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Nadeem Chughtai's Biography

Nadeem Chughtai - The Showman

I was born in Epsom in 1973 and grew up in Worcester Park in a loving family consisting of my English mother, Pakistani father and elder brother.

Encouraged by my parents, especially my mother, I started drawing at a very early age. My ability to draw came from my father. I would always seek his approval of my work and to this day value his knowledge and positive criticism.

At school art was my favourite subject, along with P.E. I therefore followed the natural route through GCSE to ''A'' level where I received a lot of encouragement from two wonderful teachers, Ms. Robertson and Ms. Slack. I remember Ms. Slack (an artist in her own right) showing me an image in order to inspire me when deciding on my final piece. The atmosphere and mood created in that piece had a very strong influence on all the work I produce to this day.

I then went on to do a Foundation course at Epsom School of Art and Design - a great course involving lots of experimentation in all areas of art. This was followed by an Illustration course at Northbrook College in Worthing which left a lot to be desired, however, living for two years as a student in Brighton more than made up for it. At college I was eventually put off of drawing when my tutors told me I was no good at it, even though I got top marks in my life drawing class. I never doubted my ability, but in defiance I vowed not to draw again, instead I would learn about photography and then become a film-maker, where I felt that I would have the widest audience possible.

In the summer of 1997 I got some work experience in the art department of ''The Avengers'' feature film. It was unpaid but I stayed for 6 weeks and was fascinated by all aspects of film making. It was there that I saw scenic art for the first time. These artists, usually only two of them, would paint the whole of Trafalgar Square on canvas 700ft long and 40ft high around the set. It was mind-blowing. I had to have a piece of that!

In 1999 I assisted an artist, Steve Mitchell, for a day on ''102 Dalmations''. We developed a good rapport and I eventually became his assistant, working with him and occasionally other artists for the next five years on many big budget films. What I learnt during this time with Steve was invaluable. I still now call him to pick his brain on any area I need advice on.

The film industry is very precarious, you have no way of knowing when or even if the next job will come, so in Dec ''03 my partner at the time encouraged me to get a studio. It was then that I began producing my own paintings. I exhibited a few times and my work got a good response.

I have always been fascinated by light and the shadows, forms, mood and atmosphere it can create. During my time as a scenic artist I learnt so much from the artists I worked with, they have a vast knowledge of all aspects of art, light, perspective and colour. They are almost like modern day equivalents of the renaissance masters, taking on commissions and designs on a grand scale.

The characters I use could be each and every one of us at any time and they are large in order to represent the consumer society we live in. I choose to keep them anonymous by not showing their faces but give them their personality through body language and posture.

I like to keep an element of mystery about my paintings leaving them open to individual interpretation.

The works of Edward Hopper are an inspiration to me. His eerie images leave you wanting to know so much more and force you to decide their meanings for yourself. He had an amazing ability to paint the moment before the moment.

Caravaggio was undoubtedly a master painter, and in contrast to Hopper he painted the actual moment. His paintings are still controversial and shocking to this day.

Some contemporary artists are also an inspiration to me. Donna Mclean tapped into my conscience when I was starting out with my own work. Her dark paintings are full of atmosphere and mood and made me realise I don''t have to paint every corner of the canvas.

I feel that Jack Vettriano is the greatest artist right now, simply because he is the most popular. My view is that a musician who records a song wants as many people to like it as possible. So why would an artist be any different? Surely every artist dreams of being so widely popular.

I also love the films of the Coen brothers. They create such atmosphere and mood. Every single shot is so carefully composed and the scripts are always really well written with great subtle humour.

I am very keen on music of many varieties and enjoy putting my I-pod on shuffle when I am fully engrossed in a painting. Not knowing what song will come on next keeps things fresh and exciting.

I am always on the look out for new ideas - I take photos, draw scenes from life, write down thoughts and feelings or titles for new paintings. I then roughly sketch an image that I feel encapsulates those emotions. I can usually tell if an image will work straight away and can often see it in my mind before I have put pen to paper.

I will draw up the image a number of times and each time it will improve. By the time I have completed the painting it will have taken on a life of its own and will often be very different from the original sketch. I really feel that each time you copy an existing image you should do so only up to a point. Then it is important to put the existing image out of sight in order for your new drawing to really progress.

Once I have settled on an image, I sort out its setting and composition making sure it is well balanced. I decide on the size of canvas, order the stretchers, stretch and prime them then I''m ready to roll. I paint in oils beginning with a dark base colour and work to light.

I think it is very important and helpful to have deadlines as it allows me to complete a painting. If there were no deadlines one painting could go on for a lifetime!

I treat my work with the same discipline as any job although I feel very privileged and incredibly lucky to be in this position. The timing of my good fortune couldn''t have been better what with the recent birth of my beautiful son. Now I get paid to paint my own images!

I am usually up between 6.30 and 7.00a.m. I have a cup of tea, some breakfast, get ready then if I am working on paintings I cycle to the studio by 8ish. Put the kettle and radio on then check out what''s happening on the canvases - I could be working on up to 8 pieces at a time, which prevents me from fiddling too much on one painting, allowing it to dry properly between layers.

Painting for a living is like any job - you have good days, bad days, alright days and great days when you have the ''midas touch''. You just gotta roll with the punches!

If I am planning new paintings I will go anywhere but the studio - Central London, town centres, galleries and bookshops taking photos or sitting in cafes or pubs drinking tea while I brainstorm and sketch ideas.

I usually get home by 6ish, unless the pressure is on then could work until 3am!

I relax by painting so when I am not I like to keep busy, spending time with my son, cooking food, watching films and meeting up with friends and family.

Nadeem Chughtai's Artwork

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