Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Graham Cameron created a series of striking illustrations detailing his experiences of lockdown, the impact of Covid-19 on the arts and his time furloughed from work as a Visitor Services Assistant at Brighton Dome.
A free exhibition of his illustrations, The Art of G, will be on display in the Founders Room from Tuesday 26 to Sunday 31 October, 11am to 3pm.
Graham tells us about his artwork, his inspiration and some of his favourite pieces.
How would you describe your work?
My artwork just naturally fits into illustration, it’s my style. I love illustration. I always describe my artwork as cartoon, whimsical and colourful.
I use gouache paint, which is not an easy medium to work with. You have to work quickly to be able to get that flat finish and solid colour.
What are you most looking forward to about exhibiting your work at Brighton Dome?
I can pat myself on the back and say ‘you did it!’. I’ve been working at Brighton Dome for 21 years and I’ve hung other artists’ work in the Founders Room more times than I can remember. I’ve always wanted to do it myself, and I’ve finally got that chance.
You began working on this series of illustrations during the lockdown from March 2020 - what motivated you to start drawing during this time?
Drawing is something I do to keep myself sane. We went into a lockdown, so what better way to be motivated, to lose myself in art.
It’s been a great focus. I didn’t realise that back in March I was going to become this involved in it, but as the months passed and the world we know changed in so many ways, I illustrated my way through it. I now have a complete body of work and every piece has a synopsis as a reminder of what was happening during the pandemic.
What does your creative process look like?
It begins with a really bad pencil sketch, then when I reach a stage where it starts to take shape I go over it in biro pen highlighting the bits I like. Then I rub out the pencil and start filling it in with paint and add a black pen outline.
I’ve always been creative and did four years at art college which taught me a lot. Before I started working at Brighton Dome I made a basic living from my art, I’ve exhibited several times over the years and worked on mural projects.
Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
There are many bits I’m proud of, generally because of my use of gouache paint, sometimes I really nail it.
Some of my favourite finished images are:
The OceanThis was the first piece I completed after receiving a new set of paints in the post during the first lockdown in May 2020.
Pimp My Pavilion
This was inspired by the Brighton Festival event, Dr Blighty in 2016 when the Royal Pavilion was transformed with bright colours.
I created this in August 2020 based on my previous drawings of the iconic building and my memories of the installation.
When we went back into lockdown in January 2021, I was back into my own imagination. This is inspired by a television show from my childhood – Barnaby the Bear.
Why did you decide to include illustrations of famous Brighton landmarks and arts venues?
It began with Brighton Dome. I wanted to see if I could draw it and practice perspective. Having worked here for so long, the building has given me a lot, from my income to the opportunity to meet other creative people – it felt right to try and capture it.
The whole Royal Pavilion Estate is incredibly important to me as it’s so rich in history, art and culture, I would love to travel back in time to see it in its original splendour. The rest of the Brighton landmarks just followed naturally, when you think of all the places Brighton has to offer it’s a never-ending list!
How did the creation of your book The Art of G: Illustrating My Way Through a Pandemic come about? Why was it important for you to document this body of work?
I emailed Andrew, our Chief Executive asking for advice on applying for an arts grant to publish the book. He was aware of my artwork through my Brighton Dome illustration and offered to help me find a way to show my work publicly.
I had to respond somehow to the pandemic. I want people to understand that this is a standalone project, it’s just my story.
What do you hope people will take away from seeing your work?
I hope it will remind people of the year we all went through together. From the kindness shown towards one another, the incredible work of the NHS and other key workers to the impact the pandemic had on the arts. From the greatest difficulties, human beings can create incredible things.
Alongside the exhibition, an online auction will offer the opportunity to buy pieces of Graham’s work, with a 10% donation from each sale made to Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival’s charity. Visit the auction here.
The Art of G is open from Tue 26 October to Sun 31 October, 11am-3pm in Brighton Dome Founders Room, free entry.
Graham's book, The Art of G: Illustrating My Way Through a Pandemic, will be available to buy at the exhibition priced at £20.