the biggest roles in your artwork. Could you discuss the artists which inspire you and how they come into your processes?
GB: The artists that inspire me the most are the Renaissance “trinity”: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. To me, these men are the pinnacle of art, not just for their sheer creativity, but also for their ambition, their ethics, and the diversity of their work.
As for how they come into my own artistic process – I think, first and foremost, they act as my teachers. I never studied art formally and when I first started drawing, I was also living a life quite removed form society in general. So, almost everything I know in terms of drawing and art comes from studying their secrets. But, rather than try to perfectly emulate Leonardo, Michelangelo or Raphael, I really try to just take elements from each of them and add that to my own independent techniques. So my work is a new take on the old ways.
A: Do you think that the influence of such artists lends to your multi-disciplinary practice? Do you think it’s important for artists to have diversity in the medium they choose and, as such, create connections across a wide variety of styles?
GB: Well, I have always been someone who engaged in a lot of artistic variety – with art, writing, philosophy, physics etc.
But, looking at Michelangelo and Leonardo in particular, they certainly encouraged me to continue a multi disciplinary practice – because they are proof that, if your creativity is high enough, it is possible to be a master of many fields.
Having said that, I’m not someone who thinks that all artists should have such a diversity of practices. To me, each individual has a certain innate sense of which artistic medium/s help them to express best; whether it’s drawing, sculpting, playing music, or anything else
So, most importantly, I think every artist should be 100% true to that feeling – and express in whichever way feels most natural to them. If that ends up being in just one medium, then fine. Focus on that, and you will still create all the connections you need. It just so happens that, for me, I could never find one perfect medium that allowed me to express everything that I felt inside.
A: You take a variety of subjects, including portraits and cities, mostly depicted through realist methods. What is it about specific places or people that you find important to document?
GB: Put simply – their depth. Of course, I do also want to capture the unique beauty of a face, or the grandeur of a place. But, more than that, I want all of my pictures to be a document of emotional depth: this could be my own emotions – or those of the person/place I am drawing.
But, either way, nothing in this world has just one layer to it. Every building has foundations. Every person has an internal life. Even my drawings – which are technically 2D – still always have hidden layers and contain secrets. So I try to document both the external and the internal. The surface, and the deep.
A: Are you interested in the narratives of the subjects which you draw?
GB: Oh yes, most definitely. Everything I draw has a story. Each person in my portraits has their own past; with hopes, fears, dreams, successes and failures … and every place has its own history.
But also, I feel like every picture I draw is part of my own personal narrative too. If you look closely you can see the story of my own life – good and bad – playing out in the things I draw. It is just down to each individual whether they see these stories in my work.
A: When did you first become interested in drawing in such detail? Do you think that you are responding to the contemporary world in any way?
GB: Drawing in detail was just my natural way – even from my very first drawings. I have never been able to explain it, but, really, the more complex the scene, the easier it is for me.
As for responding to the contemporary world. Yes, I suppose you could class it is a kind response. Although, I tend to think it is more a reminder. Or a yearning for the way things used to be.
Similar to how the poets of ancient Greece told stories about their past golden age, and mourned the loss of that former idyll – even though they themselves never personally experienced it – so, I use art both as a way to connect with my own lost idyll, and to remind the contemporary world that what we have now is not how things have always been.
A: With such historical and classical influences, how do you think you live out a particular ideal within modern society, and how do you think that the medium you choose reflects a response against the digitalised world?
GB: Well, my style of art does not really allow for any kind of editing or faking. So, for that alone, I think it is quite the opposite to this digitalised world.
Whether you look at social media, photoshopping pictures, or even in every day situations like social events or job interviews – I feel like many people these days are trying to create a false picture of perfection in their lives. Whereas with me, although I do strive for perfection, I am more concerned with my art being raw and real. I also like how, even though my work is complex, my mediums remain very basic.
Not that I have anything against modern technology, because it can open up lots of doors for artists. But I look at how some of the greatest artists in history hardly had any technology available to them and it makes me see just how much is really necessary. Of course, creating in the old ways doesn’t make things easier – but I do believe it makes art purer. In short, it’s not coming from a computer or a screen.
1. George Samuel Bothamley, St. Pauls. Courtesy of the artist.