Polly Bozworth illustration for Blacklisted

Gettin' down with Boz Bozzers

Chin wagging with the English artist and illustrator Polly Bosworth about her unique style of work.

Published: October 31, 2016
Words: Polly Bosworth & J.Scott Stratton
Artist Link: bosworthstudio.space

You know that feeling when you’re standing around the water cooler with your colleagues and you’re really excited about a new show that you discovered on Netflix? You go on and on, quoting lines from the show, or summarizing storylines until at one point you realise everyone is patronizingly nodding their heads as you ramble on, because the show is actually in its 3rd season and you’re forcing them to relive a conversation that they’ve all have a dozen or more times. That’s kind of the feeling I get when mentioning the brilliant work of artist/designer Polly Bosworth.

The half-English, half-Polish—with just a pitch of Irish—Boz Bozzers, as she is sometimes known, has been successfully establishing herself in Copenhagen for some time now. So while I am nothing but proud to have her collaborating with us as our artist during the month of November, we are by no means the first ones to celebrate the uniquely original work that she creates.

Unlike the other 90 percent of ex-pats, myself included, that came to this fine city as either a sexual refugee or a student, Polly came as a fresh-faced 19-year-old with a suitcase and toaster in hopes of discovering creative stimulus amongst a large and foreign culture hub that was, in her exact words, “overloaded with creativity”. Not quite finding the burgeoning cultural madness that she was expecting, she enrolled herself in design school to establish a reason for her to stay anchored to Denmark. This too failed to inspire as much as two entire semesters of mastering table tennis, so she parted ways with the Danish educational system and struck out on her own—following a path that often zigzags between the traditional and commercial art fields.

While being a frequent artist amongst the pages and covers of Bitchslap magazine, and getting mentioned in the art colossus Juxtapoz, she admits that it wasn’t really until this year that her career began to accelerate—which has led her towards more actively separating her graphic design and illustrative work, while still maintaining a holistic perspective on both.

Dedicating herself to that age old mantra of, “trying and draw every day”, Polly has developed a style that is wholly unique—not quite illustration, not quite design, but somewhere in the middle where caricature and story meet gradient and grid. In talking to her, she doesn’t like classifying herself as either gallery artist or designer, as she often entertains the notion of being both and neither at the same times: that translating into “she doesn’t think about it that much”.

Polly Bozworth illustration for Blacklisted

“I could probably code out one of my characters onto a screen, while at the same time, I could take a graffiti can and do the same on any surface.”

Drawing inspiration from daily adventure, or lack thereof, her work idealizes the mundane and the ordinary and folds it into a style that would look as good on a greeting card as it would on a 3-meter canvas in a museum. Her work exists in a perfect nest between illustrative and digital. Not digital enough to be seen as purely style over substance, but over illustrative as to the only function in physical mediums. It has the flexibility to work in carefully selected color palettes or simple monochrome, without diminishing the story being told through her characters. Hand-print it and frame it, or surround it with copy, her work would be equally as fitting and beautiful in either scenario.

Unlike many illustrators and artists that work in purely in traditional mediums, the final outcome of her work (whether print or the web) is not restricted by the quality of the photograph taken of it. Polly’s work starts in her head, comes out on the pencil, is brought into the computer, cleaned and vectorized and saved in whatever format she wants it in—meaning she has a lot more flexibility in what she can do with it. Thus, how she began occasionally working with traditional print mediums like silk screen and vintage digital formats like Riso printing.

Admittedly, she claims many different influences on the development of her style, from Escher to Matisse to Harrington and McFetridge, but in a little Q&A we conducted with her, confessed that her largest influence was her father.

“He introduced me to art, by working on a set of geometric sports characters, back in the 90’s. I’m not sure I ever liked them as a child, but then one day I took his raw penned drawings (all 34 of them) and turned them into brightly colored vectors.”

She went on to say that she displayed these initial digital representations of her father’s work, but in lieu of his interest in continuing his own artistic career, she pushed out to find new inspiration and develop her own style. Since then, the influence over her work has come less from specific role models and more from everyday life, and the harshest critique has come from the woman she sees in the mirror every day.

Polly Bozworth illustration for Blacklisted

This mentality that she has developed towards her own self-discipline and practice—and the reputation that she has earned has led her both into numerous mentions amongst the design community, as well as collaborations with Affenfaust Galleri in Hamburg and some upcoming secret, show that she wouldn’t give me the skinny on—her placed her in a position that many up and coming artists spend struggle for years to achieve.

I choose who to work with and where to display my art and for an artist, I think that’s something that really makes it much easier for me to just keep on doing valuable work.

One could argue that design and illustration are two wholly separate disciplines that Polly has found harmony in crossing, but while talking with us she spoke about a desire to integrate further disciplines into her process, opening up her practices to include a broader spectrum of mediums.

I would very much like my work to evolve and grow, the same way I hope to. Collaborating, animating, sculpting and somehow applying my art to the way technology is moving forward is all directions which greatly appeal to me.

I asked her if she could pick one artist collaboration, the limits of mortality taken off the table, that she could be a part of. She answered after a “That is tough, really tough, question” with a desire to have worked with Keith Haring, stating, “I think we could potentially do some great stuff together.” She then went on to say that if the collaboration had to be with someone living and breathing then working with Madlib on an animation—with him producing the music and her animating the frames—was something that always dreamed about.

Taking into consideration the acceleration with which Polly’s work has gained in just a short amount of time, these type of superstar collaborations don’t seem that far from possibility. I am surmising that—had I waited until next year to contact Polly about collaborating with Blacklisted—in all likelihood, I would be going through an agent and a copious amount of groveling to get to her. So seeing an opportunity for really hard-hitting journalism that I might not get in the future, I ended my conversation with this greatly talented artist with this bombshell.

If you had to go on a blind date with any artist in the world, who would it be, and why?

I am going save her answer for the follow-up article I’ll be writing in a few years entitled: Polly Bosworth, I knew her before she was famous.

My first answer to this was Anderson.Paak, but I’ve now changed my mind. I would give anything to meet Al Green, simply for his voice and the happiness he brings along with it. That truly would be something.

Polly Bozworth illustration for Blacklisted