Friday, September 30, 2011


The ghost in you, acrylic on paper, 9 x 12", 2011

What are you working on in your studio right now?

At the moment I'm interested in making large, interconnecting paintings that consist of many small pieces, like a puzzle. It forces me to think about each separate piece in different ways- how they work individually, how they fit together, what they bring to the whole work. I'd like to get up to a hundred 9x12 sheets-- The furthest I've gotten is 55 sheets.

Can you describe your working routine?

I have a full-time job, so my strategy is to paint every waking minute on Saturdays and Sundays. Since time is limited, I embrace techniques that immediately alter my thinking- such as Live Painting and Marathon Painting. Throwing myself into an exposed, vulnerable state is very intense and also wonderful. It helps break down my walls, remove me from routine, and free me up to work loosely. I find that I'm inspired and energized by the uncertainty and discomfort that come with painting for very long periods, or in strange places- like out on the sidewalk.

work in progress

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

I have a one-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, and I use my living room as my studio. It's great! I have plenty of light and space, and I can just wake up and start. It allows me to be very free, spontaneous, and extremely focused at the same time. I tend to paint for long stretches- between 8 and 12 hours. I love the immediacy and proximity, and I think it helps to keep my work fresh. I never have to push myself out of the door, I can just squirrel away in my studio! Laziness works for me!

12 hour painting marathon with Austin Thomas
read full artice on Two Coats of paint

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

These days I mostly work on the floor, with acrylic on paper. I make a huge mess and try not to edit anything I do as I do it. If I have a good idea, I usually don't know about it till after it's done and on the paper. After a full day, I look back over everything and usually I can find a few good ones in there. Sometimes not. I eventually paint over the bad ones. I love working on paper because it allows me to burn through tons of paintings and follow my impulses. I love to be fast, loose, open and reckless. Painting is the only place I know how do that.



Rocks, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24", 2011

Stones, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24", 2011

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

I'm in a pretty decent groove right now- making work, exploring new ideas, seeing lots of shows and hustling my tuchus off! My main issue is trying to find time for my personal life somewhere between being an artist and making a living. I'm having a very selfish period of my life right now and it's kind of awesome. I just wish it wasn't quite SO selfish.

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I like to use materials I know I can trust. Sometimes painting feels like running across a tightrope. If I know the tightrope is reliable, I can really move.

What does the future hold for this work?

I'm very excited to expand upon marathon art-making, and I've organized a group of my favorite artists to do just that in the upcoming event, 48 HRS. Several of us will stay in a Williamsburg gallery for a full 48 hours- creating new work, sleeping over in the space- and opening the show up to the public for the final 12 hours. Here are the details! 48 HRS, Opening Sunday, October 23, 12 noon to midnight, Camel Art Space, 722 Metropolitan Avenue at Graham Avenue, 2nd Floor.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you, Valerie, for including me on your wonderful site! I refer to it often for a burst of inspiration, and to see 'what's going on' out there. I also want to thank artist Geddes Levenson for introducing me to 12-hour painting marathons, and the brilliant Austin Thomas who inspires me nearly every day.

Morphed acrylic on paper, 12 x 18", 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011


We two pods, oil on canvas on board, 30 x 30 cm, 2011

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I make small oil paintings on a scale of 30 cm x 30 cm, canvas on board. I’ve been making paintings on this scale for the last year and a half and do so because I really enjoy the challenge of limited space to work with. I make paintings that attempt to deal with the way we perceive and make associations to ambiguous imagery. I guess I try to replicate that moment when you can’t quite recognise something so you begin to imagine what it might be. I hope the paintings balance playfully between representation and abstraction remaining open for the viewer to make of them what they will.    

Can you describe your working routine?

I have just graduated from University so I am in a transitional period between leaving something very familiar and entering a new way of working. Before I was used to getting up first thing, getting to the studio at College for 9 and then just painting throughout the day until about half 5 for five or six days a week. Now I have to juggle between job hours etc, so I wouldn’t say I have a routine as such, I am getting in the studio about 4 days a week but this can be at various times. This flexibility I now have to have is really interesting because it has further fueled my passion to get back in the studio and makes the whole experience of setting myself up mentally to enter the space really exciting. At the same time it can be agony because losing the luxury of painting full time at College now means I’ve become obsessive about getting in to the studio, especially if the paintings are not going well then I really get unbearable to be around until I can actively try and sort things out in the studio.

When I do get to the space now I am usually so itching to get back and have overly thought about what the next move should be I just walk in and start painting without even looking around… then I have to spend the rest of the time there trying to work out what on earth I have done in this mad moment of energy! I am really impatient, however I paint quite patiently which usually means I will build and build, mark by mark very slowly until I get completely sick of the whole thing and go and do something drastic. I love the whole process of emotions going up and down when I’m painting, it all seems so ridiculous when I think that we can put ourselves through such a self indulgent activity for all the stress and sleepless nights just for a few moments of pure happiness when it all goes well…but when it does go well it’s all worth it.

Oil pastel drawings

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

I have just moved into a studio space in an old Warehouse at Falmouth Wharves in Cornwall. The space is incredibly inspiring because it is situated on the River Fal with stunning views across the water to the countryside (I sound like an estate agent). The space is on the top floor so all the rafters of the building are part of the studio and we have old sliding wooden doors that can be fully opened in the summer. The space feels very much part of the elements because there is no insulation and only a tin roof so when the wind is going or it is raining you really feel it with all the creeks and gusts of wind. The only down side is that birds sometimes get in and fly around the studio which can be a bit scary… I tell myself it all adds to the character! I think being in that space has brought a more rugged feel to the newer paintings. I’ve had real trouble with being to prim and precious when painting but now I feel the work is becoming rougher maybe more weathered in appearance.

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

Starting in a very loose, spontaneous way, the paintings begin very freely where I can play with the material without any constraints. I tend to try lots of different ways of applying or removing the material in the early stages of the process to find new textures or interesting surfaces. This process of playing is very important in giving me a platform to work from and also has its role in shaping the paintings throughout the process of making them. Many of the first layers that I apply remain evident in the finished paintings, usually in contrast to the later more considered and delicate application of the material.

My paintings are made in a strange place between being autonomous and very controlled. I like to have control over the direction of the painting and in a way this can be my biggest enemy because as I said before I become too precious and then find I don’t let the painting take me on a journey I instead try to take it on one, it is a bit of a dilemma for me at the minute. I want to let the paintings evolve autonomously as opposed to over thinking them but I don’t trust my ability to create something worthwhile without taking time to consider every option. The recent paintings evolve over a drawn out period of layering forms to create a kaleidoscopic image. They seem to work best when I can’t work them out myself, so I like them to be quite puzzling with a lot of information of the surface to make them appear purposeful but then that illusion of purpose crumbles when you try to read further into them. I’m really into crime dramas so that sense of red herrings or following a dead end is something I hope to bring to the paintings.   

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

At the minute I am really struggling with the fact that my paintings feel so distant to my own everyday interests and surroundings. They feel like they are in a different place to me if that makes sense? It feels like I have this agenda for the work that I can get my teeth into but now I am beginning to want to feel more connected to the sources that help to build the paintings. At the minute I pull sources from Islamic Architecture or references from paintings history which are really interesting to me but they feel so distant from my everyday living. I love walking in the countryside and spending time in vast natural open spaces but these things don’t feel like they make their way into the paintings, maybe they do but I can’t see it. I find it difficult to get my head around these ideas that I develop that then seem to be arbitrary so I want to start dealing directly with my surroundings by referencing the world that I experience on a daily basis.  

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I pretty much only make paintings on canvas. Occasionally I will go through bursts of making oil pastel drawings on paper but really I love the long drawn out process of painting, so that keeps me happy. I feel really trapped or uncultured in a way when I see people working in really exciting materials but for me I wouldn’t feel honest to myself if I wasn’t using oil paint. There is nothing quite like painting so when I make anything other than that I feel like I’m skirting round the issue at hand.  

Up in the rafters, oil on canvas on board, 30 x 30 cm, 2011

What does the future hold for this work?

I hope an endless and enriching journey as I keep painting but of course things don’t always work out so I have no idea where it is all heading. I want to continue mulling over ideas and challenges that I have and I hope the work will continue to throw up new ideas and challenges to engage with.   My actual paintings as objects I hope will end up being shown somewhere but that isn’t an issue really, I just feel so privileged to have the time and space to paint at the minute even if it’s only to keep me sane. However as it goes one of them has just been accepted to be shown in The Discerning Eye exhibition in London in November which is fantastic. The whole business of painting is such a long haul of a journey and development comes in little steps. I just want to keep chugging along and not worry too much about the future.   

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would love to just take this opportunity to thank you Valerie for making the time to do this blog. Having something like this on the internet is such an amazing thing because it makes me feel like there is a community out there as support. It has been such a good experience to reflect on my working practice… sorry if I have just rambled on. I find it really difficult to articulate what I am doing but it is always good to give it a go. 

Light casting, oil on canvas on board, 30 x 30 cm, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011


Untitled (opening), oil on board, 51 x 41 cm, 2010

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I'm currently priming 20 fairly small rectangular boards in preparation for new paintings. I'm hugely particular about my priming, building up at least 5 very thin layers of white acrylic gesso, sanding to an incredibly smooth finish in between each coat. Due to recent work commitments this has taken almost 3 weeks, I’m desperate to start painting in a few days time!

Can you describe your working routine?

Once I’ve decided on my primary image (usually a photograph found in a book or online) and have prepared it (enlarging/distorting/fading on the photocopier, collaging or painting onto the printed image) I begin painting on my primed surface immediately. I never map out a picture with pencil or grid it up, preferring to draw with the thinned oils which can easily be wiped away with turps or more paint. My painting process consists of drawing/wiping/drawing/wiping, something which can continue for a matter of weeks. However, when I like whats happening on the board the process can become incredibly quick. A finished painting may only take me a matter of hours to complete but will often be the fiftieth composition to have taken place on that support.

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

My studio space consists of 3 walls, one being completely open and is one of about 20 on a large converted floor of a warehouse in Bermondsey, set up and run by Bow Arts Trust. I've been there for exactly one year and was attracted to the space by the open plan set up which was similar to my college studio space at Central Saint Martins which I’d recently left. Initially I enjoyed seeing what everybody else was up to and the incentive to make lots of new paintings as others would be curious about your work, but I’m hoping to become more experimental in my practice and I think privacy would help during this period. I couldn't afford a space with its own windows so my natural light comes from the opposite studio which isn't ideal so i'm thinking about moving to a more secure space with windows and radiators in the next few months - last winter was unbearable!

Untitled (exotic), oil on board, 36 x 36 cm, 2010

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

Inspiration for new paintings tends to evolve from a gallery visit or a new art book - one that compiles lots of contemporary artists. Its the quality of a brush-stroke and the way the paint's been moved around a surface which gets me and sets off a trail of ideas about how I could incorporate such a mark or consistency of paint into my own work. For the past year, the primary subject of my work has been 'the formal garden' which originated from my love of French Rococo paintings. I use the internet, magazines and books from the CSM library (I make fantastic use of my alumni card!) to source both painted and photographic imagery from which to begin a painting, physically and mentally collaging the imagery until I’ve something to get the brush moving and from there, the act of painting takes over.

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

Subject matter. I'm keen to move on from formal gardens and to rein my abstraction in a little but I’m finding this hugely difficult - possibly due to the process of painting being the actual subject of my work. However, if this is the case then any primary image should work as a starting point for a painting to guide the shapes and plains etc. but I want to feel the compulsion to make visual a certain subject, something I haven't felt quite so powerfully since I was obsessed with the female nude before embarking on my foundation at Camberwell College of Arts.

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I haven't been very experimental with materials since I began painting in thinned oils on acrylic gessoed boards 3 years ago. I'm happy working within these parameters but am keen to experiment with my source imagery, perhaps working from roughly mocked-up 3D models rather than 2D pictures.

What does the future hold for this work?

At the moment, to just keep on painting! I'm hoping the figurative will re-emerge within my work over the coming months and that a story will begin to evolve, made visible by both the subject of my works and the momentum of my painting. I'm also curious to see whether I return to the oval after working within the confines of 4 straight sides...

Untitled (Lawn), oil on board, 58 x 45 cm, 2010

Thursday, September 22, 2011


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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 15 cm, 2011

What are you working on in your studio right now?

Now I am working as always, on paintings on canvas or MDF, quite small, usually acrylic, which have slowly evolved over the summer often switching to collage, gouache, and watercolours to break up the routine and to keep it fresh and look for new ideas.

Can you describe your working routine?

I like to get to the studio early in the day, three days a week and often after work in the evenings if I’m not too tired. I usually sit there and look long and hard at what I did the day before or read the newspaper or a book and have half an eye on the work trying to catch it unawares. This can have a myriad of effects either starting work straight away after seeing some new direction/possibility or sit longer to put off working and do something else instead.
I usually work from early in the day to about 5 or 6pm depending on how well its going. I seem to have an inbuilt work ethic demanding I put in a decent stint. It’s easy to go home when it’s not going well but I usually do things to keep me occupied in the studio and more often than not I am rewarded when something can suddenly happen or look very promising. These moments are actually more useful in the long run. Often it’s a case of WAITING and not doing anything there and then. Only a fraction of the time spent in the studio actually involves painting the rest is looking and thinking.

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

Studio space is about 300 square feet facing east, in an old disused factory in Hackney, London. It has a glass and timber roof, which means it’s on the top floor and is roasting hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. I often work on the floor which means the studio floor disappears from time to time and fight to keep some semblance of order in there and keep it reasonably tidy. Working on the floor denies a top, bottom, left and right to the picture and keeps me on my toes. I love being in the studio, it is a kind of sanctuary in which anything goes and the world can take care of itself. Having a studio in a block and sharing with other artists is a huge plus, meeting other artists particularly painters and engaging in dialogue and receiving constructive feedback as well as forging friendships and a community.

Untitled, oil & acrylic on canvas board, 35 x 25 cm, 2011

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

Paintings start from anywhere, rarely referencing the physical world directly. I almost never know what I’m going to do. But having said that I have recently worked from small collages which have turned out ok but the not knowing what will happen with the painting seems to be the whole point of painting for me but can be really frustrating with endless alterations, u- turns, changing directions, finding new languages, images, so the surface loses its integrity, becomes clogged and gets thrown away.

I work on several at once. Acrylic allows for rapid working and over painting. This is good and bad. I do not have much patience and often over-paint when I know subconsciously I should leave well alone. This has mixed results. Often work can look great one day not so good the next. Some paintings take months to finish while others can be finished in a couple of sessions, literally minutes. Colour and shape and their interplay fascinate me endlessly and the tiniest adjustment of each intentionally or unintentionally makes for innumerable inventions of visual joy. It’s why I paint.

The state of the medium determines the work really, that’s why I like changing it occasionally to get new ideas. The paint one mixes up, in a bowl or palette determines the outcome-its viscosity, strength and colour all have a bearing on the type of mark I’m about to make and then often react to the painted mark often changing to leave either a mess or something that looks promising. There is a sense of perpetual over-painting, layer upon layer, which hides or partly submerges existing colour and exposes a new painting to push forward. 

The more I let go and allow the painting to emerge the more successful is the outcome; tussling in my experience nearly always brings disaster. I need to lose the anxiety and the ego and ‘feel’ the painting as I work and the rest takes care of itself. I try to approach work with a ‘beginner’s mind’ mentality which allows for openness, invention and unpredictability as if I’ve never painted before. I can often produce many paintings in a few hours but very few of them survive the cull at the end of the day. Much of the work gets recycled anyway and reused for other paintings.

The idea of painting in its raw state with support, brush, and paint and the millions of possibilities it offers never fails to amaze me or inspire me. And in the end the successful ones are paintings that not only look right but also feel right and do not need me to interfere anymore. They stand alone, independent and speaking for themselves. Once a painting is finished though I have no interest in them whatsoever even though it may have caused me endless agonies of one sort or another during the making process but once its finished its dead and I gladly move to the next one.

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

My work involves a coming together of contrasting languages, painting styles and searching for new spatial arrangements. This can often seem too much to ask for at times and produces many unsuccessful pieces but it’s something worth risking. I would love to paint bigger paintings but in the past for one reason or another I’ve lacked the courage and made a mess, I don’t know why this intimidates me but it’s something for the future maybe. Small paintings are ok but they do not have the power or presence of bigger ones.

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I recently started to use oil paint and this has its own problems especially after working with water-based paint for years. It needs a different mentality and patience and decisions have to be more concrete in a way. But it’s something I may experiment with again in the near future. Collage is a medium, which gives me the greatest control and allows for instant chopping and changing. I often put coloured or painted pieces of paper directly onto the painted canvas to disrupt the image- this has often proved very fruitful and allows for new possibilities.

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 50 cm, 2011

What does the future hold for this work?

I don’t know really everyday it seems I am maneuvering slowly into position for better more resolved work but I suppose all painters think that. Stay in the present is a constant mantra for me and the future takes care of itself.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would say that exhibitions are probably too few and far between at the moment unless I do it myself. Doing the work seems hard enough without having to go out and sell it. Also doing this interview has made me think long and hard about my work and my methods, it’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Taking time out to actually analyze and examine one’s practice has been enlightening to say the least so thank you.
Teaching in an art college for 16-19 year olds also provides lots of benefits. I find younger minds can have a vision unencumbered by too much experience and history and can be very inspirational at times.