Type of artwork you're most likely to produce?Surrealism, symbolism, fantasy, phantasmagorical
What is your favourite piece of art you have created?The paintings I’m least likely to sell because they’re dark and only I like them.
If you weren't an artist what other career would you be in?I’d write musicals, I have staged quite a few and made recordings of some or I’d go back to being a nursing auxiliary if the hospital still wanted me.
If you could buy one piece of artwork what would it be?The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch or a Roberto Matta abstract painting.
What inspires you?Hieronymous Bosch, Roberto Matta, Turner, Van Gogh, Max Ernst.
Delving a little deeper
Why do you do what you do?
I feel I was born a creative person, primarily an artist. I started from an early age and went to foundation college. I got onto a degree course but gave it up when my mum died in a car crash and for a while pretty much abandoned art. I became a graphic designer for some years until the 2008 financial crash. I’d always thought I’d go back to painting in my retirement but with the collapse of my business the time seemed right to go for it. It worked out well albeit I enjoyed a year and a half detour as a nursing auxiliary before finally getting to the point where I’ve now been a full time professional artist for four years.
Can you tell us about your artistic background/education
We were going through all the stuff in our attic recently and the one thing that struck me was just how prolific I’ve been in one way or another. In my time I’ve been a graphic designer, an illustrator, a singer, a composer, a member of various bands, an animator and now a fine artist. I’ve survived in self employed mode for most of my working life doing all these things except for occasional forays into proper jobs such as being an auxiliary (it was a job that was totally out of my experience, you do a few days training then they throw you into a hospital ward. On the first day I looked around at the sick patients in my ward and thought ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ Despite that, I did enjoy it but came to realise more strongly what I should be doing. I feel I’ve got something to say about the environment, I’m not here to produce decor. I am a political artist and a storyteller who uses symbolic and surreal visuals to make a point.
Do you work in silence or do you prefer a distraction?
I like listening to Ted talks and classical music. When I do a large detailed painting of some apocalyptic event I like to play a classical piece such as a symphony over and over, letting it become a movie soundtrack to the painting. I also listen to radio 4 such as ‘Just A Minute’.
How do you choose the subject matter for your works?
Usually I’m compelled to create a symbolic universe to represent the ongoing environmental degradation that humanity is inflicting on its own, and only, home.
Has your practice changed over time?
I use computers a lot nowadays rather than sketches. Many of my paintings are complex with a lot of detail so the last thing I want to do is spoil a time consuming project with an ill-considered move. In the old days that meant sketching out the composition very carefully but nowadays I get to a certain point, photograph the painting, then work in Photoshop on the computer to see if adding new elements will strengthen or spoil the composition. Then I transfer what I’ve learned to the real painting. As a graphic designer I often pressed the undo button but you don’t have that luxury as a painter, this approach is the nearest I get.
Who are your favourite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Roberto Matta is an abstract surrealist who has long inspired me. Chris Foss the sci-fi artist. John Martin who painted amazing apocalyptic scenes and of course Hieronymous Bosch.
If you could describe your work in less than 5 words, what would they be?Goldfish, chess, DNA, salamanders, questions.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
It takes five years to become a professional.