Did you always want to be an artist?
"It was the one thing that I was always doing as a child: drawing, painting, and trying out all sorts of art & craft activities. At school, I spent all my time in the art and drama department. My art teacher was inspirational, and I think that’s where my passion for art came from. She encouraged me to be experimental, as well as, teaching me some basic drawing skills. Many of our students who come to The Colour Factory for classes have had negative experiences of the school art room, probably due to bad teaching. Most arrive convinced they can’t draw or paint, but I like to prove them wrong and very often do!
I was very lucky that my school was right next to Amersham College, which was renowned for its art & design education. It was the next step for me and where I could spread my artistic wings. 1980’s art education was thriving; my tutors were inspirational, many coming from the London colleges and often practising artists themselves. From here art school was the natural path for me and I went on to do my art degree at Winchester School of Art. It was a dream location, doing the thing I was most passionate about.
I was always flitting between different departments doing a bit of printmaking and painting alongside my textile design. I was untidy and messy with large sheets of paper on the floor. I had paint everywhere and I loved art school so much I didn’t want to go home. I was an art nerd, and I okayed with the principal that I could ‘camp out’ at art school when it was closed with a couple of other students during holidays; we experimented with all sorts of painting styles making lots of drawings, as well as process videos on a super 8. When it came to officially leave art school – it was all a bit of a shock."
When you were at college, did you do any commissions on the side?
"I mainly just studied at art school, there were some opportunities for work experience, however, these were not particularly inspiring! The most interesting and valuable insights were when we visited trade fairs and design shows in Paris. Even fledgling designers and artists showed their work and built client relationships. It was inspiring to see how young artists and designers developed their own businesses. I was lucky to get an agent at my end of year show when I left art school."
What would be your advice for new artists just starting up?
"It really depends on what your goal is. Being an artist can be a lonely business. You need focus, determination, flexibility and be prepared to work hard to make it. Get out there, get seen and be brave! I also think you need to decide what’s most important to you, and whether you are prepared to compromise on the sort of artwork you do to make a living or juggle several income streams to allow you to do the thing you love most.
I would recommend setting up some sort of communal space where you can join forces with other creatives and support each other. I initially took on all sorts of commissions even if they weren’t what I ultimately wanted to be doing. I have learnt so much from doing that. I now focus on a combination of my own work, teaching, more commercial painting commissions, alongside providing creative content development and training. I love my work; it is so varied, and I am absolutely happy in the environment that I have created working alongside like-minded creatives."