So my Culture Vultures, this week is a Culture Vulture blast from the absolute past. Someone who I knew years ago whilst we studied law together. Little did we know, within that law degree theatre – that we actually had a lot more in common than the suffocating career path of a legal professional potentially ahead of us.
We were both secret creatives.
I felt so shit walking away from a legal career – especially as I thrived in it academically but it just felt so wrong. Years later on Instagram I’d stumble on megababe and kindred creative Kayleigh Marshall – otherwise known as Marshall Art Life. I was astounded by the colourful creativity that Kayleigh possessed and I felt so proud, that another creative had embraced the calling and broken free.
Kayleigh with gin (see what a kindred!)
Even though I only usually champion Northern artists – as Kayleigh lived in Newcastle for several years – I’ve decided she’s an honoury Toon megababe and she is the subject of this blog piece. Also, she produces the most amazing art pieces, street art and has one corker of a creative story to tell.
So well hello Kayleigh, so lush to catch up; I’m always surprised when I met creatives and artists that were accountants, lawyers, corporate suits……we met on our Newcastle University law degree – do you find that a lot of creatives and artists end up in the corporate world until that moment, when they just can’t pretend anymore?
Oh for sure. I call this the ‘fuck it’ moment. That point in space and time where you realise you were put on this earth to do something outside of the prescriptive 9-5. In the words of Amy Winehouse “If you don’t throw yourself into something, you’ll never know what you could have had.” I just couldn’t pretend anymore and I needed to experiment with other options. From my experience with other creatives if we don’t have an outlet for our creativity we turn a sickly shade of grey and spontaneously combust; it KILLS us to not express our creativity and working in the corporate setting was doing nothing for my sanity. I managed 1 year in the real world before I went solo.
Wow one whole year of “beige buffet” working – congrats. I’m a heart and soul kind of worker so I relate. What was the “fuck it” moment for you? It’s a big move to say, right I’m not going to be lawyer; I’m actually going to be an artist!
So my ‘fuck it’ moment didn’t just happen overnight, it took weeks of research and self-reflection. I’m an incessant list maker and so towards the end of 2016 when it came to working out what was making me unhappy I spent weeks writing down lists of EVERYTHING that make me tick and everything that didn’t. It wasn’t until I realised that the career path I was meant to be on couldn’t be found on LinkedIn or Glassdoor that it became crystal that I was destined to forge my own.
I didn’t have a clue where to start but that was my moment of clarity, my fuck it I’m going to be an artist. Hahaha sounds ridiculous writing it down, I guess it was a pretty bold move!
Believe it or not, I went through a very similar list making process – I still make endless lists. Things aren’t real until they are on paper and I have too much going on in my head. So, tell me about your creative journey and how you came to be this fantastic artist?
Let’s break this down chronologically. Growing up I was that kid always drawing on stuff. Always arranging my crayons into the rainbow and making other kids cry at pre-school because I’d steal their pens when mine had run out. High school is where I had my only formal art training. In 6th form I studied Art and Design at A-level and honestly I was obsessed. Literally used to come into school at 7am to work on my art projects before registration. High school is also where I was told I was ‘too smart to study art’. Yes, those are real words that really came out of a teacher’s mouth to me and my parents at meeting about my career options.
Fast forward a few years and I’m graduating from Newcastle University with a 2:1 Law degree having done barely anything remotely creative. In 2015 I moved down to London to start a job in Marketing, 6 months into that job I was loving life, I started creating again, people even started paying me for commissions. Then in October 2016, when I was sick of the corporate life came the ‘fuck it’ moment and since then I have launched Marshall Art Life, created over 20 mural and street art pieces, over 250 illustrations and worked with some wicked clients on their branding!
Now I’m here and I look back on all that, it was obvious I was always going to turn to art at some point, even if there was a slight detour via Law and Marketing…
You have a signature style – how did that develop?
Looking back on last year (2017) it was the year Marshall Art Life figured out her style. From experimental abstracts, to daily art challenges, I focused on working out who I was, what I wanted my brand to say and what style of work I wanted to spend my days producing.
It’s not something that happens overnight, believe me I wish it was, and so you have to just let yourself get lost in different styles and keep experimenting. Having said that you don’t just arrive at a signature style; it’s something that I believe should always evolve to avoid creative stagnation.
I know you sell your work, I know many artists who love it and others who find it kind of gut wrenching – how does that feel handing a piece over to someone else?
For me there is a HUGE difference between selling my prints, and handing over a commission.
- Selling a print is a fairly easy transaction for me as an artist because my client has found my work, seen a piece they love and made the decision to purchase. Easy.
- Handing over a commission however is a whole different ball game. My clients are placing a huge level of trust in me and my ability when they commission a piece of work because the artwork they want doesn’t exist at this point. It’s my job to translate their vision into a reality. Hours of thought, skill, design and creativity goes into a commission all of which is based on what I believe my client to want. So when it comes to handing over that piece I actually lose sleep until my clients and I agree it’s exactly spot on! I often wonder if this process will get any easier but I doubt it hahaha.
When you commission a Marshall Art Life piece of work you actually get a few hours of my lost sleep thrown in on the house, you’re welcome haha.
A commission with some real life blood, sweat and tears – I hope you’re charging for those type of extras. So how much of what you do is commission and project based alongside just you having an idea or series concept and going with it?
It’s a cyclical process. When I produce new work or develop a series of pieces that triggers an influx of commissions in that style. Hitting the sweet spot is when I come up with new concepts WHILST producing commissions. It’s SO important as an artist to constantly develop creatively and with every new piece I produce, I am improving and exploring new concepts.
If I were to try and put this balance into a %, I’d say right now in my creative career it’s a straight 50/50 split, with plans in the future to spend a greater % of time on the conceptual side of things.
Your Marshall brand is amazing, distinctive and just so perfect for you and what you’re doing – why did you decide to develop a brand for yourself as an artist?
When I set out on this creative journey I made a promise to myself; a promised that I would be honest and in order to be honest I have to be a real person. My brand really is nothing more than an extension of me, my style, my thoughts and my work. Marshall Art Life isn’t a facade, it really is just me, Kayleigh!
Your social media game is strong – you do lots of live videos, stop-motion, live drawing etc – I think it works really well; (in the least creepy way possible) I enjoy watching you! Is it hard to really share that in the moment creating process?
It isn’t easy to capture on camera those magic moments of creativity because I never know when they are going to happen BUT I believe in sharing as much as I can about my process. Whether it’s my live tutorials or sharing snippets of me illustrating I think my followers enjoy the invitation I extend to them to better understand my creative world and subsequently how artists make a living.
Recently I interviewed Emma Cale, the founder of Gallery Piccolo who I have just partnered with to sell my work. We went Instagram live, chatted about the mysterious artist / gallery relationship and shared the whole conversation with our followers – I don’t know anyone else who is doing that!
Tell me about your Cosmo experience – what an opportunity!
Well first and foremost I’d like to hold my hands up and say that this project with Cosmopolitan Magazine was a lucky break for me. A very lucky break indeed!
After quitting my job I knew that I would have to leave London and move back home with my parents to give myself the best chance of getting Marshall Art Life up and running financially. The first thing I did on day one of funemployment was apply for this #CosmoHomeMade scheme. To raise awareness about the crippling rental market in London Cosmopolitan wanted to house some of its readers as property guardians in a London ‘Cosmo House’.
Long story short I got the call to say I was a successful applicant and that was that! After just 5 months back at home I moved back to London and into the Cosmopolitan House with 6 other entrepreneurial girls! We were all featured in the magazine and still live with each other now!
You were a Northerner for a while and now, you’ve gone back down south. (wahhh!) How do you think the cultural and creative scene is different in the North in comparison to the South?
Every city has its own creative identity, and I think the difference between each one manifests itself through the people who live there. London is a melting pot of culture with a very dense population meaning the variety of subject matter of artwork down here is probably greater than up North. Let me just reiterate I don’t mean that it’s better, just more varied.
You seem to love street art like I do – Shoreditch, Manchester & Liverpool has amazing street art scene! Do you have a favourite street artist?
Falko! 100%. This street artist tours the world painting elephants into obscure urban spaces. He is a magician with spray paints and his colour combinations are electric! You can imagine how stoked I was to find a piece of his down the road from where I live in Brixton! Properly geeked out.
Tell me about your favourite project last year?
In July 2017 I got my first legal street art permission. I was painting alongside 20 other street artists from across the world in Croydon as a part of Rise Galleries ‘Street Art Jam’.
This was a phenomenal experience not only creatively because in those few hours I learnt so much about handling spray, but also because of the people I met. Let me tell you Street Artists are some of THE nicest people you’ll ever meet. The network I built up during that one painting session in Croydon has been responsible for a huge amount of work I have subsequently had.
What have you got planned for 2018?
2017 was the year of developing my style. 2018 is the year I take that and absolutely run with it!
I feel like now I have my product there is literally no stopping me. On the agenda for Marshall Art Life this year is taking my brand to festivals in the UK, more gallery partnerships across London, moving into a bigger studio, creating portraits for the music industry and running my first solo exhibition. Gonna be a busy one, come and join me for the ride!
Well I absolutely hope to get an invite to your first solo exhibition! Do you have a favourite piece?
Nope. I haven’t created it yet.
Good answer! Where is Marshall Art going to be in the next 5years – what’s the megababe ambition?
WORLD DOMINATION. Or just a richer version of my happy self?
You and me both creative soul sister! I’m so excited to see how you progress and grow – it’s a privilege to watch your creative journey unfold. And when I buy my house (need to get round to that) I hope to have a Marshall Art commission pride of place.
Oh and please come back to the toon for a visit.
Make sure you check out Marshall Art and oh, she has a cracker of an Insta.