How did you get started doing what you do?
My earliest memories are of drawing and painting. However, growing up I never thought of art as a career. I simply didn’t think it was possible. It was only through the collective encouragement from my high school art teacher and step-mother that I decided to pursue art further. I completed my initial studies near to where I grew up in Greater Manchester in the north of England before moving to London for university. I went straight from my undergraduate degree to a Painting Masters at London’s Royal College of Art. I was twenty-one years of age when I started at the RCA so was quite wide-eyed and naïve. From an early age, I knew all I wanted to do was to paint and show my work – I simply haven’t stopped.
How would you describe your creative style? What’s your inspiration?
My earlier work was abstract. It was through abstraction that my love of colour and texture developed. I also first began using wallpaper in my abstract pieces before I approached landscape as a genre for exploration. Wallpaper is a formal element within my work but also has a personal reference to my own background – I grew up in a house decorated floor-to-ceiling (and on the ceiling!) in decorative, textured wallpaper. For the past few years, I’ve concentrated on creating my fictional landscape paintings. They’re inspired by real and imaginary places from postcards to classical landscape paintings. Although I want my works to be believable and familiar, my landscapes are entirely imaginary. Colour is probably the most important aspect of my work.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece? What art supplies do you use?
Each painting can take between two to four weeks to complete. My process is very time-consuming as my entire method is done by hand. Viewers often think I must use a 3D printer, laser cutter, an airbrush, or extensive Photoshop preparation. In actual fact, I use pencils, scalpels, and brushes – my work is far more intuitive and craft-based than the end result suggests. I start each composition by sketching landscape motifs such as lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountain peaks, and hills. I spend a long time drawing and tracing over my initial sketches. Once I’m happy with a small sketch, I scale this up onto canvas. Collaging is the next step: every section of the drawing is individually traced for every section of hand-cut wallpaper. The collaging process is similar to marquetry but it is utterly unique. Once a composition is fully collaged, I start thinking about colour relationships and start painting. I use hand-brushed Liquitex acrylic paint and aim for a balance of different hues and tints. I see my work as extremely formal in many ways: I’m far more interested in texture, shape, colour, and line than any conceptual concerns.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work? And how have others reacted to your work?
I work in a brightly-lit studio with the blinds closed so I can have consistent light throughout the day. I work in south London and have lived in the city ever since I moved here as a teenager. Despite my obsession with landscape, I don’t rely on any real – visited or otherwise – places as inspiration. My landscapes are idealised and illusory. I want to create beautiful, and only somewhat, realistic worlds. I want people to ask where my landscapes are but I always want the answer to be nowhere. Viewers often insist that they recognise a particular mountain or composition within my work, but this simply can’t be the case.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? And what, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Don’t compromise your work for anyone or anything. This advice was given to me when I first moved to London. I was unsure as to how helpful it was but chose to stick with it anyway. Years later I can see how important it is not to give in to pressures from external sources, whether they be tutors, critics, collectors, or galleries. I was able to find my own way of working through patience and hard-work. I would definitely advise any aspiring artists to take this advice to heart.
Do you have any future aspirations or dream projects?
The most important thing to me is to keep painting and showing my work. I’m currently working towards a solo show and also have plans to make a large landscape painting as part of a public project – I’m busy fulfilling my aspirations every day.