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Contemporary Art Curator Magazine: International Art Award

So, this is my first ever blog, and what a subject to write about and share with you.

April 2021, out of the blue, I was contacted by the Contemporary Art Curator Magazine and congratulated on being awarded the "Collector's Vision International Art Award", which would be announced during early May 2021. Can you imagine my reaction? Is this for real? Why me? What have I done to deserve such an amazing award? So many questions, but underneath feeling totally blown away, humbled and honoured.

For me, this was a trigger to sit back, reflect on my journey so far, and finally get around to writing this blog. So here goes....

January 2020, I took a "leap of faith" from a rewarding professional career and became a full-time artist. The company was an amazing place to work, as were the people I worked with, thankfully many of which are still good friends today. However, there was a creative fire building within me, which had been burning away for quite some years. Despite exploring the art world at every opportunity, creating some wonderful and diverse artwork for local exhibitions, family and friends, I knew I needed to devote more time to art in order to become "more".

February 2020, my first day as a full time artist, I was so excited (also slightly scared), my head was exploding with ideas. I had a plan, so much to do in order to set up a business, as well as harness and transfer a whole headful of ideas onto canvas with some form of structure. Then a global pandemic comes along!

Like a lot of people at that time, I thought the pandemic would be over in a few months. So, I focused on building the foundations of the business, first up was to create a brand. A few years prior, I had been left spellbound after seeing Phantom of the Opera in London (the first ever performance was October 1986 at in London, so it didn't take me too long to catch on). I'm still not sure if it was the dramatic music, the power of the performance, the mystery of the mask or the macabre portrayal of undying love of both beauty and music which transfixed me, but I knew I needed to maintain elements of these in everything I created, and so "Phantom Art" was born.

The next steps, the website (which I crashed more than once during the build), stock lists, pricing, shipping methods and materials, accounts, legal, so many hats, not enough heads! After much activity and very much appreciated help and support from family and friends, Phantom Art was launched mid way through the year.

During this time, we experienced multiple lockdowns, resulting in galleries closing, then opening for a short time, before once again closing their doors. As a result, established galleries reacted to these ever changing circumstances with on line exhibitions, and what a wonderful thing as artists and collectors could still enjoy viewing artwork, even if only in a virtual world.

This meant that knocking on doors in order to exhibit my artwork was going to be close to impossible, so I put my focus on digital marketing. I had already established my Facebook page and had unwavering support from family and friends along with increasing new arrivals. My Instagram account was running alongside and at this time I knew I needed to grow this area if I was going to really get my artwork and name out there.

So after much research into algorithms, hashtags, post frequency, followers and content, I was ready to amplify my presence. My goal was never to reach tens of thousands of followers, but to retain "a number" of quality and loyal followers and make sure I reply to every like and comment as I'm old school like that. The great thing with a digital platform, is that the world suddenly becomes much smaller and so far, I have had the pleasure of connecting with amazing people from all walks of life, from all around the world, people I can have a genuine connection with, people such as you, for which I will always be grateful!

This year I have collaborated with some amazing international galleries, exhibited my artwork alongside other talented artists, and have more exhibitions lined up for the remainder of 2021. I will share some of these experiences with you in future blogs.

My interview with the Contemporary Art Curator Magazine is below for you. These were great questions and really made me think about things from a different perspective.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you found it insightful.

What first prompted you to think of becoming an artist?

Creativity has always been my companion in life and has served me well throughout my professional career. I guess “the prompt” was when my dog (Dee) reached her autumn years and became terminally ill. It was then that I turned to art as a hobby in order to take care of her, and to channel and express my emotions into something visual. Over time, drawings turned into paintings, paintings turned into fine art, and the hobby became so much more. January 2020, I took a leap of faith to step away from a full-time career and make a dream become a reality.

What kind of an artist do you ultimately see yourself?

My art journey so far has been an utterly amazing experience. In addition to multiple commissions and creating a wide range of artwork, I have exhibited my work in numerous international exhibitions with more lined up for 2021 (the show must go on). Also, I have had the pleasure of meeting and forming friendships with other international artists and curators. I absolutely love the diversity in artwork which captures the “in the moment” emotion and passion of the protagonist, married with an abstract style. These values sit at the core of every piece I create, so ultimately, whether I remain a freelance artist or become published, my artwork will continue to evolve with a contemporary surrealism theme.

What are you hoping to communicate to the viewer through your work?

I believe the viewer will always see what they want to see in the artwork, and what they see depends on where their headspace is at that moment in time (the same is true for me). My artwork is predominantly monochrome with a highlight of colour (often red), which draws the viewer into that area of the painting (a bit like a torch in the darkness). The message I strive to communicate differs with each piece I create (probably due to where my own headspace is at that moment in time).

Can you explain the process of creating your work?

My process is quite fluid as I love pushing my own boundaries with each piece I create, which results in a wider spectrum of artwork styles. However, my creation process is straight forward in structure:

Conception: One thing I am never short of is ideas. I often find myself working on a piece whilst new ideas form in my head. Equally, I find inspiration for new ideas all around me in everyday life. My mind has a door that is always open. The challenge for me is landing the ones which I can work with.

Draft: When transforming an idea into a design, I utilise Procreate as a tool to create a digital sketch of a piece. This allows me to build ideas in layers which makes enhancements and changes to the initial design quick and easy. This method also helps to visualise the build when starting the actual artwork.

Composition: By this stage, I have the draft design laid out and ready, however, I work on many different canvas sizes depending on the piece in question. So, this stage for me is about making any composition and / or colour pallet adjustments.

AARRGGGHHH: Every piece I create, I always reach a point where I want to throw it away! This is a good thing, as I love trying different techniques and pushing my own boundaries. Sometimes, I need to simply park the piece up for a while and let the solution come when its ready, or work through it. Either way, the magic really happens after this stage as often the artwork will head in a different direction to what was originally planned, and that is ok.

Completion: This stage always leaves me with mixed emotions as on one hand, there is the excitement of choosing the right frame for the piece (I rarely pre-select a frame until the piece is finished as the initial concept design may well change). On the other hand, finishing a piece always feels like finishing a good book you did not want to end, or saying goodbye to an old friend.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

Aside from conception, where the excitement of taking an initial idea through hours of research to formulate something tangible with potential, for me the favourite part is just after the AARRGGGHHH stage. As I mentioned earlier, this is where the magic really happens, the fog clears, and the artworks’ true direction is revealed.

Can you give us an insight into current projects and inspiration, or what we can look forward to from you in the near future?

I currently have 4 work in progress pieces on the go:

1.2m x 1.2m oil on museum grade box canvas commission piece in a renaissance style. The inspiration for this piece was born from the character of the clients’ period home and a bold wallpaper design from the room where it will be hung (we built this over facetime due to lockdown conditions). The client has not yet seen the design and has put his trust in me to create something with a “wow” factor, which I absolutely love (no pressure!).

1.2m x 1.2m oil on museum grade box canvas monochrome piece. This is being compiled for a forthcoming exhibition in London during August 2021. The inspiration for this piece is my interpretation of the exhibition theme “serendipity”. This piece is under wraps now and will be revealed closer to the exhibition (with a few spoilers leading up to it).

The other two pieces are 40cm round oil on canvas board. These pieces will complete a collection of four (current pieces are “Life’s a Beach” and “Tranquility”) and are built up of monochrome protagonists with highlights of bold red, set against a vibrant blue background, then set into an antique walnut circular frame. The inspiration for this collection is “summertime by the beach” with a respectful nod to past times. Times where technology was minimal in comparison to today’s fast-paced digital highways, and people could “live in the moment” and genuinely enjoy and absorb the environment around them.

For the future, I have a whole headful of ideas ready to explode out there! There will always be several commissions on the go in my studio, as I absolutely love the creation process for these. The resounding highlight of commissions is seeing the clients’ reaction when they first see their artwork, it can be quite moving.

The headful of ideas will evolve into a number of collections, where I aim to complete 3 collections over a 12 month period. These will undoubtedly continue in the contemporary surrealism theme I have grown to love over the years.

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