Interview with Miss Led Joanna Henly


Give us a quick bio… age, education, porn star name…the usual.

Ok, here goes… My full name is Joanna Henly, 32. I’m now in my 10th year living in London but only in my 2nd year of illustration and painting after having a long break. I studied Painting and Conceptual art in Portsmouth, sharing London Goldsmith tutors at the time and was heavily influenced by conceptual art. Moved to the big city and after a string of crazy jobs and further education I ended up teaching art for a few years. I now work and live in Islington where I have a studio at home. I also live with the wonderful and talented Hicks54 who I collaborate with from time to time.

joanna henly miss led interview

What is your favourite medium to work in?

I crave paint more than ever, but the pencil is something I use all the time. I love the immediacy and convenience of pencil sketching

Have you ever won any awards?

I won a business scholarship in April 2007, which was a huge boost for me. 5 months later I was the first female entry and winner of Secret Wars, a global street art live paint event. I was lucky enough to win against 15 male graffers and illustrators.

How much time do you spend planning before you sit down to paint?

It really depends. Recently, I’ve found that I’ll paint something that’s been running around my head for a while and have played about a bit on paper. I’m making a rule of tightening up particular styles and techniques rather than trying too many things at once. For now perfecting and developing a style is taking more of a president, as previously I was just jumping from one thing to the next. So in answering that, it could be 1hr or a matter of weeks.

joanna henly miss led interview

What does your work set out to achieve?

I’ve been very lucky in being able to create what I like. I’ve not had a style or goal in that respect. Having 8 years out from any form of creativity it was important for me to just, well, create. I wanted to regain a sense of self-assurance and to create a platform for development and exploration. It’s been a personal journey through an obsession of line and capturing and celebrating what I’ve found so engaging in photography. Through regaining the confidence in my skills I’m seeking, now, ways in which to experiment modes of visual communication and bring more of an emotive voice to my work.

What makes you laugh?
Cats in bomber jackets, dog in hats…

What pisses you off?

Huge advertising campaigns delivered by artless illustrators or painters. I mean it just really gets me going. There is such an abundance of talented artists in London that just don’t get a look in and that it really sickens me. Though in saying that, I felt that seeing bad work making good press was as important to me as seeing inspiring and wondrous artwork in a gallery, as it gave me the drive to find those opportunities also.

joanna henly miss led interview

Describe your creative process. Are you all about old-school techniques or do you use software?

My work combines both… I’ve refused to use software to create my initial imagery to mimic drawings. I appreciate the labour that goes into creating drawn imagery. I have a large light box which helps me refine as much by hand before it’s digital. Then Photoshop is used to clean up and add colour, combine images and help with final layouts. Even when painting I try to play around with the compositional structure on software. I think it’s a great advantage. Before I knew how to use it I was using tones of tracing paper and a sunny window above my sink.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Exhibitions, vintage fashion mags, comic books, suicide girls…

joanna henly miss led interview

You paint a lot of women – are these people you know or fantasy characters? What do you find interesting about them?

The first year of portraits produced, were a celebratory response to the Internet’s power of accessibility, in the rise of social networking. I drew upon, self-projection and self image. All the portraits were of strangers who had labored in creating their own digital portrait. This not only removed the traditional and inflated idea of ‘chemistry’, between subject and artist but also highlighted the juxtaposition of personal space and the elimination of those boundaries. Most of the girls and guys are friends now. The more stylized girls I draw are from my imagination.

Whose work do you admire?
Vania, Lucy Holm, Brandi Milne, Mark Ryden, Mark Caesar, Jamie Hewlet, to mention a few

What are you going to be doing over the next year?

Hopefully develop through much more painting and drawing. I’m planning a lot of collaborations at the minute. I also want to exhibit more than ever.

joanna henly miss led interview

Have you ever hit an, ‘ideas’ dry patch? And if you have, how did you get yourself out of it?

Writing. I wrote every morning for an hour, pouring on to paper a stream of consciousness. I’m returning to that now as I feel I need, not only the discipline that this requires, but also the self-reflection and the directional and motivational platform it creates.

What is the one thing no one has asked you which you’d like to talk about…?
How a lovely girl called Paige Jackoby, aged 11 came to an event I was painting at. I met her mum and she’d said that they had come all the way from Milton Keynes to see watch me, as I was her favourite artist. I completely melted. I made a painting for her that day to take back on the train, which was almost as tall in height as her.

This interview was done by:
Debbie Evans at Canvas 8