I was born in 1981 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Throughout school Iíve was known as the class artist - the one who drew pictures in other peoplesí exercise books, made posters for school plays, designed t-shirts etc. Even growing up my pictures always fell into one of two categories: humorous or still life. This is still the case today; I paint vibrant, humorous pictures of animals, particularly chickens and cats and still life pictures of food and objects that make me happy (crumbling biscuits, oozing jam and cups of tea feature heavily in my work).
I didnít study art; instead, with a strong interest in language and culture I gained a first-class degree in Hispanic studies at Queen Mary, University of London in 2004. I spent a year living in Granada, Spain and on returning to London went on to become a journalist, working for publications and organisations such as the British Council, Youthnet, handbag.com, Sky and more. This gave me the opportunity to work with incredible people and travel around the world. I still enjoy writing and continue to do so on a freelance basis.
Painting and drawing was something I did in my spare time. I never considered selling my work until it became noticed by friends, as well as acquaintances of my dad, John, who has been a successful artist for about 40 years. So, in 2009 - mid-recession - I took what mustíve seemed like a rather financially unwise decision to leave full-time employment in order to concentrate on painting. Fortunately it was a worthwhile risk as the hard work paid off and my pictures eventually appeared in galleries and as published prints around the UK.
I had never entered an art competition since I was about 13, but in 2009 I submitted a painting of Jammie Dodger biscuits called ĎBroken Heartedí to the 51st Essex Open Art event and to my complete disbelief, it won the Best Still Life category and was the featured image on all publicity material. That summer, my biscuits were all over Essex.
Simple, everyday pleasures inspire me. I love animals - particularly their colours, textures and personalities - so I often try to characterise them in my work. Cats are most familiar to me, and I own (or rather Iím owned by) two mogs who stay disconcertingly close to me and my wet paint while Iím working. I also enjoy seeing fun and beauty in banal things - jam, for example, is so rich in colour, varying in transparency and viscosity that itís quite a sensual experience to attempt recreating its qualities on canvas.
Thereís a deadpan sense of humour in pretty much all the subjects of my work. Hence the manic appearance of my chickens or the vacant expression on the explosively furry cats. Itís even hard to take a 2ft square painting of a doughnut seriously. But humour doesnít mean lacking in substance; I think itís important for art to invoke emotion. I hope mine invokes joy. At the end of the day, I want people to feel happy when looking at my pictures.
Iíd say that colour attracts me more than anything else - more than form or subject matter. Colour can really affect my mood. In fact I admit to getting a bit obsessive about colour combinations and often spend ages testing out different shades against each other. Iíve even been known to rearrange make-up palettes at cosmetic counters to create more attractive combinations (I was born into colour-obsession; my mum says that when she went into labour with me she was given a pink room at the maternity ward, but she hated the colour and asked to change. So I was born in a yellow room).
If Iím planning to do a still life painting Iíll generally look in my kitchen cupboards to see what potential subject matter Iíve got. Alternatively, Iíll be eating or drinking something one day and think ďooh this looks good, I want to capture itĒ. Iím a perfectionist though; I canít just take a photo of a setting. Lighting, angles, colours etc have to feel right first, and then Iíll study the scene, draw it out and eventually turn it into a painting.
However, if Iím planning to do a cat painting, say, my approach is entirely different. Itís much more impulsive, and I usually launch straight into painting without much planning, perhaps just a rough idea in my head. I enjoy the unpredictability of these paintings; I never quite know how theyíre going to turn out. Itís like they take on a life of their own.
I mainly work in acrylics on board or canvas.
Any day of painting starts around 6.30am with coffee and BBC Radio 4ís Today programme. Iíll usually throw on an old, oversized t-shirt and then play BBC Radio 6 or my own music in the kitchen to match my mood or get me going. Iíve taken to painting in the kitchen; my house has spare rooms I couldíve set up a work space in, but I like the active, homely feel of the kitchen, which has cranberry-red walls decorated with pictures, tattooistís business cards (theyíre really diverse and distinctive, Iíve created a collection along my travels) and tickets to memorable events Iíve been to. Itís also useful to work in the kitchen so I can be near the sink and kettle. I work on a glass-topped, white-painted pine table that my dad built - I mix paints directly on the glass, then later when itís dried I just scrape it off.
What follows happens in no particular order: I start painting, obviously, and take breaks every now and then to check emails and take calls relating to work and social life. Sometimes Iíll frame pictures, order art supplies and do other necessary bits and bobs. At the moment I live in Leigh-on-Sea (itís not strictly the sea, itís the Thames estuary) so Iím lucky enough to have somewhere picturesque to wander around in when I need a dose of the outside world. Iíll work until about 6pm at which point itís time to think about dinner or getting ready to go out with friends, usually in London. Very often Iíll carry on working throughout the evening; especially when Iíve got a lot to do or Iím just being a perfectionist again. Luckily I love what I do, so I never moan about Ďovertimeí.