Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m originally from Edinburgh but have been living in Glasgow since 2012. I studied at DJCAD, where we were encouraged to explore a wide range of ideas and mediums, I ended up doing a lot of printmaking and made a series of artist books and collages as part of my degree show – which was an interpretation of an area called Bristo Square where I spent a lot of time growing up. Alongside my practice I ran a Scottish skate company for five years with a partner, where I oversaw the graphics and general art direction side of things – a lot of good things came out of the project, since then I’ve been focussing most of my time on creating work and doing freelance stuff for clients. I now share a studio with a few other artists and designers, whilst there I’m usually painting, dyeing paper for collages, drawing and more recently making animations.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I started drawing weird scenes out of my head pretty early on and was able to get lost in that world for long periods of time. Pursuing an artistic practice felt like the right thing to do with my life. I still value and enjoy the process of making work so much, being fully absorbed in it whilst exploring the balance between intuition, imagination and a skewed observation of my surroundings.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I enjoy living and working in Glasgow, I feel like there is enough going on here to stay engaged and energised. In a broader sense, living in Scotland offers ample opportunity to get out of the city and experience amazing landscapes up north. It can be a really restorative thing to do if I find myself stuck in a rut creatively.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Recently I’ve been collecting a series of field recordings from around Glasgow, collating them into short sketches to suggest new narratives. These have the provided a framework for new pieces, creating a visual language from the atmosphere of the sounds. I’m allowing my current mood or feelings to come through in the work more, learning to take risks and trust my own abilities.
What is your process like?
Once I have an idea and some sketchbook work towards a new piece, I usually start by dyeing paper for collage material or put an initial wash down for a painting. I like to work fairly freely, moving across a couple of pieces over the course of a day and allowing things to change and develop as I layer and build upon an image. There is usually a loose story in my head and in notes behind each piece, though I like to allow the viewer to interpret the work in their own way. I like to have a certain amount of research drawings, notes and small abstract studies to refer back to throughout the process.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
My last solo exhibition was an exploration of shared experience, germinating from time spent in a Scottish bothy (a small, primitive hut used as a mountain refuge) near Ben Alder – one of the great remote mountains of the Highlands. Visually it was putting across the sense of simplicity, purpose and connection with those around you as much as the isolated, sprawling landscape of the place. This was presented through a series of paintings and mixed media collages, telling a story through abstract form and colour.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I teach two days a week at a college in Glasgow, working across various art and creative media classes. It’s an interesting day job and keeps me on my toes. I can also be honest with my students about what it’s like working freelance, trying to give relevant advice and experience where I can.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Make sure you are creating for the right reasons – to me the process itself is more important and satisfying than the final result or the things that could happen from that final result. That stuff still matters, but as long as you are creating for yourself and answering only to yourself, everything else should fall in line.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Community is an important aspect of my life, sharing ideas and collaborating with others whenever I can. I do some voluntary work for a charity in Leith, Edinburgh called Super Power Agency. Their aim is to foster creativity in young people through various workshops and events, bringing in artists, poets and writers to share skills and ideas, I think the work they are doing is really important.
I also value being part of the art community in Glasgow and Edinburgh, I’ve found it to be fairly open and supportive, with lots of interesting projects and start ups happening in both places.
What is your studio like?
My studio is in the east end of Glasgow, shared with a few other artists and designers. Its a fairly open space that allows me to really focus when I need to and just play around with materials or different ideas when I’m in the mood. As well as put together shows in the space I’ve also built rafts, painted murals on the walls, done a bit of screenprinting and made a little DIY animation zone, so it serves its purpose well as a multi-functional space.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I often listen to music or podcasts while working to help keep my brain stimulated, sometimes taking breaks to read or watch something. I also enjoy the cycle to my studio as a time to mull things over before I start working, it gets me in a good headspace to create. Today I’ve been reading a bit of ‘The Living Mountain’ by Nan Shepherd and was listening to a mix from the 12th Isle Forecast series on Soundcloud – would recommend both! I’m also rinsing episodes of The Blindboy podcast – lots of weird stories and takes on history, cultural events and advice for good mental health.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
It was extremely important for me in terms of instilling a solid work ethic, pushing myself creatively, learning new skills and discussing work. I am considering applying for an MFA next year, it’s been a few years since I graduated and I feel like I would gain a lot from being in an educational environment again.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
It can be a struggle to make things work, finding the balance between making work, doing freelance stuff and teaching is difficult at times. I’m learning to focus on the projects that are most important to me and be more proactive in getting my work out there, constantly pushing and developing my practice.
How would you define “success” in art?
I feel like the parameters of my personal definition of success evolves as I get older, trying to be more in the moment I suppose. Looking back on an older body of work and knowing that it was a genuine expression of my thoughts at the time is, to me, a success.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
My first solo show in London last year at Chopping Block gallery was an amazing experience and led to some good opportunities. Having a piece hung next to a drawing by Dali at Edinburgh City Art Centre was also a highlight, it was for an exhibition titled ‘A
Sketch of the Universe: Art Science and the Influence of D’Arcy Thompson.’
What are you working on right now?
I’m working towards a new show in Glasgow and one other exhibition in the pipeline, so I’m pretty busy with a new series of painting and large form mixed media/collage works. I’m also about to start making a new suite of prints after taking a break from printmaking for the past couple of years, which I’m looking forward to. I was commissioned to make a long form animated/filmed piece for an album release, that’s been a long time in the making and should be out soon – it’s been a big learning curve to do something so in-depth with a medium I’m self taught in and am still fairly new to, which has been an interesting challenge.