Could you tell us how you first discovered art? When I was a child, we used to have big encyclopaedias at home, and I was impressed by the illustrations in them. I would often spend an hour or so in bed at night copying these.
My first real interest in art was with Pop Art. I used to pin things like sweet wrappers and food labels to my bedroom wall in geometric patterns. Then I saw these pictures where artists had actually done stuff with soup cans and cola bottles and were selling it as art, and I felt a bit of a connection. I guess that opened my eyes to the art world.
Could you give us a bit of background about yourself? I was born in Bolton. My parents split up when I was very young and me and my brother were raised by our grandparents. I went to college to do graphic design (Pop Art had perhaps inspired me in this). I wasn’t a very committed student and I left having just about done enough to gain a HND. I then got odd jobs here and there – one as a locksmith’s assistant! I later did a Degree in Philosophy and Literature, and have since got qualifications in I.T. I have spent most of my working life in education and working with disadvantaged and marginalised groups such as drug misusers, people in prison, and the homeless.
“Paying too much attention to the big things will never make you happy.”
What have been your main influences? As I said, Pop Art was my first interest. There was always lots of bold, striking colours, and I liked the way they turned the commonplace and everyday items into art. But Matisse has been by far my biggest influence. My very first paintings were interiors – plants, windows, chairs, tables….and quite bold in colour and outline.
What makes you truly happy?
Small things! Paying too much attention to the big things will never make you happy.
What is your main medium and why do you like using it? I have used most mediums – oils, acrylics, watercolours….Recently I have been using chalk pastels quite a lot – you can make very bold statements very quickly, but also more subtle and blended effects – again, very quickly – there is no drying time! There is a certain luminosity to pastels that is hard to achieve in other mediums.
What has been your biggest challenge to date? For my art, it has always been finding the time. I work and have three children at home. I do not make any money from art, the motivation is in the art itself.
“Recently I have been using chalk pastels quite a lot – you can make very bold statements very quickly.”
Your main subjects seem to be flowers and landscapes, can you explain why? I think flowers are a bit like people – they have personalities of their own! They also have ‘architectural’ features and great colouration….all add up to being ideal for subject matter. I love our English countryside and beaches. There is a strong tradition in English landscapes that I think is present in a lot of even our modernist painters – Hockney, Hodgkin, Auerbach. I do try to abstract the more formal elements of the landscape – lines, contours, colour blocks. I have never really done people, although I have done lots of life-drawing as I think this hones drawing and observational skills.
You seem to have shied away from the spotlight, is there a reason for this? That’s just me! Always uncertain of my work, I know it doesn’t have mass appeal and is not really what commercial galleries are looking for. I think you have to be quite decisive and clear in what your work is about if you want to sell any work. I haven’t reached that state yet!
What keeps motivating you to create? To get better.
What is your big ambition right now? To get better.