Graphic Grey

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

 August New Work

One of my new pieces arising out of my collaboration with a polymer chemist to explore the use of industrial resins as painting mediums.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Fabric of Life (or How Commissioned Portraits are Inspired)

One of the strands of my art practice is the painting of portraits for commissions. I usually have two or three commissions on the go at any time and it's a good way of maintaining some sort of an income from the art. Commissions range from portraits of individuals done through sittings in my studio, portraits of the happy couple taken from a wedding photo, family portraits of children and babies, to corporate commissions for hotels and offices. I'm constantly challenged as no two commissions are ever the same.
Catrin Finch
Royal Harpist HRH Prince of Wales
The thing which I enjoy most about commissions is also the aspect that is the most difficult. Many  clients have an idea in their head of how they would like their painting to look. It's up to me to get this information out of their head and turn it into something real and visible. Over the years I have developed strategies to make this process a little easier, but it can still take weeks of sketches, photos and samples before I'm ready to begin the painting process.
Private Commission
Luckinly for me I have a starting point which always helps me get the commission going: the patterned fabric on which the portrait will be painted.
Wedding Portrait
Commission in Progress
Life is one long process of collection and selection, purchase and gift. Between cradle and grave we amass a huge range of possessions. We choose the objects that surround us and accompany us through life. These in effect describe us and form part of out identity: they are the fabric of our lives.

I paint on fabric chosen by my subject. This may be an old item of clothing such as a wedding dress imbued with deep emotional significance and memory, or a furnishing fabric remnant left over from the decoration of a new home. Clothes, furnishings, fabrics and patterns provide unique clues as to the identity and personality of their owner. By using vintage fabrics with a past life within my painted portraits I desire to capture a depth of substance and facets of character which paint alone cannot describe.
Private Commission
I paint the image of my subject onto a panel covered with the fabric. The transparent nature of the paint allows the fabric pattern and weave to remain visible through the portrait, signifying the way in which our likes and choices define us, and thus become an inextricable part of who we are.

I enjoy the interplay of the pattern of a figure overlaid upon the pattern of the base fabric. My ideal commission is a portrait in which my subject is wearing an intricate pattern, and so I will often ask them to wear something of this sort to the sitting. It can sometimes get a little confusing, but I love the challenge of making the various patterns work together in harmony. The use of vintage fabric instead of canvas is also very appealing if my client would like the painting to match the existing decor in their home or office as I can select a fabric to match any soft furnishings.
Private Commission
Click here to find out more about my commissioning process.

I am the Fittest Artist That I Know Of

There are so very many artists in the world; it's a tough game making my artwork stand out in front. But then I am tough so that's ok.

Besides making unique, distinctive and beautiful paintings, there's something else that makes me tick... Let me explain.

It's took me a while to pluck up the courage to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. To say the years between leaving school and deciding to pack in my job to take up my dream place on a Fine Art degree course were messy and out of control would be an understatement. But with art came passion, motivation and a will to succeed that I didn't know I possessed. And so the new me was born. But it's tough ditching the old, bad habits. How to deal with the lows of rejection and fear of failure which so often follow on from a creation high? What to do when optimism is brought crashing down with a single word and self doubt threatens to cause self destruction?

The answer was easy: toughen up! For me, I discovered that a strong body = a strong mind. Physical challenges release me from artistic torment and strife and put me in a sane place.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the creative insanity of art drives me to sport, but also that sport and physical challenges feed my art. The sense of pleasure I derive from seeing muscle structure developing on my own body (anatomy for the artist in the flesh!) or on the body of one of my clients (for I am now also a qualified strength trainer with a goal of creating beautiful bodies and passing on my love for fitness and the healing and restorative powers of sport) is another step forward in my ultimate search for aesthetic perfection.

I love beautiful forms and strive to make every piece of my artwork into a thing of beauty. I reckon art should bring about a powerful aesthetic response in the viewer. My fascination is with beauty of form, of line, the beauty of a pattern and the way that various images can be made to interact and work together.

A Lacuna

It's the challenge of making something beautiful from base materials that I love, whether transforming the human body through exercise or transforming canvas and fabrics through resin and paint.

And so my obsessive quest goes on. I have so many ideas in my head and in numerous books that sometimes I feel I will explode. Whenever things get too much for me I go and run or pick up the heaviest weight I can find and this gives me the head space I need to continue painting. I'm constantly anazed by what my body can do, particularly after all those years of being treated so badly. I now have the gym record for female deadlift (140kg) and compete in Crossfit and strength competitions.

Competing in UK Strength and Power Series
70kg one handed deadlift

I'm also constantly amazed by the things I can create. Looking at a painting that's amazing and thinking "I made that," is truly a great experience.

The combination of art and fitness is possibly an unusual one, and I usually get surprised reactions from people in either world when I say what I do, but it works for me. Artists of all kinds are known for being tormented by demons and plagued by creative blocks and perhaps that is what drives us to create. And with so many dubious and unhealthy coping strategies about I feel lucky to have found something that saves me from this downwards spiral without destroying myself at the same time.

Perhaps more artists should give it a go.