• Alexander Lumsden

Alexander Lumsden

My name is Alexander Lumsden, from Sweden I am the new resident artist here at Bracknell.
Before dedicating myself full time to creating art, I worked between Edinburgh and London in the advertising industry dealing with various markets in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

After a few art exhibitions, I decided to make a fulltime switch to my passion of making art.
After some consideration, I left for Argentina to seek out a mentor. Little did I know that this would take me on a four year escapade, which would land me right here via the Dominican Republic!

Alexander Lumsden

Q & A conversation with Daler-Rowney’s Artist in Residence Alexander Lumsden.

What are you working on right now?

On an educational note, using the word “romantic approach” would be wrong to classify general art education, however, when compared to real scientists explaining chemical compounds and structures – and backing it up with fact(!) opens real doors and possibilities. For example, I challenged the R&D team to explain the world renowned artist Odd Nerum (famed for his Caravaggio-esque paintings) who had to repaint 10 of his old master works as over a period of 10 years they’ve began to “slide” off the canvas – and they came up with some convincing answers. I’m all for trial and error – but having to do something twice I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than mine!

You have now been at Daler-Rowney as the Artist in Residence for nearly 6 months – can you give us an insight into your experience.

After spending the last three years between Argentina and the Dominican Republic, and having specifically moved back to London to explore the multicultural aspects of this international city, I was at first a little bit reserved about making the daily trek from London to Bracknell. However, after my first visit to the factory I knew I had found my own personal version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – but for artists! From seeing the manufacture of various art materials to being introduced to the Research & Development team – I knew I had struck gold.

Why the specific interest in Research & Development (R&D)?

I’ve always been a huge enthusiast about wanting to understanding art from an artisanal standpoint. From creating your own charcoal, to building ceramic kilns. Therefore, I immediately understood that to be able to access and work in such close proximity with the Daler-Rowney R&D team would be a rare opportunity to really understand paint on a molecular level, and get some real answers concerning conservation and possibly a taste of what innovation is coming down the line.

What have you learnt so far?

On a personal level – that these scientific people are just another type of artists. They brew the exact same level of enthusiasm and passion for what they do – they just come from the other end of the spectrum.

On an educational note, using the word “romantic approach” would be wrong to classify general art education, however, when compared to real scientists explaining chemical compounds and structures – and backing it up with fact(!) opens real doors and possibilities. For example, I challenged the R&D team to explain the world renowned artist Odd Nerum (famed for his Caravaggio-esque paintings) who had to repaint 10 of his old master works as over a period of 10 years they’ve began to “slide” off the canvas – and they came up with some convincing answers. I’m all for trial and error – but having to do something twice I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than mine!

So is there any major difference between different products and quality?

Well, for instance if you look at oil paint, although a worthwhile endeavour in itself, I would argue that using the most basic oils on the market will most likely not give optimal results.

However, what really does intrigue me – is understanding the various claims that are made at the top end of the spectrum, where you’ll pick up on words like “micron levels” (pigment size) and “stone vs. metal milling wheels” (process of grinding pigment), etc.….. Don’t get me wrong, I DO BELIEVE there are differences between one product and the next. However, what the art-shops focus on is technical-speak – where in reality it is next to impossible to prove the difference when two product of a similar quality are compared side by side. For example, when one product has a one and a half size smaller micron size, you’ll be hard pressed to even find the technical measuring tool to be able to pick up on the difference, let alone with the human eye. Stone-milling probably congers up wonderful images of a man sitting under dim candlelight mixing his own paints. However, from a product testing perspective, the results are very similar – so from what I can tell it’s just a way for manufacturers to front what make of truck they’re driving (MACK, Benz, Volvo, etc.) – but in the end they’ll all get you there.

So where is the REAL difference?

It all comes down to quantity, purity and quality of ingredients. That’s what you’re really paying for. It’s about what type of pigment you use and the purity of pigment in any one product. Bottom line, different pigments, like precious metals, come at different prices – so if you want to paint with gold at 22 carats – you’d probably do yourself a great favour working with oil-glazing techniques rather than heavy impasto. And most likely you’ve already found clients or dealers that are knowledgably and willing to go the distance with you.

Final question, what do you hope to achieve during your residency?

Make use of the space and my friends in the lab – you see I’ve worked up quite an appetite for working large scale now. Works averaging around 4 x 2 metre canvases – so hopefully something interesting will come out at the other end.

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