“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child”
What is ideal? What drives us? What provokes us? What lifts us? We get moving by our physical requirements, by feeling safe, being valued, belongingness, but each of us aspires to reach our full potential and eventually achieve our transcendence.
“What a man can be, he must be”
Doing what we are capable and achieve our greatness is driven by force within our psyche. It can be an idea, a higher purpose, a passion or a muse. Whether an invisible spirit, a demon, a place or the most authentic organism on the planet, the muse deliberately takes over the wheel of a drive. It triggers a spark and lifts you to a place where you can release your genius.
Sue Tilley, the muse behind Luciano Freud, “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping “(1995) that broke records when it was sold to Roman Abramovich in 2008 for £17 million ($33.6 million) is the inspiration that pushed Freud to the edge of his potential.
Tilley, a local government worker in London and a close friend of Leigh Bowery, a performing artist, fashion designer and the proprietor of extravagant London Club “Taboo,”was part of the hedonistic lifestyle of the 80’s. She met Freud, through Leigh, who was also an inspiration and Freud’s sitter. The iconic plumpness of her curves and folds became one of the most valuable life-size masterworks of human forms. Freud’s exceptional techniques intertwined with Tilley’s authentic and unpretentious repose make the viewer uncomfortable yet with admiration for both the artist and the sitter.
Fast forward, Tilley has retired from her job, and she is exploring her talents as a writer, an illustrator and fashion collaborator with House of Fendi. Her cartoonish drawings of ordinary stuff are printed on Fendi’s Men’s SS2018 “corporate escapism” collection. She also creates portraits and draws dull everyday objects, as she charmingly characterizes them.
The magic appeal in her drawings is her ability to observe and render the banal into a jolly artwork. She does not push any boundaries, only reminds us that the ordinary is true, it is present and part of life. Her honest illustration of things that occupy our life moments stamp her “joie de vivre.” Sue Tilley finds her muse deep from her life philosophy and hones her potential in a spirited style.
As for the inspiration behind Tilley’s adventure in writing the biography of “Leigh Bowery: The Life and Times of an Icon” was to pay tribute to her closest friend. She reveals London’s 1980’s nightclub culture and radiantly portrays with such a wit, Bowery as the most provocative and avant-garde performers of that era.
Jupilings: Tell us about yourself, how you got into illustration and collaboration with House of Fendi:
ST: I trained as an art teacher but I never really worked in that field and more or less stopped drawing. However about five years ago I met a Portuguese artist called Rui Miguel Leitao Ferreira, and we became very good friends. He encouraged me to draw, and I got the bug again. I had a big exhibition and a good friend, Julian Ganio came, and he really loved my pictures and bought several. He is very close to Silvia Fendi and works with her on the Fendi menswear collection, and he suggested that I should draw some everyday objects for spring/summer 2018.
Jupilings: Which side of Susan Tilley, drives the wheel of her life?
ST: To be honest, I’m not very driven. I tend to wait for projects to come along and just go with the flow.
Jupilings: You have indicated that your artworks are inspired by mundane. How or why you find excitement in mundane-
ST: Oh, I love ordinary things. I can find pleasure in anything. I didn’t really know what to do for my art exhibition, so decided to base it on my life and draw things that I like such as Dove Bodywash, Heat Magazine, and foods that I love and other things that give me pleasure. I haven’t got expensive taste although I like good quality things.
Jupilings: When you are creating a work of art, you are forging an engagement with a situation or an emotion. Do you aspire to drive public awareness to activism, in any stage of your creation?
ST: Sometimes Rui and I work together, and we put on an exhibition about Brexit and how it was going to ruin Britains relationship with the rest of Europe. However, generally I just paint things that I like, and they are merely for pleasure. I seem to get many commissions to paint dogs, I have no interest in dogs at all, but I like how the owners really love them.
Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you?
ST: It just means that women should have the same rights as men and be treated equally in the home and the workplace.
Jupilings: How do you keep your confidence up as a woman?
St: Just by being me and answering men back if they make a sexist comment or if they try to tell me something that they think I wouldn’t understand as I am a woman.
Jupilings: One advice to a millennial woman
St: Believe in yourself and don’t pander to man and their stupid whims.
Jupilings: What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt:
ST: I think “ I can do this and I will do this” To be honest as I’ve got older I’ve had less self-doubt. You aren’t going to please everyone, and not everyone is going to like you so get on with your life and remove negative people from your life.
Jupilings: How do you describe your relation with Lucian Freud:
St: I just worked for him, we were friends like work colleagues, we had a chat when I was there, but the friendship didn’t continue after I stopped working for him.
Jupilings: Best advice you received from Lucian Freud:
ST: I’m not a great one for taking advice, and he wasn’t a great one for giving it. However, I did follow his way of eating..buy the best quality fresh produce that you can afford and cook it simply.
Jupilings: One thing about Lucian Freud that nobody knew about it:
ST: He was absolutely hilarious.
Jupilings: What about Leigh Bowery, what did you learn from him that had a positive effect on your life?
ST: Everything that has happened in my life can be traced back to Leigh. For the confidence, he gave me and the belief that he had in me. He was the best friend that anyone could ever have.
Jupilings: What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist?
ST: I’m not an expert on this, but I put a lot of my work on Instagram and Facebook and try to reach as big an audience as possible.
Jupilings: What superpower you would like to have ? and why?
ST: To be able to eat ice cream all day without it affecting my weight or health. I gave up sugar two months ago, but once a week I allow myself to have one scoop of ice cream.
Jupilings: Which movie you would have liked to be the leading actor:
ST: Moulin Rouge…but as I can’t sing or dance I wouldn’t have been very good.
Jupilings: What is your life motto?
ST: Just say “Yes.”