Questions and answers - The Other Art Fair

Questions and answers for The Other Art Fair blog October 2014
Please tell us what you are currently working on.

I am currently working with collage, following on from a visit to the Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A museum in the same week as a most inspiring visit to the Matisse – The Cut Outs exhibition at the Tate (which I found very uplifting).
My aim is not so much to start producing collages as to introduce texture to my current work. The use of a double layer of glass in the frames — once decorated and painted — gives a more three dimensional feel to the pieces, or else obstructs the view, which asks the viewer to use their imagination. Clouding the image gives it a hidden allure and charm, seducing the viewer and igniting their imagination.
I have also been asked by my publishers for pieces that work in pairs and sets of three. This might pave the way for me to take a more anecdotal approach to my work and produce series of artworks that tell short stories or work as triptychs.
I am also planning to increase the size of some of my new pieces.

Describe your process from initial inspiration to final artwork

It’s difficult to pinpoint where a concept is conceived. I am constantly experimenting with different techniques and ideas. An idea may come from visiting an exhibition or overhearing a sentence between two passengers on a train. Sometimes ideas just turn up in my head in the middle of the night. I write every idea, every thought I have, onto anything I have handy, be it a sketchbook or back of a till receipt. Sometimes they need years to develop, just mulling around in my head, starting off as a glimmer and slowly piecing together a more solid visual interpretation of what started as a hazy image or a thought. Other times it’s straight to finished piece, no trial or sketches… there are no rules or formulas. There are times when a piece can be half finished for weeks as I need to think about the placement of a hand or piece of jewellery, or because I’m unsure about the composition.
In terms of successful ideas I often stumble into these by accident. The Walking the Dogs series of paintings, which is one of my most popular, was originally designed for a silk scarf.
The actual application of the ink and line can be tricky. It’s taken me a while to find a paper that I am really comfortable with. My technique also is very unforgiving and a lot of my painting works around the idea that ‘less is more’. I also have to be in the right place emotionally to paint, or I just waste paper. Once a mark is on the paper it cannot be removed. The mark making itself is instinctive rather than a decisive decision. I use a lot of water in my work and there is an element of luck to how the ink will react with this, and this is what makes it so exciting! With almost every piece I produce I am dealing with the unknown and lucky accidents are part of a process toward more exciting interpretations and then conclusions.
My work also needs to be dried flat, and quite often it will need three or four layers, so I work in rotation painting three to four pieces at one time. I work with two different types of ink: one a watercolour, which has a brighter more modern feel, and the other an acrylic. The acrylic pieces I often finish with an ageing crackle glaze. My work has a vintage feel and I have a passion for certain bygone eras, which shows in quite a few of my online galleries.

What is your working day like?

I start work early and spend probably an hour of so looking through my emails and Facebook. I follow various different art, fashion and culture magazines through Facebook so there is always something new and interesting to read, leading my imagination to who knows where. After this I carry on with whatever projects I am working on. This week for example I am having a meeting with a view to illustrating a fashion based book and will prepare for this tomorrow for the meeting the following day. Next week I am spending Monday in London visiting three exhibitions and then the rest of the week has been set aside for some more painting as I need to produce some work to create pairs for my publisher and a customer has expressed an interest in larger work

How do you overcome creative block?

I rarely, if ever, have creative blocks. I always have a backlog of ideas that need exploring so there is never any shortage of things to do. I document every idea and thought I have, either with words or drawings. I find that my mind can get overloaded and this is when I need a break and I need to step away. Having a big clear up in the studio helps, and a trip scuba diving to the Red Sea has also done the trick in the past. On a boat, just the sea, the fish and me! Needless to say I usually end up painting sunsets.

How is your work inspired by fashion? Your series focuses on women – is this any comment on the way women are portrayed in fashion mediums and how is this changing? Would you consider a similar series using male figures?

I’m not really inspired by fashion per se, as more by the feel of the fashion from the past; the Forties and Fifties in particular have a classic, ageless beauty expressed by fashions of the time. I am influenced enormously by the elegant and beautiful fashion drawings by illustrators of this period, as well as contemporary fashion artists and illustrators working today. Nonetheless, I am more concerned by the general feeling and composition rather than getting specific details correct.
I paint mainly women, primarily because I am a woman and there is an element of self-projection in my work. I also try to set a mood, using feelings from my experiences and encounters to form the personalities of the women. Although I’m not preoccupied by the constantly changing face of fashion, the silhouette and detail of woman’s fashion offers and inspires me more than that of men. Would I consider a series on men? Maybe, but I think it would be in conjunction with women… a yin/yang approach.

Please tell us about your recent collaborations. How did these come about? What has been your favourite collaboration?

I’m proud of all my collaborations to date. Having prints of my work in John Lewis has helped my work become recognised in the UK, the project with Anthropologie (using pieces from my heavy metal collection on their service ware) introduced my work to the US, and working with The Shard was very exciting as it is such a well-known and striking piece of architecture.

Please tell us about one of our favourite pieces on your Shop profile?

I generally like the ladies who look like they have attitude but I think my very favourite piece is the limited edition of Fern. There is something ethereal about her, and this was one of the first paintings (if not the first) where the large black made up eyes were conceived. I also gravitate toward a new piece called ‘She had been standing around for far too long…’ This is a lady not too happy about being kept waiting and rightly so!

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

The main piece of advice is hard work… dull but true. Self-belief also goes a long way. Learn to market yourself. Showing at art fairs has been an invaluable experience. Push boundaries — I am never satisfied and will always think that there are ways of improving my work, making it more interesting and exciting. Keep interested in what is going around you in the art world and in life. Inspiration can spring up from anywhere. Be wild. Remember that you can always tone things down. One of the best pieces of advice I was given at art school was ‘convenience ruins creativity’.
Personally I think that drawing from life when you can is essential, if your subject matter allows. I often work from imagination or photos but I do tend to feel that one’s relationship with the subject matter is a lot deeper when working from a three dimensional model

What’s next for you?

Pushing my new ideas, and I’m looking forward to next week. I always feel a little daunted when I set aside some time for new work, especially when they’re are new untried ideas floating about in my mind. Explore the indefinable boundary between sensuality and sexuality
I am also trying to produce a small selection of silk scarves using the more fashion related paintings and some embellished limited editions.