While British artist Liz West is known for her immersive rainbow installations that transform buildings and public spaces across the UK, what we don't ever see are the drawings she creates to help her visualise them. Until now, that is, as her works on paper and sketches are being revealed for the first time.
Called Drawings, West has introduced her behind-the-scenes sketches on her website, giving us an insight into her creative process – one that is integral to her studio practice and a way to communicate her raw ideas. "I have always seen my drawings as highly personal and insights into the depths of my mind," she tells Creative Boom.
"For the right occasion, I will share them with curators, fabricators or commissioners in order to demonstrate my ideas and to get everyone on the same page. They have then been filed away, and their purpose is complete. I am now beginning to find confidence in seeing these works as pieces in their own right and as an extension of my sculptural and site-specific installations. People are curious to see the full workings of an artists' practice. These drawings allow people that insight and opportunity to own a piece of my work."
The drawings are part of an ongoing series of spatial light works based upon research into colour theory and light fields. Notable projects include Slow Revolution in Salford featuring triangular prismatic towers of colour, and Colour Transfer at Paddington Central, which adds a dazzling immersive chromatic artwork spanning the underside of the Westway Bridge in London.
Why has she not shared these drawings before? "I have been lacking in confidence when it comes to my drawing skills for many years," she explains. "I have always admired other artists' drawings and thought my own weren't up to scratch. I put a lot of pressure on myself and am a serial perfectionist, placing the onus on my sculptural and installation works, which I have a strong belief and confidence in.
"I have recently begun to show studio visitors, curators and commissioners my drawings and works on paper, who have all been very complimentary and pleased to see them. As my practice grows and matures, and as I have gained much-needed external perspectives, it has occurred to me that there is a place in the world to show these pieces in their own right. I just needed to look at them from the other side."
Of course, not all of her sketches become final installations. "Some works on paper are drawings for the sake of just being drawings, and they are never intended to be brought to life. They are imagined as unrealistic or impractical forms that could only exist on paper or in 2D," she says. "Trying to resolve them in sculptural form would be impossible or chaotic. Some of the drawings I have made that are intended for sculpture or installation have never been commissioned. They exist in my 'ideas bank' if the opportunity arises."
West admits she often revisits all her drawings, particularly when she hits a creative block. "It is in these moments I sift through my studio draws and take inspiration from my past ideas. Sometimes they can't be improved on. Sometimes they take on a new lease of life," she says.
Although it's taken some years for West to share her drawings with the world, she now admits they are final pieces in their own right and deserve to be celebrated. "I think many artists are only confident in showing the final artwork as it can create vulnerability and be daunting to show the inner workings of your mind. Sketches are raw, sometimes half-baked, whereas the final work is often thoroughly cooked," she adds.