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An exclusive Q&A with Spectrum’s artist, Christine Jopling

After Spectrum’s little float down the river earlier in the Trail, we caught up with the artist, Christine Jopling, when she came to visit Kingston.

Tell us a bit about your background?

Originally from Preston, I now live in Pudsey, Leeds, with a little studio opposite a chippy. My favourite presents as a kid were always big boxes of crayons and pens, and I still love to treat myself to a lovely pen or two, as a slightly older kid!

I’ve been a freelance illustrator since 1995, and I’m still noodling and doodling – happy to hand-letter a poem or a wall, paint British Birds or beer bottles, or ink in aliens and armadillos.

    I love to create fun, colourful images that will brighten the viewer’s day and bring a smile to their face. A little bit wonky, not-quite-central, scribbly and freehand, I’m a big fan of “imperfection”!

    What inspired you to create Spectrum?

    I wanted to create something colourful, something that incorporates my love of drawing humans. Rainbows have long been a symbol of hope and for many years have represented the LGBT+ community. More recently still, they have been a symbol of gratitude to the much-loved NHS. I wanted to create a design that reflected the rainbow’s colourfulness and inclusivity, whilst including a bunch of diverse, creative, friendly and fun-loving people.

    What do you hope people will take away from Spectrum upon seeing it?

    I hope that it will make them smile, Spectrum is a cheerful bear! It has a positive message, so I just hope it brightens their day.

    Why do you think public art displays are important?

    Art goes so much further than the art gallery. Whilst galleries are important, I think it’s wonderful that things like this trail exist – it takes art to the street, where everyone can enjoy it. It’s right under their nose, as is so much creativity that may go unnoticed. It brings art to people’s attention who may otherwise pass it by.

    What did you think of the Bear Trail?

    I loved it! It makes you look at your town differently, and as a newcomer to Kingston, it was a very good introduction – it covers a good area without being too much – and it gets you walking!

    Apart from Spectrum, which bear is your favourite and why?

    Oof, that’s a tricky question! So many lovely bears – all of them, of course! The great thing about trails like this is that, no matter how many sculptures there are, the artists always come up with different ideas for them all, each is unique. Honestly, I can’t name just one … I love the fact that they can be simple or complex, colourful or calming, bonkers or beautiful, you’ve got them all!

    Have you been to Kingston town centre before? How did you find it?

    This was my first visit, we had a great day! To be fair, it did chuck it down, but we found some ponchos and made a day of it and did the full trail. We had a lovely coffee overlooking the mad phone boxes, lunch at Apple Market in the company of Clarence, enjoyed looking at some great architecture and street art, and had a river walk and visited Spectrum. He was looking very well, despite his earlier swim in the Thames. Thanks goodness for the lovely people of Kingston and their rescue skills – a brilliant community pulling together in the face of adversity!

    Which artists inspire and influence you, if any?

    I’m a big fan of Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle and Rowland Emmett (look him up if you’ve never heard of him!). I usually work on my own in the studio, but working on sculptures like this means you can work in a big space with other artists, and they are a massive inspiration – I’ve loved that communal painting experience, and learnt a huge amount. It’s great to be able to chat about masking tape and spray varnish!

    Have you worked on any other public art trails?

    I was very lucky to paint three bears in the first trail I did, and have since painted a giant Snook in York, with an enormous beetle coming up in June! It’s not a proper job, is it?

    What will your next project be?

    I’ve had some little wooden monsters hidden away in my studio for a while – I hope to be able to let them loose at some point and give them a lick of paint. A mural may well be in the pipeline … and I think you’ll be seeing me on a trail again sometime soon!