Introducing Ed Dingli as the first of our WBR23 campaign artists - Ed is an illustrator and designer whose work is driven by socio-political, cultural and environmental subjects, using different methods of printmaking and exploring both analogue and digital processes. Currently living in Portugal his primary focus is on creating impactful visuals for causes including human rights, climate action and environmental regeneration. Having previously worked on campaigns for the United Nations Development Programme and Refugee Action during time living and working in London, we were so excited to be introduced to Ed’s work and so pleased he was keen to be involved in this movement.
Ed’s process in his poster creation is a beautiful one to observe, and he’s shared some insight in our latest journal entry - where you can discover a little more about his work and approach. We love how the humble, delicate pheasant’s eye narcissi is used as the focal point of his design, turning it on its head, giving our question ‘Why buy roses in February?’ an entirely new lease of life.
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE. HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START AND WHY?
I have sketched in notebooks ever since I can remember, but my formal studies began in my early twenties when I pursued graphic communication at university. During this time, thanks to a mind-opening lecture about consumer culture, I realised that I didn’t want to dedicate my life to helping brands entice consumers to buy more stuff they don’t need. I knew that I enjoyed the process of design and conceptual thinking, but wanted to direct that energy towards causes I felt connected or aligned with, and which I felt could most benefit from creativity. Since then I’ve strived to work on projects with purpose, supporting campaigns with creative visuals for subjects such as climate action, human rights and environmental regeneration.
WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN BEING INVOLVED IN THE CAMPAIGN? HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO YOUR EXISTING PRACTICE?
A few years ago my partner and I left our full-time jobs in London with the aim of spending more time in nature. We spent a couple of years roaming around the UK, volunteering on organic farms and eco-projects, and eventually moved to Portugal, where we completed a permaculture design course at Terra Alta - a local permaculture education centre. The following year we were invited to form part of the crew of co-facilitators. I gave workshops on design, forest gardening and composting.
Growing our own food and eating seasonally have become such an important part of our lives now, and provide so much joy, community, nourishment and fulfilment. One of the many observations I had while spending the summer working at a permaculture centre was what a diverse crowd it seemed to attract - artists, farmers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, policy-makers - all seemingly fed up with the way systems are being run and all looking for solutions. But while the awareness around non-organic food and its detriment to the planet seems to be growing, no one really talks about the impacts of the flower industry - the ills of the supply chain of mass-produced flowers doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. So I was really keen to form part of a campaign that raises awareness about buying flowers seasonally and promoting a life that’s more in tune with the rhythms of nature.
AT SSAW, WE REALLY FEEL ART CAN MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR UNDERSTANDING AND CONNECTION TO SEASONALITY. HAS ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR DRAWN YOU TO CREATING WITH/BEING INSPIRED BY THE NATURAL WORLD AS A PRIMARY SUBJECT?
When I was younger I thought I needed to be in the city to have enough visual stimulation. Having lived in more rural surroundings for the last few years, I have felt an almost childlike re-discovery of the endless beauty and abundance of nature. Being surrounded by an infinite array of quirky and wild shapes and forms, colours and dimensions, all in a constant cycle of seasonal change; always fresh and exciting. It’s an illustrator’s dream!
I am fascinated by the creativity of nature - intricacies and complexities in design that challenge the relationship between function and form, that the human brain could never even dream of mimicking or even fully understanding.
My absolute favourite thing is to take a break from something I’m illustrating by going for a walk in the forest surrounding my home. It’s filled with so many references that I try to sketch down or memorise until I get home and then add them into whatever I might be working on. I love the fact that when I take time to sketch and therefore observe something up close, the next time I walk along that path I understand how this microorganism is constructed a little bit better. That in turn forms the muscle memory that informs my drawing.
WHAT IS YOUR OWN HISTORY WITH/RELATIONSHIP TO FLOWERS/FLORISTRY/FLOWER FARMING?
Around ten years ago while I was working on a project near Nakuru, Kenya, through a series of random events I got invited to lunch at a local flower plantation. As I arrived, my kind host took me on a tour of the whole plantation - giant warehouses and endless monocultures as far as the eye could see - all being sprayed and strictly controlled, and all within one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet. I was even more shocked to find out that they flew two to three planes every single day to Europe, packed full of fresh flowers - ‘Dutch’ tulips, carnations, roses in every form and colour. Having been exposed to it directly, I’ve since felt that this ‘norm’ of conventional flower farming is not really widespread knowledge.
Years later, I now form part of a community garden with friends in our area, in which my good friend and housemate is a full-time gardener and grows organic flowers. This means I’m lucky to enjoy beautiful hand-cut bouquets in the house, bringing so much joy and beauty - and making for a great subject for drawing and painting.
WHO OR WHAT DO YOU TAKE INSPIRATION FROM, DID YOU LEARN FROM ANYBODY AT ALL?
I feel like I have learned from many people and projects - practically, physically, spiritually - and at the same time I feel like I know nothing at all and am so early in my quest for more understanding and more knowledge.
Some of the people and projects I have been inspired by are:
Terra Alta - Led by Pedro Valdjiu, a permaculture education centre in Sintra, Portugal that excellently fuses together my two worlds of art and ecology.
Brake the Cycle - Joe brilliantly organises cycle tours through some of the UK & Europe’s most stunning landscapes while visiting sustainable & eco-projects along the way. I participated in the Lands’ End to John O’Groats one a few years ago that was an inspiring and pivotal moment of change in my life.
Nice and Serious - A company I was lucky enough to get to work with for a few years who became my second family. They showed me that you can make a living working on purposeful work and have fun doing so.
Magdalen Farm - A beautiful organic farm in the South West of the UK where I was a resident volunteer a few years ago and learned so much about organic farming.
My partner Nina has been an integral part of this journey of discovery with me - we have volunteered and worked on every project together, so a lot of this seeking and exploration is thanks to her too. A few books come to mind that really illuminated my brain or helped me understand things a little bit better, most notably ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree, ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot, and ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck. A little book with teachings from the Tao sits on my bedside table and feels like a guiding guardian everytime I pick it up and read a little snippet.
HOW DO THE SEASONS AFFECT YOU IN YOUR PRACTICE, AND DAY TO DAY, NOT JUST IN YOUR WORK, BUT IN YOUR OWN ROUTINES AND PHYSICALLY TOO? HAS IT IMPACTED THE WAY YOU RELATE TO OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
Being surrounded by a landscape that changes drastically with the seasons has made me realise how much I missed out on when I lived in an urban setting. I cannot understand at what point humans decided that we need to pave over everything with concrete and tarmac and therefore seal out any form of wildness within our cities. Our built environments and our homes are becoming more and more synthetic and out of touch with nature and their surroundings, and I believe this has a detrimental effect on our mental and physical well-being. This inevitably means we’re growing increasingly out of touch with the seasons.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on my change of mood and energy levels as we transition from a late summer to autumn and then to winter. I’ve had the feeling that we’re always pushed to be one way, the ‘best version of ourselves’ - that being positive, productive, blooming, blossoming. But if everything else in nature has equally important seasons of growth and seasons of rest, why do we think we’re any different? It’s made me feel like it’s ok to fluctuate and go with the flow and adjust my own lifestyle a little bit more to the seasonal changes.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
Visual communication carries a lot of power, as images and illustration can be universally and swiftly understood - so I believe a strong message has the power to influence people, as we often see in political or commercial campaigns. Yet I feel like a lot of the narrative around environmental regeneration or climate action seems to be alarming, or insinuating the need for radical or even sacrificial change.
What I’m trying to do with a lot of my work is just to inspire people to rediscover their relationship with nature and see the Earth for what it is: a living being whose health is intimately tied to our own wellbeing and happiness.
Of course a change of our habits of consumption is necessary, but if we stop treating our world as an infinite resource, there for us to keep pillaging at our own free will, and rather as a living being, then making changes switches from a sacrificial to a beneficial, and even enjoyable, mindset.
DO YOU HAVE ANY STRONG PASSIONS / VIEWPOINTS WITH REGARDS TO FLOWERS/FLORISTRY/FLOWER FARMING AND NATURE/SEASONALITY/SUSTAINABILITY THAT YOU WISH TO AMPLIFY?
Eating seasonally was perhaps one of the simplest but biggest changes my partner and I implemented into our lifestyle. It actually makes life so much easier - I would dread having to go to a supermarket to decide what I’m going to eat everyday - I would so much rather look at our crate of what we’ve got available and make something up with it - plus it means you eat way more variety too. I would never previously have picked out a kohlrabi or celeriac in January - but doing so is beneficial to the planet and my body. So living and cooking seasonally is easier, tastier, healthier, and makes you a more creative chef.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT FEBRUARY?
We’re lucky to live in a place with lots of orange trees - so the orange blossom season has to be my favourite thing about February. The sight, the scent, the sound of the endless chain of bumble bees drinking themselves dizzy!
AND FINALLY, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PERFECT VALENTINE?
Hmm…a roaring fire, a plate of pasta with herbs & veggies from the garden & a bottle of natural wine - simples :)