Traffic light hat, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm, 2011
What are you working on at the moment?
There isn’t really any ongoing project. By that, I mean that I don’t have half-finished paintings lying around waiting. A picture tends to live or die in one sitting. I can’t really walk away from something in progress. I have to stick at it until either I have made something that satisfies me, or it has become completely hopeless.
Can you describe your working routine?
Haphazard. I try to snatch the odd hour here and there at the moment. I used to spend day after day in the studio, yet very little was achieved as there was no time pressure, and I had few ideas. Now the situation is on it’s head: I always want to be painting, but don’t have nearly as much free time, and so I do lots of day dreaming and mentally gathering source material as I run around doing mundane life-things. The upshot of this is that when finally I do make time to paint, I am much more productive, focused and energised within that small time frame.
Can you describe you studio space, and how, if at all, that affects your work?
I haven’t had a proper studio for over 2 years as I can’t justify it financially. I don’t make money off of my art and I supposedly work part-time to make time for painting, so it’s a struggle. The last few places I’ve lived I have used the living room: I have to constantly construct a temporary studio every time I need to work and clean it up and return it to normality when I am done. A lot of times it has prevented me from even getting started. So, yes, next year must be a return to a more permanent creative space. Meanwhile, I guess my sketchbook is my workplace.
Untitled drawings, ink & acrylic on paper
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve, etc.
I doodle a lot. Ideas can come from thoughts, film, books, paintings or even not thinking. Once in my studio it’s quite common that an initial idea I set out with is quickly abandoned in favour of some other surprise that has happened in the gap between intention and the material. I used to be a very graphic painter at college: I used photos and there was always a very deliberate effect I was intending to produce- now I seek to organise accidents and the painting is about trying to bring something up out of the mess. In these situations I don’t feel I am inventing, so much as breathing life into something already there waiting to be found.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
Every picture is troublesome. It is all too easy to overcook a painting. My practice walks a line between figuration and abstraction and sometimes an individual picture can pull you off somewhere unexpected. This is exciting, but problematic as it can make it hard to present myself as an artist with a coherent identity. My pictures all make sense to me and I see how they are related, but in terms of dialogue with galleries, curator or the wider art world, artists are meant to have a certain style or theme running through their work aren’t they? The number one thing I am asked is what do you paint? And I never know how to answer. Things are foggy. I don’t have a map. But of course, it’s a good problem.
Do you experiment with different materials or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Of course, I would love to buy expensive linen and employ master-craftsmen to build me huge stretchers and to afford artist-quality oils.. .but meanwhile I experiment through necessity. If one week I can’t afford canvas I go routing around in a skip for off-cuts of wood: sometimes the texture of the surface presents problems you have to work with, not against. I have been using oil paints since I was 16 and that’s what really got me into painting. But in the last year or two I have been using acrylic and ink and pencil again which is more spontaneous and whimsical and is leading me to flirt with collage- but basically oil painting is my first love. I think there are infinite possibilities within that medium.
What does the future hold for this work?
At the moment the thing is to just keep on painting: to build a momentum. The more I paint the more coherence I hope to find. Always I hope these paintings are signposts to new things and hopefully to cities of delights rather than cul-de-sacs of mediocrity.
Swan, oil on canvas, 41 x 51 cm, 2011