Neil Dawson

History & Background.

As with many people, I had always loved art as a child and while growing up at school. I continued my formal artistic education at Central Saint Martins College in London and continue to learn on a daily basis in the studio. The Foundation Course was a very interesting and enjoyable year even though I struggled with some aspects of the course and, at the time, it put me off pursuing a career in art. I had enjoyed the freedom, spontaneity and escapism of painting and the way I could lose myself in the creative process. I did not know how to talk about my work and to an extent I did not want to - I would rather people make their own mind up and take what they want from my work rather than me telling them what they should be thinking and seeing. Discussing, dissecting and, to an extent, justifying what I was doing just seem alien and troubling to me.

After the spell at art college I went on do a degree in economics and a job in banking and I didn’t pick up a paint brush for many years.

It was an extended period of travel that rekindled my loved of art. Being constantly exposed to beautiful, enchanting, strange, evocative, provocative, bewildering environments with the time and mindset to properly appreciate and reflect on them was a defining experience. Whilst travelling, my camera was my artistic outlet as I tried to capture elements of my new, exciting surroundings. As I got home I dusted off the palette and paints in an attempt to recapture some of the sights and feelings from my time abroad. I quickly realised how much I had missed creating art and have not looked back since. It has not always been plain sailing since, but I will never regret giving art another chance, regardless of what the future may hold.

Ideas & Inspirations.

I am a very visual person and my ideas tend to come from what I see around me. In everyday life - flicking through papers, watching TV, walking around town - images, compositions and colours can trigger chain reactions, sparking ideas for future paintings. I am always finding torn out references from magazines or scraps of paper with notes and sketches made in moments of excitement and inspiration days or weeks ago, that serve as starting points for new work.

A great deal of inspiration comes from the development and evolution of my own work. I am on a constant learning curve with my painting, even in a disastrous piece I can usually find something - whether a colour scheme, method of mark making and paint manipulation or composition - that worked well and can be taken on and developed in a new work. It is an exciting and evolving process that keeps me fresh, inspired and coming back for more.

From Palette to Picture.

I tend to use photographic references as a starting block for my pictures to help give a basic structure. However, I don’t like have too strong an idea of exactly how I want the finished article to look, preferring to work in a intuitive and impromptu way thus giving the painting a free rein to develop and feed off itself. I always start quickly as I dislike staring at a blank canvas and find the early stages of a painting the most exciting and creative. I will block in large areas of colour and tone to give the picture life and energy at an early stage. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to paint, it’s just whatever works for you.

Personally, I like to build the picture up as a whole, slowly letting the image come into focus rather than working section by section. I also like to use my fingers a lot in the early stages - the versatility and speed with which the paint can be applied encourages me to work freely, energetically and instinctively. The picture will usually take about five or six stages to complete as the layers of oil paint dry, with the process tending to slow down in the finishing stages as I get down from the big and bold to the smaller elements of the painting.

A day in the Life of...

One of the great advantages of being an artist and working for yourself is the freedom it allows you to set your own timetable and work to your own rhythms. I love not having an alarm clock telling me when to get up and rarely wear a watch, instead responding to when body and mind are ready for the day ahead. After getting up and getting ready I will normally spend a while looking over my canvases (I will normally be working on anything up to about 10 at any one time), mentally preparing myself and formulating a course of action for the day. It rarely goes exactly to plan, painting can be very mercurial, but I like to have some goals and an idea about where I will be heading. I will then turn the radio on for some background music and settle into the day’s work. Lunch is normally a quick and simple affair, as by then I am normally totally involved in what I am doing, too excited by the possibilities ahead to be distracted too long.

I will normally start to clear up about 6ish, again listening to the body and mind which are normally slowing by then and tiring from the extended effort and concentration I have put in during the day. I will then have a short review period, often making notes on things that I have liked or disliked and thoughts about what should be done next. Then it is time to turn the paintings over so I can’t see them and try and switch off and away from my own personal little world, either losing myself in a book or, more often than not, relaxing in front of the TV. The inertia does not normally last long as something will capture my imagination and set the brain racing with possibilities and potential ideas. I think if you are an artist you are an artist 24/7. You never step out of the office as it were - it affects the way you see and react to the world about you. I tend to get up thinking about art and go to bed with the same thoughts.

As with many people, I had always loved art as a child and while growing up at school. I continued my formal artistic education at Central Saint Martins College in London and continue to learn on a daily basis in the studio.