Background: NAC has run a drop-in life-drawing session on Monday evenings since 2018. It’s proved very popular, with many artists and models becoming our ‘regulars’; some are taking part in this, our occasional interview feature.
Q: We love your self-portrait Matt! Tell us more about yourself and your interest in art.
A: Though I loved art at school it was a traditional academic institution and at 15 I had to choose between arts and sciences. I chose the science path and did do well at it; but the creative streak was obviously there as I almost studied architecture at university until a work experience week convinced me it was not a viable career path in rural Kent - so I became an engineer for 32 mostly enjoyable years.
As soon as I finished university and got a job I did start art evening classes and I have never stopped since then. Juggling a busy work and family life until 2018 I spent my limited creative time painting in watercolours (mostly landscapes and portraits), acrylics (collage and portraits), life study (charcoal and graphite) and, latterly, wood block engraving/printing. Given the opportunity to leave work with voluntary redundancy I have taken the plunge to be an artist and increase my creative output.
Q: Do you focus on particular themes/materials when producing your artwork? What are your inspirations?
A: The clean lines and simplified compositions of wood engravings and linocut resonate with me greatly - you are forced to summarise and suggest shapes and textures and there is an excitement knowing one slipped tool or hasty stroke can destroy the work completely. Life drawing helps to sharpen your sketching accuracy and pare down the mark making to a minimum.
My watercolours and portraits are my guilty pleasure s- one-off flights of colourful fancy that eat up the time and let me zone out. I limit myself to special subjects, meaningful to me, stretching my technique or hedonistically exploring gorgeous textures and colours.
Q: What have you taken inspiration from when producing your artwork?
A: My portraits are inspired by Richard Burlet: he is considered an abstract-figurative artist, with strong Viennese influence of the late 1800s (Gustav Klimt etc). Burlet's paintings are richly coloured compositions in collage and oil and each displays a brilliant pastiche of ornamental detail and strong colours. Burlet enjoyed manipulating the interplay of figure and background, flatness and depth, object and image and these aspects in turn work for me, allowing me to create individual and striking images.
Through collage I integrate poignant artefacts into the fabric of the picture to add additional levels of emotional attachment - wedding invitations, bars of favourite music or spent airline tickets for a special holiday etc. These are swallowed into the composition unless the viewer starts to study in depth.
My main output currently is quirky linocut and wood engravings, humorous topics reduced down to a graphical impression.
Checked shirt [linocut]
Q: Moving on to Northern Arts Club, how long have you been a part of NAC and why did you join?
A: Access to models, and art classes generally, in the North East of Scotland is so limited after spending most of my life in big cities like Manchester or Rotterdam. The reliable NAC evening slot on a pay-as-you-go basis is a great resource. The range of models is amongst the best I’ve come across too. The fellow artists’ styles and encouragement is nice for someone finding their way in life drawing as it is daunting to start. I’ve been coming to NAC for 4 years now, starting with guided classes and moving onto the unguided sessions.
Q: The Covid Pandemic has curtailed Club activities, including the life-drawing sessions. Have you tried online sessions? Or other methods of maintaining your skills?
A: I have 3 parallel zoom art sessions running weekly where like-minded artists either work on their own pieces in company or do challenges in suggested topics. Life drawing has stopped for me now, it doesn’t suit virtual sessions. The camaraderie and socialising helps maintain my commitment and continue doing art, I need organising not to be lazy.
Q: And generally, did you find more time to focus on your artwork during lockdown?
A: Less. The absence of upcoming exhibitions, and the need to furnish new work for them, has meant I’ve concentrated on smaller, fun and social subjects.
Q: Have you shared any of your work with Club members? If so, how have you done this?
A: Not much actively. I’ve not been interested in social media in the past and probably missed a lot of engagements by NAC in ignorance – though I have just submitted some work to the Club sites. I have started to value social media much more recently and appreciate its power to reach and inform. I will try to move on from my 1:1, exhibition-led selling approach as it falls flat in lock
Q: Has creating your artwork acted as a coping mechanism during the pandemic?
A: Totally. I’ve quite enjoyed the introspectiveness and time available to make art the pandemic has unexpectedly provided. I have also found a shocking number of people have common interests and are more willing to interact socially through art than I would have believed before.