You do what?
Ok, at a party, meeting new people when someone suddenly turns to me and asks?
What do I do for a living? Before becoming an ‘artist’ I would say I work in an office or I work behind a bar or on occasion it was ‘I am unemployed”. The conversation would usually progress in the traditional shaky way or in the case of the latter reply, completely fizzle out. Now with a change of profession and lots of parties later, I am not only describing what I do for a living, but I am almost expected to be promoting myself through my reply.
This is where my sticking point comes. I wouldn’t confess to being the best at describing what I do. I am, like most artists, busy with their head down creating artwork. After all, I am trying to communicate through my art visually, surely the work stands out for itself?! However, when I am faced with conversation and have no visuals with me, I have to get down to the nitty gritty of explaining to someone I meet for the first time: what is it I actually do for a living.
My answer is usually quite brief and, it has come to my attention: I have realised staggeringly brief!
I am an artist and I paint…. yes, that’s it!
I see their faces waiting, there must be more, where does the conversation go from here?
Yes, of course, there is more but surely you didn’t want a full answer to that? Social etiquette can be quite a task for me but on reflection and out of necessity of having to define this for other important tasks to give me a living, I would like to elaborate! Yes, here it is in full.
So, if you are at a party and meet someone and they happen to be an artist, what do you ask them? Well, here are some dream questions that you could ask an artist (sorry they are not my own but taken from a very knowledgeable online art coach, see his link at the end).
IN SHORT, WHAT IS IT YOU DO?
I draw and paint almost daily, I have been a full time artist since 1999. My main theme is painting and drawing people in action. I use black and coloured line, usually on a strong coloured background, sometimes plain white. At the moment the canvas sizes are 1m square and I work in acrylic paints. I try to give a contemporary, fashion type feel to the figures by using dashes of colour with coloured line, I want a quirky original look, I try and avoid any of my inner cliches that I think are associated with dance. I want my figures to be strong, graceful and to tell a moment in time. I love music videos and inspiring short dance films, they have beautiful sets and lighting. I want to achieve high impact with line and colour and once I have a drawing that I like, I want to get it painted quickly just to see how it looks on a larger scale. I work at home in my studio at the end of the garden and it is usual for a painting to take a week or more to produce from start to finish and I am much better at starting than finishing. I love seeing my paintings on other peoples walls and often think that I want to paint larger each time. My work is for sale, I am not represented by any one gallery. I sell a lot of originals and hope to sell drawings and prints online in the future too.
When do you make art? Is it at a regular time? Is it after a specific inspiration? What's on your mind?
Me: Creating art for me starts with thinking about it, I often start getting a bit agitated if I haven’t been drawing for a while. I feel especially creative after I have been to an exhibition of work that I particularly admire, recently that was a small exhibition at the Courtauld of Egon Schiele’s drawings. I couldn’t wait to get back and draw the figure again.
Do you have a routine, a ritual? How do you start, where do you go, how do you lay out your supplies? What do you listen to while you're making art and how does it influence your work?
I regard myself as most creative between 10 and 4pm and work daily, squeezing other jobs into the end of the day. Between these times I am buzzing and usually drawing and mixing and applying colour. With my recent project of drawing dancers I will watch a YouTube dance video from the New York City ballet feed or other contemporary dance feeds that I have signed up to. I have created this link to painting movement quite a while ago, it stems from a type of drawing that I do called contour drawing which has quite a fluid type of movement and continuity.
Things on my mind:
Things that I am on the look out for in these short clips are my reaction and feeling to that dance and this is quite immediate, usually with a huge wow and then I want to draw immediately., I am quite impatient with this but have learnt to take my time as some poses just dont work. I am looking for shapes, lines and connection that dancers create inspire me a lot. This is a starting point for drawing to commence. Once I have started my daily warm up of drawing from a still of the particular scene, I will be immersed in drawing and then thoughts of how it will develop into my particular vision will start to appear. I try and feel how they might feel creating a particular move. This is important, they do the most incredible moves and it requires the utmost of skill. I met a very experienced ballet dancer once and she said this memorable thing to me about her performance, “I have no record of what I have just created”. But I am not able to do that either with paint, what I am trying to do is to translate in my own way a moment that I have seen and felt which was inspired by watching movement.
** How does your art evolve? Are you intentional right from the start or does direction materialise as you work?
My intentions are from the start that I will create a drawing that conveys: movement, is well drawn, has colour, will fit a certain canvas format, will have the required impact. I work by drawing onto my computer in layers, if one area of the drawing is working and I want to add another then I can, there is no limit to what I cannot experiment with and this is the best thing, it moves and defines my intentions.
I wake up and think about painting most mornings. Thoughts about a painting that has been started and I am enjoying usually wakes me up the most, sometimes when in full flow of putting paint on canvas I step out of the studio and see the exact colour I have just mixed. I find this amazing.
How do I know what to create in the next painting?
Very often whilst drawing I think well I could try this and this and this but then realise it is crowding everything out of that drawing. These ideas and thoughts are all whizzing in and I have to push them into subsequent drawings instead.
What makes your art worthwhile and why-- not only to you, but to others as well?
Creating art for me is such a strong bond, it has become my life and work. We all experience life in different ways and I want to feel its presence and translate it somehow with paint. Being able to move through the world is what we all do, hopefully when people see my artwork they get the sense of movement and freedom through the drawings I do. It is often one of the first things people comment on, ‘there is such a lot of movement’.
Is your art about you? Is it about thoughts, philosophies, events, or other people? Does it embody particular beliefs? Does it tell a story? Does it demonstrate a principle?
Is my art about me? Yes I think so, I wish I was able to create such amazing feelings that dancers have made me feel. The rigorous training in dance is one that I can hardly believe, when I draw I often have false starts and have to keep on drawing in order to get anywhere before something starts to happen, I have been doing this for years now. Perhaps it is this doing and training that I admire most, it has become a life. Dancers are perhaps the true artists, leaving memories and no trace after they have performed. I want colour to be lasting, to present colour in different ways, confront people with colour and a way of seeing. They tell a story of one moment in time. I leave the principle part for now.
How do you know when you're done? What makes you step back and say, "This is it; this is exactly what I want?"
ME: I know when I think it is finished when I am usually exhausted and I start to take out areas that feel heavy or clumsy. I will print out the drawing when I think I am happy with it and leave it alone. Usually the next day I will look at it with a fresh approach, if it still has what I think it takes to become a painting then great if not its back to the drawing board to start again.
Is there a logical progression between one work of art and the next? Does one lead directly to the next? Or are they mutually independent? How do individual pieces of your art relate to one another?
ME: Working on the dance project has given me a big focus and it connects the work. I want the drawings to be mutually independent but hang within the framework of dance. The connection between the work is the way that I draw, using line has become a type of signature of mine. The pieces that work for me are the ones with one or no more than 3 dancers in, they are the ones that have unexpected areas of colour that somehow defines unseen energy or roots the figure to a position. It is these canvases I feel that form their own story within the canvas.
Hopefully at the next party we can meet and have a great conversation!
Thanks for inspiring questions from Alan Bamberger at www.artbusiness.com