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New Artist

Q. I would like to ask if you don’t mind, where did you grow up and did it have a bearing on your artwork?

I was the daughter of fiercely home-loving Yorkshire parents but was brought up in what they considered exile – the lovely, leafy lanes of Surrey. My childhood was one of glaring contrasts as my parents never felt at ease with the courtly politeness of the South East and hankered after the blunt camaraderie of their native West Riding. As a result, I was constantly shuttling between the two places and became very aware of dramatic contrasts of landscape and architecture. I loved the craggy intensity of the moors and peaks in the north, but also the gentle, undulating woods and lanes of the south – especially in the Autumn when the colours are spectacular. This is when I first became aware of shape and colour and started to think like an artist.

Q. Describe a working day as an artist and do you work in a studio or at the location you paint?

I get up early to start drawing and painting as soon as I can. There is never enough time for art. We have converted the top floor of our Victorian house in an Essex village, so I have a light and airy studio with a sunny atmosphere. I work there every day usually starting about 6 am. My best working time is from dawn until about 4pm when I switch to admin duties. On days when I am not teaching classes or running workshops, I will also take my easel out for a plein air jaunt, sometimes in the handsome Kent or Essex countryside, or maybe just the garden if time is short.

Q. Have you had any previous jobs before becoming an Artist?

Initially I was a journalist on local papers for several years, ending up as a group editor. I then trained as a teacher, which I also really enjoyed – especially exposure to the youth, wit and enthusiasm of the students. However, much as I loved the work, I was hankering after creating art all the time and becoming increasingly frustrated. After work I was too spent to paint and draw well, so I used to get up two hours early to give myself time to paint and draw – a habit that has stayed with me.

Q. Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years, that would help or inspire budding artists?

Take it slow and never avoid the tricky bits. Don’t let things you find difficult become bugbears. Instead, hit them head on and practise until you’ve conquered them.

Research your subject and what your materials will do thoroughly until they become old friends.

If you are starting out, remember nobody is born able to paint and draw. It’s not magic – you have to learn. Time and practice will give you skills. Just keep going and don’t forget that every artist had to start at the beginning. There are no shortcuts!

Q. What music do you listen to when you are working?

I have very eclectic tastes. I love lyrical, classical music in the background, but if I need a bit of energy nothing beats Celtic folk rock or arousing, energetic rhythm. Anything from Rachmaninov to The Waterboys, David Bowie or a stirring rock ballad by Meatloaf.

Q. What piece of equipment can’t you do without?

A size 2 sable brush and top quality watercolours. Many artists prefer a “broad brush” approach but I am fascinated by detailed forms and texture and love to add fine features. I also try to get a luminous glow to my watercolour paintings and this can only be achieved with professional quality colours, without the chalky fillers found in cheaper paints.

Q. The main theme of paintings with Wonky Wheel are British Wildlife can you share with the customer where you get your inspiration from and why?

One of my favourite subjects – the secret life that is going on all around us, that we are sometimes privileged to glimpse. Because I live in the countryside, I often spot hares, foxes, badges and hedgehogs, not to mention masses of wild birds. I sketch and photograph whenever I can and the whole family is on a permanent mission to provide me with source materials. I try to capture the personality and life in animals and fowls. The life in their eyes is perpetually interesting.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

Being paid for doing what I love. What could be better? I am addicted to painting and drawing and doing it for a living is the greatest luxury.

Q. What have been your highlights or biggest achievements so far?

Every painting or drawing that fulfils the expectations you had when you started it feels like an achievement.
This year I have had two major highlights which have gladdened my heart. In May one of my pen and ink drawings was selected for showing at London’s prestigious Mall Galleries in the Society of Graphic Fine Art exhibition. Plus, I have also been lucky enough to have my work on show in Finchingfield’s lovely Wonky Wheel gallery. Both are sources of delight.
Q. How would you describe the life of an artist in just 3 words.

Follow the Light!

Q. What advice would you give to younger self about starting a career as an artist?

It’s no good getting older and uglier if you don’t get wiser! I would tell myself:
Have confidence and ignore the naysayers. You can only achieve anything if you have a go. Just do it.
Practise, practise, practise. Don’t judge your work by what you can do now. Keep moving forward and look at what you are growing into. Keep going, keep trying, keep improving.

Perfectionism is damaging. A bit of honest self-appraisal is always helpful to show you what you need to work at but swamping yourself in unrealistic fault finding is destructive. Have confidence in what you do well, practise what needs to improve and stop being overly self- critical. As Salvador Dali said: "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”

Author: Wonky Wheel & Helen Mariner
Last updated : 18th June 2022
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