How did you get started doing what you do?
I started enjoying drawing from a very young age, encouraged very much by my gallery-owner mother and to some degree by my classical musician father. Whether directly or indirectly, I grew up in an atmosphere that certainly valued art and appreciated high culture. Drawing has just always been a very visceral, natural and satisfying mode of expression for me. I think as a thoughtful and quiet child I enjoyed retreating into my head and into my own world. I would spend hours consumed in creating and on the private self-expression of my demons which was very psychologically important and which has remained a very important part of my life and practise. Also, seeing the work of artists like Albrecht Durer and Gustave Dore when I was young, had a inspirational effect as I remember becoming lost in the detail of their work and strongly wished to emulate their dark intricacy.
How would you describe your creative style?
I don’t want to be too prescriptive but I suppose both the paintings and the drawings are quite traditional- representational in style but with a more modern edge and darker sensibilities. I suppose a bit ‘surreal’ and ‘illustrative’ too as it has a narrative concern with character and environment. However, I like describing my work in terms of the old idea of ‘Animism’ which is worldview that non-human entities— such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects, even thunder and shadows, for example— possess a spiritual essence that links every together. This plays into a lot of my work stylistically, particularly my more recent drawings and artist book that have a more flowing stream of consciousness style and treatment of natural forms.
What’s your inspiration?
I get a lot from literature generally, I enjoy reading and especially feel inspired by Classical/World Myth. I love the open narrative that happens in myth. It is an extremely visual style of storytelling and speaks about deep human truths and includes the totality of life in an often dark and uncompromising way. Roberto Calasso is easily my favourite writer about Myth.
I love Gothic literature too for the thrill of exploring unnerving subjects like mortality and sadness from a safe place, I feel my work can have this element… I also like the sense of the otherworldly and the imagination and enchantment of the mundane you get in these type of works. Like in Edgar Allen Poe and in the magic-realism of Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita’ (one of my favourite books.)
Film and music are important too as they are parallel art forms that I don’t work with directly so can use the inspiration gleaned from them more, without fear of ripping them off! I love bands like Fever Ray (amazingly atmospheric music and videos) ‘Low’ for the mix of darkness and redemptive spiritual underpinning, Talking Heads for the complex rhythms and clever surrealist lyrics… Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and many many more… I also admit a long standing love for Meatloaf for the sheer heroic melodrama.
I am inspired more generally by the dualisms in life; the constant interplay between dark and light, chaos and order, decay and regeneration. My artist book ‘Anima Mundi’ (Soul of the World’) is a good example of these concerns and has reference to Hindu Creation Myths and is full of images of death and decay on the one hand but juxtaposed with the flowering and the fecundity of nature.
What is art to you?
Art is a spiritual thing for me, it is a communion with the subconscious, which in some ways is a big and powerful part of yourself that you don’t really know or fully understand. It sort of guides you and provides answers but they don’t feel that they come from you. I certainly feel that the inspiration/artistic process has a lot to do with peoples’ sense of the divine, even though I do not follow any organised religion.
So my art, for me, is a visual narrative that I can communicate my vision of the world (and inner world) to the viewer in a beautiful and considered way that should entertain and engage and inspire.
How do you keep motivated?
Sometimes it is very difficult to stay motivated, when you just feel uninspired. This can be depressing, but what does console me in these periods is that it is sometimes the most introspective and self-reflective you can be, and when the inspiration returns you realise that all that time has not been wasted at all, it is almost a meditation that brings a richness and depth to the work. So embrace it, know it’s part of the process…
I do have a pseudo-spiritual feeling about it, and in some ways it is therapeutic to create work, it means a lot to me; so that need and love of expression massively drives me to create the work that I love and to do it to the best of my ability.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Get into tattooing… its going to be huge! Ha!
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I am working on writing and ‘illustrating’ another artist-book at the moment, it will be great and personally rewarding if I can pull it off! I like a challenge and it is forcing me to think differently which is complicating but also enriching my creative process massively. I eventually intend to send it out to other artists in different artistic disciplines like musicians/soundscape designers, playwrights, screenwriters, film-makers, animators, digital-imaging designers, etc, etc and try to create a bigger project or an experiential exhibition out of it, form a world that people can enter into… I am not sure of the details, but am excited by the prospect and however it is finally realised- I definitely feel that being more artistically expansive and collaborative in this way is something I would like to achieve someday.
What’s your dream project?
I suppose it is something I don’t know yet, but which I want to involve lots of creative disciplines in one big project that I am the creative director of and which involves my artwork/bookwork/drawings/writings and which then goes off into other peoples hands and becomes bigger than me but massively satisfying for all involved and the audience!
Not an impossible dream, but not very easy to define…
What art supplies do you use?
My weapons of choice are the humble pencil and paper… but it has to be thick-ish/hot pressed watercolour paper, or heavyweight drawing paper… and I really like concertina sketchbooks to work in and I am lost without my 0.7 Pentel mechanical/retractable pencils, one with graphite lead, one with red… hate having to constantly sharpen pencils…
What’s your process like?
My creative process is very unstructured! I do everything from sitting in front of a blank page waiting for inspiration, to just starting drawing even if I hate it, until something clicks and then I feel I can start again taking the good bits from the abandoned work with me. I try not to plan as it takes the life out of it. Discovering the imagery and changing it at will are the best parts of the process for me, if i knew what its going to end up like exactly then I would get bored.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
It is difficult to improve the art world without changing the whole structure of society!
Art is and has for centuries been more and more commoditised, so is therefore at the mercy of supply and demand and sadly not a meritocracy! The art world is by nature an extremely subjective place and therefore open to strong minded business people enforcing opinions on those who are made to feel self-conscious about having their own immediate heart-felt reaction to artwork, this in the worst cases reduces the measure of an artist’s success to being seen in purely financial terms, which is not the only measurement that matters at all, obviously…
But as we cannot completely escape this, (unless you go and live off-grid in a cave and paint purely for the joy of self-expression) the best thing to do as an artist is to create what you believe in and try to attract and work with like-minded people until you create your own smaller industry or movement…