What is it that drives you to create art?
As a child, I was surrounded by a lot of art. I was particularly fond of my grandma, Daphne, and I used to get involved and inspired to join in with her creative projects whenever we went to visit. That along with a string of great art teachers definitely led me to highly value creativity in its many forms. I have always had a strong love of geometry and design. I made the decision to leave studying architecture to go off to art college in my early twenties. I’ve never looked back but my design skills and passion for architecture have continued to come through in some of my choices of the subject matter. I love the boundless possibilities for exploration of both myself and my surroundings that painting has to offer in combination with the slight rigidity of my geometric design process. I feel it’s my job as an artist to challenge the perceptions of my viewers and as a slightly introverted and quiet individual, I can do this best through the medium of paint. Some of my strongest influences come from looking at the metaphysical works of Georgio De Chirico as well as many of the Surrealists.
What does your typical creative process look like?
I have always kept quite comprehensive sketchbooks. They contain alongside reams of writing many rough sketches of design ideas some of which get developed further into paintings. My sketchbooks are always made using a graphic fine line pen and rarely include colour (I save that for the painting itself). I work up my designs to canvas and develop them further using acrylics. I work backwards and forwards using glazes of the first acrylic and later in the process oil and varnish adding and subtracting paint in a sometimes planned and sometimes more chaotic way. I am a bit of a colour Junky but My addition of colour is generally spontaneous rather than carefully thought out. I think that similarly to other artists it’s often difficult to tell when a work is complete. In addition to my larger works, I always keep a few more simple expressionistic paintings going in the background. These works much looser in style serve as personal meditations in colour and a means to explore techniques and possibilities with paint.
Has there been a specific sale that has stayed with you?
I’ve had a few memorable painting sales none more so than back one towards the end of the summer in the mid-nineties. I’d been busy making and selling affordable paintings at craft fairs and on the street with a view to going travelling around India for the winter months. Although I’d been doing reasonably well I hadn’t got enough to go until a sudden break towards the end of the summer. As was my practice I kept my photos of larger more valuable paintings to show to anyone who took an interest in my work. A chap bought one of my reasonably priced works and said he’d consider purchasing a larger one. I try hard never to get too excited about such opportunities as they more often than not never come to fruition. In this case, however, the gentleman in question was true to his word and ended up purchasing two paintings which meant I had India spending money to last me for my travels. At roughly the same time I had lent a few photos of my work to a friend who worked for a local advertising agency. She had promised to show the work to her boss who also purchased some paintings mainly one of a Bridge stretching out to sea which I was especially happy with. I’m not entirely certain where it ended up but rumour has it that it ended up in the head office of P&O ferries. The irony is that the money gained from that sale paid for my airfare and the painting was definitely about the possibility the unknown and travel.
I believe strongly from personal experience that synchronicity is a real thing and I was almost meant to go to India where I experienced the most magical 6 months of my life.
Speaking of a memorable six months, how have the last six months treated your art business?
The past 6 months have been a trying time for many due to the threat of covid and the implications that it has had on our way of life and much that we previously took for granted. I’m quite fortunate in some respects that as a bit of an introvert I actually enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my life without the normal hustle and bustle that is generally expected by modern western society. I had the opportunity to paint lots and to outline something of a plan for my career and the way ahead. I got the opportunity also to learn a lot from you guys at the V.A.A about strategies and ways forward both off and online. Currently, I divide my time between art and building and decorating which is a tough call in many respects. As I’m getting older I’m beginning to realise that becoming full time as an artist whilst remaining true to my values for me is not just a pie in the sky dream but a very valid possibility. I’ve always been an artist in one way or another. It’s not really a choice but making it work in the context of financial security has always mystified me. I have tried in the past to bend my style to be more commercial which worked well in respect to finance but left my true expressions silent. I am more determined now than ever before to have the confidence to project my true self forward through artistic expression whilst still having the means to support myself and others.
‘As I’m getting older I’m beginning to realise that becoming full time as an artist whilst remaining true to my values for me is not just a pie in the sky dream but a very valid possibility.’
Finally, what advice would you give artists who are just beginning their career?
I could potentially write a whole book of advice for Artists starting out with their careers. I think that I will stick to three principles which would be helpful.
Firstly, get a second job, that you enjoy.
I think this is realism in a certain way, Making a full time living from just art is tough. Maybe one of the toughest career choices out there. It’s easy to think that you will just walk out of college and get picked up by Saatchi and Saatchi and that’s it. It happens for some but its rare. It takes time to develop your style, to make contacts and to gain a reputation. Remember that you are an artist, so as not to let your part-time job become your whole life. Paint regularly and go to life drawing to remind yourself that there are others in the same boat as you. Never give up despite what the rest of the world says. Keep being yourself and unique.
Secondly, business and marketing. You might not like it or think that you are suited to it like so many other artists but you need to know about it and take it seriously.
Finally, be true to yourself. This is general advice for everyone, and it is surprisingly difficult in a world full of societal expectation.