What is your earliest memory of an artwork and who was it by?
My Granny painted and we had lots of her works round the house. Born and bred in Malaya both before and after the war, her paintings were of scenes and landscapes from her time there. She painted so many that they now act like visual diaries. She inspired me to paint when I was young and continues to do so, now being 102 years old and still going strong.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you begin?
At the moment I like to have a heavily textured surface to start with. I put a lot of thought into what form of colour palette I want to use for the painting and then do a series of washes and scraping off before the main painting begins. I see it as laying the foundations down and creating interesting marks and layers of colour. This shows echoes of things happening beneath. From there I then begin the rest of the painting - starting with very loose paint and then building in detail where it suits.
What is your favourite time of day to be in your studio?
I call between 5 -7 pm the ‘Golden hour’. I am in the studio all day but at that time, when its dark and I listen to the right sort of music (Radiohead – OK computer..), my concentration levels are really high and I can get lost in the painting as time simply disappears.
How do you feel about being a classic painter within a contemporary art world?
I like to think I am somewhere in between the two. Classical painting is the foundation but there are definite cross overs to the contemporary. There has been such a resurgence of figurative painting in the last decade or so that it’s exciting to see and be a part of.
What inspires your different bodies of work? Are there any particular experiences that have informed your paintings and choice of subject matter?
When I was a child, we used to live in Houston Texas and would go on family trips to see the Rodeo. They used to let all the young in the crowd go out into the middle and attempt to chase down a sheep, goats and young calves. Although great fun it was the actual horse rodeo that always stuck in my mind. The idea of trying to cling on to a wild horse was near lunacy to me. Thirty years later, I have finally painted a series of Rodeo paintings and while doing so realised that the lunacy of it lies very closely to the beauty of a dance. This contrast is what I try to reflect in my paintings.
How would you sum up your practice in 5 words?
Considered, active, fluid, vibrant and impassioned.
What convinced you to join Bridgeman Studio for licensing and what would you most like to see your images licensed for?
Having had a good look at the wealth of artists involved and what the images are being used for, it was a no brainer for me. It is a fantastic platform from which I can gain future opportunities for my work, not to mention its large reach of new audiences. To have work used for an album or book cover would be very special but seeing them used for something on a really large scale would be both fun to see and something to be proud of.
What artwork or project are you most proud of and why?
I painted a large 6 by 5 ft portrait (non official) of the Queen a while ago. When she came to view it she was wearing pretty much exactly the same clothes and jewellery as in the painting. It was merely a stroke of luck and a reporter asked me if she had posed for me that day… I painted it from a photo out of a magazine.
What three things would you take if you were cast away on a desert island?
I would take a drone with a camera on it so I could attempt to make some sort of cinematic documentation of my adventures there (or if that didn’t work – perhaps send off to find help!)
A piano with a ‘how to learn piano’ book.
Finally, a machete.
If you could pick 5 artists, dead or alive, to have dinner with who would they be and why?
Constable – I live in Suffolk just up the road from where he lived and painted and much of the immediate landscape hasn’t changed since his time. I would be interested to pick his brain on where the best views are.
Chuck Close – I became a fan of him while at school. I did my dissertation on him and attempted to paint large portraits in a similar way. I love the scale of his portraits and the fact that he is severely paralysed makes them all the more incredible.
Gerhard Richter – I like the fact that Richter’s work has changed so much over his career. He has mastered abstract to fine representational painting. Also, he lived through the war and is from Dresden, which was heavily bombed and had a huge influence on his work. He has got grit and I like that.
Lucian Freud – He clearly had a colourful life so would be much fun at my dinner party but it was all about the painting with him. The way he applied so much paint with such virility is a winner for me.
Connor Harrington – I have followed his work for about 10 years now and see him as a great example of someone who has his feet placed firmly on both sides of the classical and contemporary painting fence. I love the way he breaks the rules and mixes spray paint and oils. He’s a great mark maker and sometimes leaves me wondering how he has done it. Also he’s Irish, which means he likes a pint – as do I.