The Artistic Chippy: An Interview With Creative Carpenter Charlie Bakewell

After years of working on construction sites, carpenter Charlie Bakewell found that whilst the rest of the world seemed to come to a standstill during lockdown, he could use this rare downtime to his advantage by finally spending some precious hours on his true passion – art.

With the sites closed and construction work scarce, Charlie set up his studio and rolled up his sleeves. Over the course of the next few months, he built his art business from the ground up – painting, drawing, and producing prints, while also learning about the fundamentals of running a successful business, from marketing to accounts.

Now that lockdown has eased and he can go back to the building site, we wanted to pick Charlie’s brains about his two contrasting careers, and the future of his creativity.

Hi Charlie! What came first, constructing or creating?

Creating came first, but with an element of construction too. I was never really into computer games, and growing up in a small village with not much going on, I needed to find ways of entertaining myself.

I got into making things from an early age. Using my father’s old cabinet of tools, I created little fishing rods, bows and arrows, skateboards, ramps, and hand-planes. Using these tools, and understanding how they worked, helped me to develop a creative nature.

When and where did you learn how to draw?

My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to be creative as a way to pass the time. On weekends my father would set up still-life’s for us to draw, or I would flick through magazines and copy the pictures, then colour them in.

Doodling in classes and pursuing art in secondary school furthered my understanding, and fostered my love for it. My grandma also played a huge role in my learning, taking me to numerous galleries, exhibitions, and museums. Although it was daunting, it helped me to understand what was, and is, possible.

What’s your preferred method?

I haven’t quite had the chance to really experiment with all mediums, but pencil and watercolour have become my current materials. They both require little space, and are instant to set up and pack down without mess, which is ideal for life on the move. Pencil has been my most used and loved medium at home; I love the simplicity and ability to create incredible detail, and the range of results are amazing. Watercolour has allowed me to add life to my drawings – delicately and patiently. It’s a slow process, but one I enjoy taking my time with. The results are worth it.

Why do you work as both a carpenter and an artist?

I recently rekindled my passion for art, and I don’t want to fall out of love with it by making it my only source of income, as this could make it feel stressful and take the joy out of it. I enjoy working on site, and carpentry is good money, so finding a balance between both art and construction was perfect. I feel this balance is essential, and as long as I can do each of them without either one taking away from the other, I will pursue both.

How do you find the time to do both? Is it tricky to switch between construction and fine art?

Honestly, I don’t find the time! I find it incredibly difficult to juggle both carpentry and art, as well as pursuing other hobbies such as surfing and spearfishing, plus hanging out with friends and spending time with my girlfriend.

Construction is physically and mentally exhausting at times, and coming home and finding the motivation to create works of art, which requires a lot of focus, is draining. Not to mention the state of my hands when I get back; glues, resins, and dirt, which I try helplessly not to get on my drawings! But because of the contrasting nature of the two things, I find it easy to switch off from the other when working on either.

How did you utilise your time during lockdown to launch your art career?

Pre-lockdown, I only produced about 1 drawing or painting every 3 – 6 months; each being a simple sketch and taking only a few hours. It was purely a hobby, and one that I only did when I felt like it. When lockdown struck, I found myself with more time on my hands than ever. What better time to learn, practice, and pursue an ongoing relationship with art? I set up my little studio and dedicated 8 hours a day to it; laying out my materials I found inspiration, and away I went.

As well as producing works on a daily basis, I also dedicated a few hours to an online art course to further my understanding of the fundamentals of art. I started on the business side of Charlie Bakewell Art too; creating a brand, an online presence, business cards, and a website, plus educating myself on how art is sold, seen, printed, packaged, and dispatched. The lockdown months were the best opportunity I could ever have hoped for, and I made the most of every second of it.

What’s your favourite thing and the worst part of creating art?

The best and worst part of creating art is that there is no finish line. I am always learning, which is fantastic, because it keeps me busy and motivated.

Finding new processes, new materials, and new ways of application, is exciting, but it is also very daunting at times – not wanting to ruin a piece that you’re so close to completing is scary!

Lockdown was definitely a tough time for a lot of people, financially and mentally, but one thing we noticed was how many people used their furloughed months to finally pursue something they’d previously never had the time to commit to.

Books were written, websites were launched, jewellery was created, clothes were stitched. Small businesses popped up all over the place, and our community was incredibly supportive of one another.

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