Selfy Schtick

My work normally takes a long time. 

Even a small painting can take months.

I’m aiming for perfection and despite the rumours, that’s not easy.

If a painting takes months then it’s going to be expensive.

Unsurprisingly most people can’t afford one of my paintings.

I wanted to make some work that was affordable to a wider audience

For the past few weeks I have been making  a series of self portraits with a time limit of 1.5 days.

I wasn’t particularly confident that I’d produce anything worthwhile in that time frame.

Speed painting is not my game.

I made a few that went straight in the garbage.

Didn’t take long though before I hit my stride.

After a week or so I was flying.

By the 3rd week I was so in the zone that I couldn’t have made a false mark if I had tried. 

In sport we call this ‘The Flow State’

I really enjoyed making these, I think it shows.

I made a total of 18 Self Portraits in 5 weeks.

I hope people will enjoy these ‘imperfect’ paintings as much as I enjoyed making them.

Dropping Out and Tuning In

During my childhood I drew quite a lot at home and probably
had some kind of embryonic talent, but in the broader sense Art was not present in my
life. I do not come from a family that has an interest in the arts or from an
environment that encouraged its pursuit. Fine Art was completely absent from my
life and I did not set foot inside a Gallery or museum until I was seventeen
years of age. Until that time I had no idea that it was possible to be a
professional artist or that contemporary art even existed.

At school I slipped through the cracks, left with a limited range of qualifications and no idea of what I would do next. After a month or so at home my father forced me to visit a careers officer and somehow the vision of an art college came into view. Mansfield College of Art and Design accepted me onto a two year course in General Art and Design, I immediately felt more at home there than I had at any time during my school years and although, by no means an ideal student, began to excel in some subject areas such as objective drawing and life class. The course encouraged experimentation but also had a great respect for the teaching of technical skills.  This was when I first visited a gallery and I can still remember that feeling of excitement today.

Following on from Mansfield I applied for several courses in Illustration but the college which accepted me was Bradford College of Art and Design which offered another course in General Art and Design. For the first two years I struggled with the course and the usual distractions and problems of a student living away from home for the first time.  In my view the teaching, such as there was, was poor to non-existent and to me seemed to actively discourage the type of work that I had any ability or interest in.

In the final year however something seemed to galvanise within me and a little self-confidence blossomed.  I increasingly found my own way forward and completed the course specializing in Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking and Illustration. Somehow I realised that I was predominantly a painter and that my personality was fitted to it. I intuitively understood painting better than any of the other disciplines and perhaps more importantly it excited me.

My final degree show included three large figurative oil paintings, crude in style and technique but I have never looked back from that point. That final year at college and the following three to four years are the period of my life when both my art and my life took-off and is the period in my life of which I am most proud.

Beginning the Begin

In 1986 aged 21, I left Bradford College of Art and moved to
London. I had no idea how the art world worked or whether there was any
realistic hope that I might make my mark as an artist. I had decided however that
I was going to try, and if I failed it would not be for the want of effort. So
for the next few years it was all about the work.

Not having had much support at college either for myself or
my work, when as a fledgling artist I leapt into the void of the ’real world’ I
did not feel its gravity. There were no expectations about what I should
produce or whether I might succeed, I really had nothing to lose and in retrospect
this gave me great freedom.

It was clear to me at that point that my work lacked the quality,
consistency and personal identity required to exhibit. I had been heavily
influenced by a host of artists. Rembrandt, Bacon and Giacometti-like styles collided
clumsily and anachronistically together on canvas. 

Over time I learned to excise the superficial characteristics of these artists from my work whilst learning from their essence. I developed my own technical and critical skills and the ability to work with calm focus for long periods of time. Over the next few years my work improved at great speed, it was an intoxicating and exhilarating time. I lived and breathed painting. 

I did not know any other artists and had no art connections of any kind throughout these years. In the current era of social media it is
interesting to reflect on the fact that that no-one ever saw or commented upon my
work in progress, ‘liked’ a piece of
work or encouraged me to persevere. This would be anathema to most artists now
but for me was ideal. My style evolved
naturally but in complete isolation. I followed my own instincts and trusted my
own judgement.

Eventually my personality, philosophy and technique fused
into an identifiable style of my own. My view is that the discipline of unflinching
self-criticism was my key tool in editing out anything which was fake, affected
or superficial.

After a few years I felt my work was ready for me to apply
for exhibitions and enter competitions, and met with some early success. In
1990 I held a solo show at the Tricycle gallery in Kilburn and coincidentally won
3rd prize in the B.P Portrait Award. Following favourable reviews I
sold work for the first time, and after several more solo shows I won first
prize in the B.P Portrait Award in 1993.

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