Free Spirits, is a new book containing intimate interviews with celebrated artists written by Rosie Osborne.
Inspired by her time spent in St. Ives, Cornwall as a child, Osborne began writing the book sixteen years ago at the age of 13, releasing the book on the eve of her 30th birthday through her own publishing house.
This lifelong project has seen Rosie interview artists from around the world, and sp
ending time in London, Paris and Cornwall seeking out renowned artists. Most of the interviews discuss themes around freedom and happiness, and reflect on how to hold on to ones freedom in a fast changing world, that is increasingly making it difficult to do so.
Free Spirits is a compilation of absorbing material and thirteen intimate interviews collated together and beautifully presented in Rosie’s first ever book. The intriguing interviews within the book offer inspiration, wisdom and exploration into the vast art world and culture and its influence around the world.
We were lucky enough to be able to sit down and interview Rosie. Read her full interview below.
1. What inspired you to write Free Spirits and start interviewing artists?
I started visiting artists’ studios when I was a young teenager. The more of these spaces I walked into, the more I felt curious to visit others. It made me realise that artists’ studios are often spaces that aren’t seen or experienced by the public - instead, they’re rather closed off. I felt that I wanted to share how inspiring these spaces can be, and to attempt to encapsulate that. Above all though, it was the power of the stories that I heard during my interviews with artists that made me feel compelled to write Free Spirits. As I was interviewing artists from a young age, the stories that I heard went on to shape decisions I made in my own life - acting as a compass for my life in a way.
2. How did you connect with these artists?
The people that are interviewed in Free Spirits have been artists that have come into my life as a child, a teenager, and during my twenties. I contacted most of the artists via Instagram, to ask them if I could interview them. Social media has been a huge element, as it really has democratised and transformed the art world.
3. How has the art world changed from the age of 13, to the age of 30?
When I was younger, you needed to have ‘contacts' in order to be able to get in touch with well-known artists. Thankfully, now, anyone can message an artist directly on Instagram. It has made the whole thing much fairer, in my opinion - much less based on 'who you know’. Instagram cuts out the personal agent, the gallery - everything. It means that whoever you are, and wherever you live, you can still contact any artist you like, however famous they may be.
4. You have collected an amazing selection of stories and interviews. Was this an emotional process and did anything surprise you?
It was definitely an emotional process! Sitting down to interview someone that you’ve never met before about their deepest inspirations, regrets, happiest moments… There were some incredibly intense times. Sometimes, you have no idea what a question or topic is going to trigger in the the mind of the person. A particularly emotional interview was with Parisian photographer Mohamed Khalil, in 2015. When I asked him which of his photographs he’d salvage, if he could only salvage one, the question sparked a memory of a fire that his family had experienced in Morocco when he was a child, where they had lost everything dear to them. The discussion that we had about this experience opened up such personal and important themes of what was truly precious to him, and he was so honest with his wisdom and advice. I’m very fond of the interview and the way it makes me feel as a result.
5. Do you have a favourite interview?
I’m very fond of my interview with abstract artist Sandra Blow. I was only 14 when I interviewed her, and it was the last interview she gave before her death. I remember feeling very focused and intent on understanding as much as I could about her varied and fascinating life. I admire her work so much, and I felt incredibly lucky to have seen her making some of her works right in front of me during the interview. It was a surreal moment that I cherish to this day.
6. What challenges did you face when writing this book?
I think the main challenge was keeping the self-belief, no matter what. It took a great deal of grit and 'digging deep' to overcome some of the hurdles, and to keep going on the lazy, demotivated days. Two years ago, I was involved in a near-fatal car crash, whilst on holiday. Years before the car crash, I had heard a saying - something like 'ask a person on their deathbed what they regret, they wouldn’t say that they wished they’d worked more.’ As the car was slipping down the mountain edge - as thoughts of my family and friends whizzed through my mind, I had an overpowering feeling of frustration, a deep sadness in me that I’d never get Free Spirits out there. It pained me so much in that second, which felt like a lifetime, that the stories I’d taken so much from personally would never be recorded, that I would never be able to fulfil my lifelong dream of writing a book. A thin branch, somehow, miraculously, wedged in front of the back tyre of the car, stopping it from falling all the way to the depths. As the car hung there, trapped, locals stopped their cars in the road to help us climb out of the car, telling us that there were already three cars, lost at the bottom that had never been retrieved. During the days and months following, as I got on with my life, on the days where I felt demotivated, or a bit lazy, or like I just wanted to watch Netflix all day!… that moment would come back to me - that intense feeling of frustration that there wouldn’t be a second chance to publish Free Spirits, along with the knowledge that some people hadn’t had that miraculous second chance. So, from experience... I don’t agree with that saying. In the moment where I thought it was all over, this piece of work, Free Spirits, was paramount in my thoughts, and the experience showed me that having time to create what we truly yearn to make is the most precious luxury on earth.
7. You talk a lot about the artists, and their achievements. What have been your biggest achievements throughout this period of your life?
Getting Free Spirits out there, I think. It represents a great deal of determination to me.
8. Is this a one off piece? Or will you work on a second book?
This book took rather a long time to put together - 17 years in fact! It was such a labour of love. I have so many ideas for books that I’d love to write in the future though. I’ve interviewed some fascinating American artists, and have kept the interviews aside for a book that I hope to write in the future about American art.
9. What are the challenges female artists face, and how have they changed over the past years?
At university, I chose to write a dissertation about the historical links between madness and creativity in relation to female writers, exploring cases in history where women were repressed or punished for their creative talents. It was horrific to read about the terribly humiliating creative repression that female writers experienced for such a huge portion of literary history. It taught me a lot about grit and determination, and definitely made me even more intent to publish my own book.
Free Spirits is now available online at Amazon and in independent book stores in Cornwall and London.