Please can you tell us about your artistic practice?
My work is largely figurative. It has a narrative quality. My early career was in illustration which I greatly enjoyed. I am a story teller at heart.
In my painting I try to convey a sense or essence of my subjects, they’re based in realism but I’m not concerned with likeness or too much detail.
Each work starts as a small sketchbook doodle and then progresses to a charcoal drawing/drawings or small monotone painting. I do many of these. A few will progress from sketchbook stage, but I often return to them later for inspiration, or if I feel that I haven’t explored a subject enough.
When I feel that everything ‘sits’ right within the space then I draw freehand into the board or canvas and of course it all changes again! Especially with larger canvases. I enjoy wrestling with that, and the challenges that large scale work brings. Although I equally enjoy the intimacy of a small piece, where one is forced to simplify, simplify until almost abstraction, trying to say more with less.
Personally, creating a piece involves many layers of working and reworking paint, pulling areas of the painting in and out of focus until the balance of the painting feels right, in terms of what I’m trying to convey to the viewer. Sometimes this reworking and building up of quite thick layers of paint creates a slightly blurry or filmic quality which I like, a sense of movement, and a moment caught.
The whole process can take quite a while and the quality of light and the colour are especially important in my work so I tend to use more photographic reference just for consistency.
I work very much on instinct and the ‘feel’ of a painting as it evolves, so the work often becomes very, very different to the initial sketches and indeed the reference material.
The texture of the pieces are also important to me, the feel of the surface, the history of the making of the painting, the gesso, the mistakes are also an integral part of the process, a vital part.
What art education have you received?
I was lucky enough to have had amazingly encouraging teachers right from primary school.
I did a one year foundation course in art at St. John Moore’s College in Liverpool then onto my degree at St. Martin’s School of Art.
Where do you see your work sitting in relation to figurative and abstract work?
Well it is figurative but it’s not realistic, and I strive to distill the key elements in a painting to simple blocks of tone, to abstract them, so I guess I’m somewhere in between in my process, but ultimately it’s a painting of people so it is figurative.
But the process is all about abstraction and working on instinct …light and shade, the negative space and the dynamic of those spaces and the juxtaposition of colour and tone.
… So it’s abstractedly figurative!!
Where are you from/ brought up/& how has it effected your painting?
I’m from Millisle in County Down in Northern Ireland. I lived there looking onto the Irish Sea and surrounded by lush, rolling countryside and lots of rain.
I’m from a farming family, mad about horses and motorcycling, and collecting vintage motorcycles. It’s all in the work somewhere. Those big, rolling, moody landscapes and seascapes……
What and whom are your influences?
In painting Edward Hopper, Peter Doig, Jenny Saville, Alex Katz and Gerhardt Richter…
Vintage photography and film.
Do you have any shows coming up?
Yes! Three pieces in the Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries showing now, November 2015.
And a One woman show in 2016.
How do you juggle life and painting?
I couldn’t not do it..it’s a massive part of my life. I approach it as that. I work daily.
Do you teach?
At present my work load doesn’t allow me to but I have done much in the past and enjoyed it very much.
I hoping to teach a masterclass with The New School of Art next year.
I taught life drawing and painting at Central St. Martins, the same at Maidstone College of Art where I was also course consultant. I’ve done much visiting lecture work too.
Do you have a place you are trying to move towards in your work?
Well for me I always have a feeling that change is in the air, I don’t necessarily know where it’s going to take me which always comes with an equal measure of excitement and trepidation.
But I’m always striving for a depth and intensity of colour….pulled towards painting bigger work. Making spaces that you’d almost want to step into, be lost to the texture. The scale. The colour.
I suppose in essence more abstract BUT I also wanting to create figures that have great stoic presence. Like rocks in a landscape. And stillness. So, such contradiction!
In practical terms, how do you organise your life? Work/ income/ making work/ creative projects?
Well, those who know me will not associate me with the word ‘organised’!
My income is from my main annual exhibition, sometimes this is every eighteen months, plus a smaller one in between, so it’s important to keep enthused and focused on those.
I enjoy other projects and commissions but can get a little distracted and excited about them. Which I think is a good thing!
What is your typical day?
I work every weekday, I go to the gym at 6.30 then endeavour to get to the studio for 8am and work through until 6/7pm. My day is punctuated by cups of tea and a bit of a run at lunchtime.
What is your experience of attending the Louise Balaam Landscape Masterclass with The New School of Art?
I hadn’t done a class for a long, long while.
I found it very freeing. Obviously being outside and painting in the landscape was a joy. Although I went with some intent of what I’d hoped to get out of it, it far surpassed my expectations. I was inspired, felt a great sense of freedom to experiment with oils and found that there was an infectious industriousness within the group. I was exhausted at the end of the weekend. I was taken aback by the volume of work that I’d produced, and how much I’d learnt.
I also much appreciated the creative discussions afterwards where advice and feedback were delivered with clarity, expertise and generosity. The good food, amazing setting and good company were also a plus.