How to make your own candles with Badaude

by Cass Art

We asked illustrator Joanna Walsh (aka Badaude) to create an exclusive ‘How To’ project for us, inspired by her eye catching large scale illustrations on glass. Here’s what she came up with:

“In the past I've made large drawings on glass for Tate and The Wellcome Institute but I've never drawn on anything small.

I collected some empty jam jars, and melted wax from a candle kit in a bain marie. If you don't have a candle kit you can melt ordinary household candles, and re-use the wicks. I added children's crayons to the mix to colour the wax, then poured the wax into the jars, over the wicks, holding the wicks upright by pegging them to a paintbrush balanced across the top of each jar, then left the candles to harden.

I wasn't sure what to draw on the jars, as I tend to like things plain, but I was listening to a story called, 'The Impetus Was Delight' by one of my favourite writers, Lydia Davis, which happened to have parts drawn from a US catalogue for 'astral' candles. It's a story about the how a family home is filled with objects over many years, a testament to how relationships are constructed through the everyday art of home-making. It's a funny, and moving story, and Davis is also always friendly towards this home-making impulse, so I wrote some lines from the story on the jars, and decorated them with little bursts of light using paint markers.”

Jo also gave us a few insights into her creative process….

Where did you grow up and what did you study?

As a child I lived all around England and Wales, moving every few years. Although I did a postgrad at Central Saint Martin's, my first degree is in English, which was important as all the work I do as an illustrator as well as a writer, is based around texts.

Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to make art? 

My first job was in book publishing - in editorial - which turned out to be a bit less creative than I'd hoped. I saw artwork coming into the design department and, without the gloss of the printed page, it looked like something I might just be able to do myself…

Do the materials you use inform the work or vice versa?

It's a 2-way process. I usually begin by looking for materials to produce a specific effect, but then whatever I end up using alters the way I draw in ways I couldn't have predicted.

What mediums are you desperate to try next?

I'm still searching for the ideal black drawing marker: something like a Sharpie - a felt pen with a bullet tip -  but finer. I've drawn a number of projects double size because I like the Sharpie line so much. I went through a period of using Rotring Rapidographs, but I'm looking for something thicker and slicker. Any suggestions..?

What's your studio like?

It's in an attic at the top of my house. The floor rises to a peak in the centre like the top of a gently sloping tent. There are two velux windows in the roof and, when it rains hard, it's like being underwater in a submarine. When it rains extra-hard, water streams down one wall. You sometimes see that in the lobbies of posh hotels, but I think there it's on purpose. There's no heating, but there are plugs and wifi: what more could anyone want?

Tell us about a day in the studio

I don't always work in my studio. I never write there, so I reserve it for drawing. Erm… it's not very interesting. I sit down & draw, usually with coffee (no, always with coffee). I scan stuff, I mend it in Photoshop. That's about it. Once I've done the brainwork on a piece - thinking about what's going into it and working out where everything has to go - and am just inking in the lines, I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Bookworm on KCRW with Michael Silverblatt is my favourite show.

Where do you look for inspiration?

In books, (lots of theory), and in other artwork, and in things that are not artwork, but that are produced by people: structures in buildings, textures in city streets… I have a feeling I'm meant to mention nature here, but I'm not going to.

Do you have any tips for the techniques you use?

I wish I did. I generally feel I get to what I do mostly by being wrong so much of the time, then trying again. I like reversing out black and white on Photoshop. I wish there was command+Z (go back a step) button for drawing…

What are your favourite products?

Every kind of drawing pen. And putty rubbers.

To find out more about Jo and her work, visit her website.

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