Friday, February 20, 2015

Special Guest Artist Ian Garstka

I am happy to introduce a new friend from over the sea in Swainsthorpe, a small un-spoilt village just south of Norwich in Norfolk, England, Ian Garstka.

Ian is a (former) Mad Man, Designer and a current full time painter. His work can be viewed and purchased here on his Etsy site.

Hello Ian and welcome! 

Please tell us a little about what you create:

Oil paintings mostly, although I like to work with Conte Crayons on occasions, especially when experimenting with new surfaces and textures. I have also played around with new technology by using detailed high-res scans from small sections of my paintings, making use of the paint texture to create entirely new images with a view to archival printing. In it’s infancy at present but a Mac is a wonderful piece of kit to play around with. If it’s good enough for Hockney it’s good enough for me.

Where do you do your creative work?

Inside my head. All creativity starts with the thought process. If I can’t visualize a finished picture I have problems painting it. I feel that whatever an artist does, be it painter, photographer or writer they have to have that initial image of the finished piece in their head. I will always find a space to work although fortunately, I have a nice studio at the end of the garden.

How did you get started?

The same as everybody else. Drawing as a child. I was seven or eight when my Grandfather took me on an outing to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, London. I was so excited by the outing and could not wait to see all things military; Tanks, Rifles, Field Guns, Howitzers, Warships, Fighters and Bombers – you name it, it was going to be there (typical bloodthirsty boy of the late fifties). What actually happened steamrollered me like an advancing tank.

His painting of ‘gassed soldiers’ during world war one, all 20ft x 7ft totally bowled me over. I could not grasp that this was a painting. It put the viewer there, right in the middle of the scene, like the cinema, only with all the time in the world to absorb its sheer scale and beauty. From then on I wanted to paint. Of course circumstances often intervene and although illustrating and design within the advertising industry was to be my career, I knew at some point I would eventually paint.

How do you define art or creativity?

Sorry, I have genuinely never thought about it. I leave it to others to fathom out. What I will say is that billions of people wake up every day and, without even knowing it, are creative in one form or another. For example, an accountant may be adept at depriving the Revenue of taxes owing to them, they are said to have got the process down to ‘A Fine Art.’ You can’t hang it on a wall but it is creative none-the-less, although I’m not sure the Revenue people would  agree. Creativity surrounds us all.

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?

Self taught, kind of. I wanted to study painting at art school but my father worried that it might be a precarious way to make a living. The compromise was advertising and design (little did he know, health wise, even more precarious). As a seventeen year old in London in the late sixties the opportunities were endless. After two years of working in what were known as ‘Sweat Shop Studios’ (it was sink or swim as you had to prove yourself or you were out!) I progressed to become a visualizer and went on to work at many Ad Agencies throughout the capital. I have to thank all those old pro’s who constantly gave me good advice along the way. Drawing all day with Magic Markers was a great way to earn a living even if, at times, a tad stressful. The recent TV series ‘Mad Men’ really brought it all back to me. It was a wonderful period of my life. We worked hard and played hard, so much so, that in the early eighties I really did feel burnt out and on a sudden whim, much to everyone’s surprise, I upped sticks and left London for Norwich in East Anglia. After my wife and I started our family and our design practice in Norwich I began to paint during the odd bits of free time that were available, until the present when I am pretty much painting full time. So yes, I have really learnt as I have gone along, whilst having great fun at the same time.

What motivates you?

The sheer pleasure of painting.

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

Sort of. I love drawing and sketching but they are separate entities. I tend to paint straight onto the canvas with a brush once the picture is in my head, although at times I might draw small references before transferring them to the canvas, especially if the object is unfamiliar or requires detail, as in some of my aviation paintings. It is just nice to jot down things you see that might be of use at some later time.

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise you, inspire you or repulse you?

The amount of art and artists that inspire and surprise me are endless. With the Internet you can spend hours looking at art. Etsy is just one example of how many talented people there are. Yes, there are artists whose work does not gel with me, as there are paintings that I am indifferent towards, but to use the term ‘repulse’ is far to strong an adjective to describe an artist’s endeavors.

Who are some of your favorite artists or artwork?

LS Lowry, Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer, Francis Bacon, CRW Nevinson, Andrew Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. So many.

Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges?

My biggest challenge was my first one-man show at ‘The Millennium Centre’ in Norwich. It is a very public venue and I was petrified at the idea of standing alone to all the criticism and flak that would come my way. I was pleasantly surprised by all the kindness and constructive views that were put forward which boosted my confidence no end, plus the added bonus of making several sales and commissions.

Starting to paint was a huge challenge. After years of visualizing in the agencies, my style of work was ingrained in me. However, it was not how I envisaged my paintings to look but good fortune led to us living in Cornwall for two years, a beautiful county steeped in artistic history (particularly The Newlyn School of painters) and the images and how I would tackle them soon materialised in my head.

When and why did you decide to start painting full time?

2007. The concept of painting full time is something that had been building up over many years. It was as inevitable as Spring following on from a long, hard Winter.

What is your most treasured possession?

My half litre tin of Flake White. Because of health and safety gone mad Great Britain has banned its sale due to the heavy lead content. It can only be purchased for restoration work with written government authority. It has a wonderful iridescent quality and over time it yellows slightly, something I have tried to re-create but up until now, unsuccessfully. As you can imagine I use it very sparingly.

What artist either currently living or from history would you most like to have dinner with, where would you eat, what might you order and what would you talk about?

LS Lowry. Sitting on a bench overlooking the River Thames eating Fish ‘n Chips in the only way they should be eaten – out of newspaper.

I wouldn’t talk I would just listen. There has been no artist like him since he died in 1976 and there was no artist like him before he was born. He was his own man, belonged to no school of painting, just totally original in his approach and how he worked. He painted where he lived and loved and what he saw, often with great humour. It was as simple as that. I have seen many wonderful paintings in my life, both moving and beautiful beyond description but none compare to the originality of a thundering Lowry industrial landscape.

Mind you, I wouldn’t mind popping down to the local Trattoria with Vincent or Pablo either.

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

We only moved to our new house in autumn last year. Fields and woods surround us and whilst taking my Cairn Terrier, Jimbo for long walks I am beginning to see potential subjects that I would like to paint ‘en plein air’, something I have never attempted before. As well as some new London Docks scenes in the sixties I am going to revisit my passion for early aviation. Last year was the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One so I am planning a series of paintings depicting the early flyers and flimsy bi-planes of that period. I do like my history and nostalgia. 

What is the most interesting thing about you?


Is there anything you would like to add or talk about?

No, just thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Collage a Day (or week!)

Continuing my personal challenge to try to complete small collages as sketches, very regularly, here is one I finished up. It had once begun as a watercolor sketch and went through a few changes to become this. I was particularly drawn to finish this one as it had part of a vintage map of Nigeria and I am now rather obsessed with all things African!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Simple Collage "Sketch"

Another snow's like a free day to lounge in the studio and work on things.  I have another artist interview on the way, but until then, here is a quick collage I made.  Trying to make at least one a week along the lines of #acollageaday or #apaintingaday but without the pressure of having to actually do it every day!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Accepted as an Artist in Residence in Ghana for 3 weeks in August!

While we are waiting for our next artist, I thought I would share some exciting news of my own.  I have been selected as an Artist In Residence for August at a small fishing village in Ghana!  The organization is Cross Cultural Collective and they are a small arts and education organization looking to promote collaboration between cultures.  I am SO excited!!! More information to come...