Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I tend to start with a general theme or concept, much like an essay title, and through development Icam able to fine tune an overarching idea into a visible thread. Until I start painting it can be hard to navigate. Often it takes a few completed paintings to really know where I want to head with my next piece. I’m not sure what it is about a particular image that eventually leads me to paint it, I often have many options for one idea.
Generally I’ll start with a piece of fabric or object that I'm interested in and I’ll use it to set up a diorama, which I can then use to take photos of as reference images to paint from. I really enjoy conceptualising these pieces and can try to orchestrate the light and shadow effects. However, the most exciting starting point is when I stumble across a scene in normal day to day life which I know instinctively will be something I want to paint or fits into my current ‘collection’. Occasionally I work from imagery I have taken screenshots of, then cropped, rearranged and usually altered the colour saturation and resolution dramatically.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
I have spent a lot of time studying the drapery and objects in historic portraits and genre paintings. Partly to try to understand how the effect has been rendered or achieved and partly to gauge how the artist is trying to describe their subjects. Probably for similar reasons I also have a love of vanitas paintings. The artists I always look to are Artemisia Gentileschi, Gerard Tor Borch, Sorolla, Botticelli and sisters Rachel and Anna Ruysch.
In terms of contemporary artists it has to be Micheal Borremans, Vija Celmins and the photographer Sarah Edwards.
Fashion archives and vintage editorial imagery is an endless source of inspiration. And often the drapery of marble sculptures, particularly Rococo, are an influence on how I might arrange a composition.
The play of light is prevalent through all of your paintings, tell us about this?
Capturing light has become somewhat of an obsession for me. I’m a magpie for classical paintings that have reflections, shine, translucence or shadow; all the ways in which painters have used techniques to show their knowledge of diffusing and harnessing light.
I’m always looking to achieve depth within the canvas and build layers of information so even a sliver of light can aid that. Light can also change within a moment so the possibility to catch a moment in time and hold on to it is something I’m constantly chasing.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
I always paint my main subjects in oil paint but usually my canvas surface has been built up in acrylics, gesso and occasionally watercolour which I then seal before I do any passes in oil. I like using the watercolour for bases because I seem to be able to achieve more unintentional movement and enjoy the surprise of the effects. I can also end up doing many layers on a background before I’m happy and if I chose oils to build layers I’d be waiting days before I’ve even started.
I want my paintings to have a realistic rendering but still feel like a painting; oil paint has a unique ability of being able to achieve that. Sorolla is the King of using oil paint in this way. Such casual marks up close but step back and you have all the information you need.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Any book by Aileen Ribeiro. I have a few of her books so far but I’m pretty sure I need them all. I bought an ex library copy of Dress and Morality by Ribeiro and someone has written little notes and circled important texts throughout that happen to correlate brilliantly with what I’m currently looking at. Almost like my very own personalised version.
I also have a copy of ‘Werner’s Nomenclature of Colour’ on hand in my studio which I use for colour referencing. I tend to use it to help make decisions for background tones as it identifies colour from the natural world whereas often the subjects I choose have more artificial colours.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
My painting A Throwaway Remark for the Aberdeen Art gallery via the Art Fund Museum of the Year Micro-commission is in the Award exhibition until March.