Paul Compton – Visual Artist

Paul Compton is a Melbourne based Visual Artist and his website is

 Paul in studio

What are the main medium/s you work in…

I mainly draw using ink. Sometimes I use ink mixed with tea and I occasionally use gouache and watercolour. I also create handmade books, zines, etchings and lino cuts.

Lady Gilding 005 high

 What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I find ink to be delicate, versatile and freeing. I used to use an old-fashioned dip pen and felt an instant connection to the tool but now I find my line work is getting finer so I prefer to use a brush instead. I like the unforgiving nature of ink as well, I have to get it right first time or start all over again.



What are you currently working on?

I made a series of drawings based on the concept of the Wunderkammer (or cabinet of curiosities) for the group exhibition Wonder Room in November and now I am extending the series because I enjoyed it so much. These drawings are a way for me to incorporate a whole range of objects, animals and myths that I love in a playful and engaging way.

Krampus Wreath

 What fascinates you?

I’m fascinated by things that are close to being forgotten and things that are considered a little strange, macabre or “in bad taste”. I love curious historical facts, trivial objects, folklore, supernatural occurrences, odd social customs, crappy television programs, obscure musicians…. Anything that sparks a little wonderment in me.


Eddie Munster Vignette

What is your earliest memory of art?

I never really went to art galleries when I was a kid so my idea of art was found in book illustrations and on television shows. I do distinctly remember a drawing I saw represented on television when I was six years old though. It was when beloved Muppets creator Jim Henson died and on the TV a program was reporting the sad news. In it they showed some drawings that children had done about the news. One was a coloured pencil drawing of Kermit the Frog

sitting underneath a rainbow. Big, blue tears were falling from his eyes. It is etched in my memory for the emotive resonance it had. I absolutely love children’s drawings for their rawness and emotive qualities. They’re a lot more honest than a lot of adult artists work sometimes.

Teen Wolf Cabinet M

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

I think an artwork succeeds if it make you feel different in some way. Whether it be delighted, repulsed, uncertain, amazed – whatever, as long as it isn’t indifference. To me art makes you think and feel.



Do you have much contact with other artists?

I am lucky because a few of my closest friends are artists. They know my work and I know I can trust their input if I am ever unsure or need some perspective on something I am working on.


Domestic Disturbance Wallpaper (sample)

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

Apart from the series of Wonder Cabinet drawings I am working on, I am also experimenting with ways of drawing that challenge how I usually work. This is (hopefully) in order to develop a slightly different and more intuitive and free-form style that will suit a series of work I want to create inspired by the writings of a particular poet I love.


Thinking of Catland (Picture of Louis Wain)

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Yes. It is full of very rough scribbles, notes about books I have read and quotes from people I found interesting. It would not be very compelling or attractive to anyone else but it makes sense to me and is necessary for remembering ideas and revisiting past musings.

Coy Swamp Creature


Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Odilon Redon is an artist I’ve admired for a long time. To me, he is the kind of artist and thinker I aspire to be. He said, “My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the undetermined. They are a kind of metaphor.” I have a very long way to go!

Edward Gorey will always be a hero of mine. I admire his very individual and distinctive drawing and story-telling style. He was not afraid to make the books he wanted to make, even though many people scratched their heads in bemusement at them.

Grayson Perry is another favourite. I admire his multi-disciplinary approach to ideas, his skill, sense of humour and his ability to create work that is very contemporary but also acknowledges past artworks and history.

Rabbit in the Hat Trick


Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?

I hope that my work speaks for itself. Art is like comedy in a way. One person’s hilarious comedian is another person’s tiresome bore. You either get it or you don’t and that’s ok with me.


Little Mermaid C M

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

I often do the titles before the artwork! A lot of the time the title dictates the nature of the piece I am working on whether it be humorous or strange etc. It’s very rare that I call something untitled.


Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

Many but the most notable are The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (I hope to do a series of works directly inspired by this story in the future), Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I’m also very inspired by non-fiction books about history.



Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

My studio is in my home right next to my bed. It is a small table with more space on it devoted to toys and curios than to work space! I find a small space to work more comfortable and inspiring.

Pretty Harpy C M


Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…

This is certainly the case for me as I often pick images and symbols that come intuitively. The artworks always end up saying a lot about my personal makeup and sometimes revealing more about myself than I was aware of at the time of making it.


Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?

I much prefer to be isolated in the creative process.


What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?

A cup of tea. Preferably English breakfast.


Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?

I really think they go hand in hand. If the subject of the work is most important then it must be executed well to give that subject/idea solidity and character.


How important is society, culture and or history to your work?

I am a complete geek when it comes to researching historical facts and curios. I love to make reference to obscure subjects and figures from history in my work. To me, a solid understanding of what has come before me leads to more informed contemporary work.


Do you collect anything?

I wouldn’t say I have a large enough mass of anything to call it a proper collection but I do have a penchant for collecting authentic Victorian era postcards. They are full of charm and character and I particularly love ones that are pre-owned and have hand-writing on them.


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