I was interviewed about my painting for the ‘Fresh Paint’ section of the magazine, and my interview was made into the article, but I thought I’d share the full interview with you.
Here it is:
How did you first get involved with art?
I’ve always loved art. My dad painted a lot and I loved the smell of his oil paints (as a tiny child I tried to eat them!) I have drawn for most of my life. Although I worked away from art for a while, a brain stem stroke at the age of 36 forced me to re-evaluate my life and I returned to drawing and painting again; life is short and you have to do what you love.
What is it that first drew you to portrait/figurative artworks? Do you ever paint other subjects?
One of the first things I remember drawing as a child was an eye, I was very proud and kept it in my pocket for weeks. I painted a lot of animals and people when I was young.
I like to paint people I know or admire, as a student I wanted to paint the life around me, my friends and all the grime and chaos of our student life.
I have always been fascinated with portraits and figures, partly the challenge of getting them right, and partly because I love people-watching and I love meeting people and hearing the stories they tell. My biggest motivator is always to try to convey a sense of the person through my paintings.
I do occasionally paint other subjects. Landscape is a rare subject for me, although I love the sea and the country I am most moved to paint when I’m actually out in it. I grew up in a town and live in a housing estate so the country is not directly around me (though nearby). I’m sure if it was a bigger part of my daily life it would feature more in my work.
I do like painting food though, another passion of mine, and enjoy trying to practice painting the everyday objects around me that make up my world.
What do you enjoy most about working in oils? What are the challenges?
I love oils because they are buttery and delicious and blend so beautifully. I used pastels for a long time but I was frustrated that I needed to buy and use so many different colours. Colour is exciting to me and I like the control that oils give me over creating my own.
The most difficult part of oil painting is making the right decisions about colours and marks when painting alla prima to keep things fresh and not end up with a mess of too many layers. Oils can take up a lot of time and space but I kind of love being surrounded with lots of work on the go.
Can you talk me through the production of Dream from start to finish? What drew you to capture this particular scene?
‘Dream’ is a painting of Zoe, a brilliant body artist who I know through an art group. I’ve been asking people who have interesting hobbies, or are performers to sit for me so I can sketch and photograph them with a view to making more paintings. Zoe had dyed her hair pink, and although this is not the original painting I had in mind to capture her, I couldn’t resist painting something that showcased her hair and gave me scope to play with colours. Her pose reminded me of when I lie in the bath and dream up creative ideas and my hair floats around, which is something I’ve sketched and painted before.
I drew the composition quickly first, I was worried as she’s looking out of the picture that the composition might not be balanced, but her hair anchors it and her looking out gives the painting more of a sense of dreaminess I think.
I began by painting the canvas pink, then blocked in her face. The paint was quite thin and ran slightly creating a drippy, loose effect that I wanted to leave showing in a few places as I layered the painting.
The teal blue and green of the background I used to draw the shape of her hair rather than the other way round.
Then I had great fun making the pinks to create her hair!
Have you ever exhibited your artwork? If so, what was it like?
Yes, I had a solo exhibition in London in October last year. It was called ‘Passions – Superpowers of everyday people and was about portraying people in their ‘zone of genius’ doing what they love. I wanted it to be a really positive portrayal of people as I’ve painted a lot about depression and I wanted to choose a subject that depicted a positive view of life. I tried to do this with lots of colour and energy.
The whole process was a steep learning curve, particularly in terms of timing each phase of work and each painting to make sure I got in all the preliminary work, sketching and ideas which are so crucial to getting a finished painting you believe in.
I enjoyed every second of the exhibition and talking about my work, I feel very lucky that it happened.
I also exhibited at the Surrey Contemporary art fair this year which was a whole different learning curve in terms of planning the space and hanging the pictures. Again, it was brilliant to engage with visitors to the stand.
From Julian Resting to Dream, your work seems to be adapting a more abstract feel, with movement captured in duplicated figures and backgrounds becoming more obscure – what has driven this change?
I think the work for the exhibition mostly drove this change. I wanted to communicate movement and emotion in my paintings, and sketched a lot to try to come up with ideas. Some of the sketches seemed to take on a life of their own and took my idea away from a totally literal representation to something more abstract. I like the idea that the abstracted backgrounds allow me to manipulate colour to suggest emotion, and that the viewer can attach their own meaning to it. The duplicated figures were purely a way to suggest movement, and in some of the earlier paintings in the series I was playing with the paint on the canvas to see what effects it would give, then wiping it off if it didn’t work. It was one of the advantages of working on a large scale that I was able to play in this way and be quite physical and expressive
What’s next for your art?
I will keep drawing and painting as much as possible to exercise my drawing muscle. I’m going to keep going to regular life drawing sessions in this year,it’s so important to draw from life.
I’ve got various sitters lined up to paint so I can continue to explore the themes of performing and movement, but I’d also like to go back to doing some more still, emotive pieces about more general human emotion.
I’m a storyteller, and I will continue to tell people’s stories through my work.
Hopefully I’ll get the chance to show more of it in more places, as that’s the whole point really, to let people see your work and watch them connect with what you’re trying to say.