GRINtroducing: Spice Up Your Line
Bex Whitling, creator of independent art platform, Spice Up Your Line joins us for a chat.
Welcome to another Brummie-themed GRINtroducing! We’ve been chatting to Bex Whitling, the creator of Spice Up Your Line about how women’s empowerment, individuality and beauty informs her work.
1) Hi Bex! Thanks for taking part in our GRINtroducing series. For those who don’t know about Spice Up Your Line, can you tell us a little more about your work?
I create abstract, minimalist line drawings which are influenced by femme empowerment and individuality. I use different colours, shapes, and patterns to reflect this beauty within every design and specialise in prints, custom portraits, murals, and sustainable homeware. Most of what I paint is free hand, unplanned and bold which gives each design a spontaneous and fun vibe.
2) How did Spice Up Your Line first come about? How did you develop your style into what it is today?
Spice Up Your Line was created in lockdown whilst I was living in my sister’s, and her housemate’s, house in Leeds. I had just completed my four-year Uni degree in Music Technology and was struggling with my mental health, as I think everyone who was trying to find work at that time was. I have always loved drawing and artwork but was told it is more of a hobby than something to try and pursue as a career. Regardless, I knew I needed to start filling my time with something and began creating. The first paintings I produced were abstract portraits of women’s faces which a few close friends and family purchased. The more I made, the more interest they gained and before I knew it, I had a consistent set of orders coming in. This is when I realised that art could be a career, and the only reason people tell you it can’t be is because they do not dream big enough.
Once I had gained more and more followers on Instagram, opportunities like paintings shop windows, changing rooms and collaborations with other artists became more frequent. I’d say the first 6 months was when I truly found my style that it is today, with the signature lips and bold black eyelashes which always feature in each piece. As much as I enjoyed experimenting early on to discover and refine my style, I personally believe that Spice Up Your Line is in a really good place at the moment and is the best it has ever been.
3) Can you tell us more about your creative process? How do you go about creating your art, whether its a print, ceramics or fashion?
I really like to focus on sustainability and individuality when it comes to my products. For example, the sustainable spice homeware range is made up of second-hand antiques. I like to find vases, bowls, glasses etc that have potential but are being disregarded due to imperfections. These I will fix and decorate to give them a new style and a bit of extra spice. Not only is this process good for the environment but also ensures that every single piece is unique and one of a kind.
For the free hand paintings, I like to go with the flow and am inspired by the music I’ll have playing in the background. I think it’s really interesting to combine arts as I believe they enhance and complement each other so I try to interpret this music into the paintings. This free hand process is also applied to the fashion accessories and the homeware I create.
For custom portraits I use the photograph that the customer provides and recreate it but in my own spicy style.
4) Which Spice Up Your Line project or product are you most proud of and why?
One of my biggest achievements so far in my Spice Up Your Line journey must be being asked to take part in the Birmingham Design Festival. I produced a painting called ‘The City of 1000 Babes’ to demonstrate how much I thought the inspiring women of Birmingham really shape the city into what it is we know and love today. It was a massive honour to be seen as one of the most up and coming creatives in the West Midlands alongside so many talented artists whose work I’d admired for years. It was also the first time my work had ever been displayed in a physical gallery which, since beginning the business, was the dream and goal.
This painting was also displayed in the Bullring which was a huge accomplishment for me as it’s an iconic Brum building and I knew how many people would see it daily.
“Growing up I was taught that cellulite and stretch marks were undesirable; whereas now I see them as an opportunity to create bright, bold, curvy gorgeous lines that enhance my paintings and designs.”
5) You describe your illustrations as ‘inspired by women’. Can you tell us how your influences inform your work?
I really enjoy painting women that challenge societies expectation of traditional beauty standards. By designing pieces that embrace all these forms, I benefit from how empowering it feels to not only see a visual representation of these ‘imperfections’, but to also appreciate the beauty that comes with them and how they can be transformed into art. For example, growing up I was taught that cellulite and stretch marks were undesirable; whereas now I see them as an opportunity to create bright, bold, curvy gorgeous lines that enhance my paintings and designs.
I also find strong, independent women, whether in the media or in my life, incredibly motivating. I take a lot of inspiration from their attitudes and actions which I use to influence my work as well.
6) If you could give any advice to someone wanting to develop a small business and sell their creations, what would you say?
I think it’s so important to run with whatever you feel passionate about and enjoy doing. The beautiful thing about art is that it is completely subjective. There is no right or wrong way to be a creative and that freedom allows you to fully submerse yourself in anything and everything that helps you feel complete. Owning your own business is such a great opportunity to experiment, take risks and allow your ideas and passions to evolve. Never worry about what other people’s opinions are – if you love and thrive within your work your audience will resonate with that.
Always believe in yourself and know that if you love what you’re doing, that is the biggest success of all. Surround yourself with people who support you – I cannot express how much my sister Nicole has motivated me to believe in myself and have faith in what I’m striving to achieve. These constant reminders contribute to my success so much and Spice Up Your Line wouldn’t be the same without them.
7) As a Brummie creative, you’ve been involved with Birmingham Design Festival, you’ve created a number of murals for Cow Vintage and your products are sold in Moseley staple, Col8 Store. What’s one of your favourite things about the city?
One of my favourite things about Birmingham is how underrated it is. Discovering the incredible independents, artists and creatives makes you realise what a hidden gem this city really is. I feel like the media like to portray Brum as just a place of violence when there is so much more to it than that. The architecture, diverse communities and down to earth spirit of Brummies is something that I find admirable. There is such a huge drive to create and thrive whilst also having an amazing sense of community and spirit which is so inspiring.
As someone who is not originally from here, I cannot express how welcoming, supportive, and friendly everyone in the arts scene has been to me and how much they’ve impacted my journey.
8) Do you have a designer/illustrator/filmmaker/creative that you’re currently obsessing over and why?
One of my favourite local creatives are the incredibly talented duo at Groove. Bria and Nathan create bespoke contemporary furniture and specialise in carpentry and upholstery to create modern designs. I’ve always loved their aesthetic custom furniture and in a dream world I’d probably fill my apartment with everything they’ve ever made. They also work hard to collaborate with other local artists which is really inspiring.
We recently did a collab and created a giant pink and blue mirror which they constructed, and I painted. This is the type of product I had always wanted to design but only with their expertise, knowledge and hard work was I able to complete. They’re incredibly friendly and are always up for new challenges and projects, which in my eyes, makes them the perfect creatives to collaborate with.
“It’s important to me to have an open mind when it comes to opportunities and to accept new challenges as that’s the best way for me to learn.”
9) What’s next for Spice Up Your Line? Where would you like to take it next?
A big goal of mine is to host my own gallery one day. I’ve got a giant notepad of all the ideas that I’d like to explore and how I would exhibit and portray them to an audience. I would want to create a really eccentric, quirky environment that people could engage, have fun and be themselves with.
I also love painting murals and giant pieces so would like to contact more local businesses and try to spice up some more walls/buildings around Brum. It’s important to me to have an open mind when it comes to opportunities and to accept new challenges as that’s the best way for me to learn.
Currently, the big dream is to have my own work studio where I could experiment and design new ideas. It would also be amazing to have my own (extremely aesthetic) pop up shop in various cities selling my sustainable homeware – that would be amazing!
10) Plan B – If you weren’t creating gorgeous line illustrations, what else could you see yourself doing?
When I was at Uni studying Music Tech, before I started Spice Up Your Line, I had the dream of owning my local radio station that focussed on employing and inspiring female sound engineers. Throughout studying I was made aware of how male dominated the music industry is and was warned that sexism in that particular job was something ‘I’d just have to learn to live with’. Therefore, I wanted to create a safe space for femme sound engineers to exercise their talents and passions without being subjected to this.