Peter Tudhope – Artist

Peter Tudhope is a painter from Girvan, South Ayrshire (South west coast of Scotland) is represented by High St Gallery, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. He has been making art for 42 years, you can see more of his work at www.petertudhope.blogspot.com

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Peter paints landscape and figurative work, mainly in oils. His work leans towards a suggestive abstraction rather than a more deliberate representation. Recurrent themes include dramatic skies, barns, riversides, bridges, the local countryside and shoreline as well as portraits and figure studies. The intense colour and expressive paintwork creates a dramatic and energetic surface and rawness, where space is increasingly compressed and pressurised, has become Tudhope’s signature style.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

Music, film and lliterature are my other three passions. I write a little poetry, regularly attend the nearest filmhouse and couldn’t live without music.

What are the main medium/s you work in…

I mainly work in oils. I find the consistency and plyability of the medium suits my style of work.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?

Not really, my work is more about paint, colour and especially mark making. The image in many cases is secondary to the physical effort of painting.

What fascinates you?

I love to paint places I have travelled to. Apart from the usual culprits I think it would be wonderful to paint the Arctic or the wonderful mountains of the Guilin and Yangshuo region of China. The mountains and islands of Scotland always draw me back though.

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Why are you an artist?

Art consumes me. There is nothing I’d rather do more. For as long as I can remember I drew everything. It was fairly obvious it would become my life.

How important is art for you?

Simple, It’s what drives me to be the person I am. I think about art all the time. If I haven’t worked on anything for a while it can change my mood. I feel happy and alive when I create art, it gives my life a purpose.

Your art education was…?

I stared my art education at Edinburgh College of Art, completing my First Year Studies then transferred to Glasgow School of Art gaining a BA (HONS) Degree then a Masters Degree at Manchester Polytechnic. Both degrees concentrated on Printmaking.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

It wasn’t until I went to Manchester Polytechnic to do my Masters Degree that I realised how well I had been taught at Glasgow (School of Art), at least within the technical processes of Printmaking. I did find though that there isn’t much teaching going on more guidance, unfortunately not much of that either. Most students find their own way, this probably only happens in the art area.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

Since leaving Art College I have had to find work to “pay the Bills”. I worked in many different jobs such as in a Care Home for Educational and Behavioural Needs Children, built luxury tree houses throughout the country and worked as a sculptors assistant on many public art commissions.

Was art a “thing” which was encouraged in your family?

I was very lucky that my parents have always been encouraging. It became obvious very early on that some form of art was going to be my life.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Definitely a big influence.. My hometown nestled between the sea and the hills. There was a working harbour, which was and has been a continuous source of interest and inspiration. I walked in the hills which have been of great beauty to work from but also where I could clear my head and spend hours thinking and happily day dreaming.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

From an early age I devoured art like drinking water, especially paintings and it was something I always wanted to do but wasn’t particularly good at painting with thicker paint. I was more of a draughtsman and so Printmaking made sense. I did become a little frustrated the medium was quite slow and methodic, I wanted instant images, and so when leaving college and not having Printmaking equipment readily available, I turned to painting in oils.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).

As a student I experimented a lot. When afterwards I started painting in oils it took a long time to become more in control of the medium. Although I still love the fact that the medium can surprise me. A lot of artists have a certain style through habit of the way they work. Sometimes a painting takes it’s own course and that’s when I let it take over.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)

Definitely. My early influences were artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt as I moved through college I started to get interested in a more modern scene with artists such as Julian Schnabel, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Keifer. After college I turned more to artists I had looked at throughout college and were now making more sense within my art. I moved away from abstraction into seeing the world again, going back to drawing, artists such as Lucian Freud, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff were and have been the major artistic influences for the last twenty years.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

It has changed more recently from attacking the canvas with the bare minimum of sketched ideas to collating lots of drawings and colour studies of a particular subject which then lead me into painting. As I paint I make fresh drawings exploring new avenues to pursue within the painting. Ultimately the painting takes over and shows you the way to go. A painting does talk to you, the trick is not only be able to just hear it, but understand what it’s saying.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?

Not always. Hence my interest in looking for themes. They concentrate your mind to look at a subject at different angles. You somehow know when you have exhausted your own interest in the subject.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?

I’m sure all artists get urges… sometimes even artistic! Inspiration can come in many guises, a particular light in the sky, a colour draped across a landscape caused by a cloud or a gesture made by someone in the street. It’s at these times I would quickly sketch a kind of description of the scene.

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How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?

Like all artists I dream of how I might paint something in my head. Reality is always different but it’s a good starting point but I do like to keep my mind open to the image as it materializes.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…

I don’t really do commissions as I find the idea quite restricting, although I recently produced an exhibition of paintings from a theatre in Aberdeen. This seemed successful as the work was supposed to be on show for a month and ended up being on display in the Theatre for a year.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art (job)?

I have been working on a smaller scale mainly due to financial reasons and I suppose it’s easier selling smaller works but scale is also about intensity, which is harder for me to reproduce in a big scale.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?

Of course. If you are an artist you should be interested in other artists. Going to an inspiring exhibition fills me with enthusiasm and it carries into my own work, it sets a fire under you and drives you on.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

I have been visiting Belfast recently and quite inspired by somewhere new. I have already created a couple of paintings and working on more.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It’s always a little daunting until you get stuck in. I work quite quickly and know when I’m inspired the work flows.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

It seems to me we are talking about artists finding their “style” early in their career then repeating the same images over and over. I think the problem is more to do with the habit of the same technique. Although my style is similar I hope I don’t fit into that box. Each painting for me is a struggle, that’s the way I like it. Style is different from technique, my technique varies.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?

I like to paint in the studio. I am quite a messy and use a lot of paint. I would feel restricted working outside from a subject directly. I work from drawings done on the spot or later, I like the detatchment from the subject, it allows me to be more expressive and not so literal.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

About five years ago I started to pay more attention to drawing as a medium in it’s own right. It has changed the concept of how I want to paint.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Susan Rothenberg, her later work has me mesmerized with wonderful colour and descriptive brushwork. I love the abstract stories she tells of simple things within her life, very clever. Chaim Soutine is also a favourite, a master of the expressive gesture. There is a lovely giddy feeling and lush pure painting. Another wonderful artist I have come across is the Venezuelan artist Armando Reveron, his depictions of nudes and local landscapes are spellbindingly modern. One of the best artists who ever used white. Of course there are many others such as Bomberg, Auerbach, Kossoff, Matisse, Rembrandt, Carravaggio, etc, etc.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Like most artists I am obsessed with sketchbooks, they are not in diary form but if I looked back through them you could probably see the development of styles ideas and subject matter. I do however like to have a little visual diary when I travel jotting down notes beside drawings.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?

It has mostly always been from drawing from the subject. I would do lots of quick sketches with a felt pen, now I also work on colour studies and more developed works in charcoal.

Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

Creating art is a lonely business, I do love to listen to music while I work. I love music and go to concerts etc I listen to my ipod on a base station so that I don’t have to be interrupted changing discs. Certain music is better than others, if I am not painting and doing other things related I like to listen to the radio.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?

It’s probably one of the most important things for an artist as it’s what makes a viewer stop and look. Without that there is no point exhibiting your work. But that shouldn’t be mistaken with creating work specifically for the viewer.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?

I think my work seems straight forward and fairly easy to read. It may not be evident though that the image is just a starting point, the real painting for me is the application, the colour mix, the texture, struggling with the process until an image appears which surprises you.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?

It has sometimes been a bit of a millstone as it can get in the way of relationships or influence how you live but is always worth it in the end. I can’t image my life without art.

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…

I have two main examples of this, the first is a minor one, when I draw or paint I am concentrating so much I can block out the cold or even pain. The second is more important, for me artistic creation helps my inner balance. I am happiest when my art is going well it’s like an anti depressant.

About significant moments in your life, the sort of things that changed things for you forever… perhaps altered your Art… Who how why what and where…?

On a very personal level I did very little for about a ten year period when I was married. Family, long hours, little space and a crisis of confidence seemed to take over. After my marriage ended I vowed to myself art would become more important again and immediately started working on a series which kick started everything I do now.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

Sometimes I go through periods where I am in a creative slump. I am always thinking about art but physically can’t seem to get things going. Before long something works itself out, it’s like a habit, you just have to keep looking and drawing.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Titles are great. They can give just enough explanation to help viewers understand what you and trying to portray. Some of the names of places are wonderful and are like frames, finishing touches.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work you want to share?

Only in as far as I need my studio set up so that I can wander in and out. Painting is not always a nine to five thing. Very often I paint at night or sit and look at what I’ve done during the day, resolving problems and searching for the next days work.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?

My first show was just after I graduated, a local art gallery saw my work and offered me a solo show. The thrill of that was doubled by the fact the other solo show at the same time was by Henry Moore.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?

Very exciting but unfortunately a bit of a let down. I thought mistakenly that it meant I was on my way into an art career, the lack of sales sobered me up.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

It is a personal bug-bear. I think art colleges are responsible for the lack of knowledge in this area. It is probably as important as art history. Fine Art students need to know how to survive beyond college.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

It’s always nice when viewers compliment your work, not many people tell you when they don’t like it. Although early on in my college career I showed some early painted sketches to a tutor who told me they were terrible. I was taken aback a little, but he was right. It made me more determined to learn my craft.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

When I was a teenager my art teacher lent me his copy of Lust For Life, it inspired me like no other book had. More recently read Hilary Spurling’s biography of Matisse. It was a wonderful illumination to his life and work. There are wonderful books about the life of Pissarro, which showed the struggle of an artist to survive, it was as relevant today as then. And I read a great book about Jon Schuler, an American artist who came to Scotland and became inspired by the western coast and sky. All touch you somewhere inside as representing little parts of your own life and a connection to the struggle most artists go through.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?

I don’t really respond to comments like that. You have to develop a tough skin and always remember not everyone will like what you do. There is no point taking it personally.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

I have had different studios throughout the years, from lots of space in an old mill to the glass porch in my house. I can work in a small corner of an attic with little light if I need to. Currently I am moving trying to move home and have very little space. Ideally it would be a room at home big enough to store paintings and let me stand back from the paintings.

What would you say are the top three things, which make you successful as an artist?

A decent drawing ability is always good, I use striking colour mostly and the third thing would be the choosing subject matter, which not only you would like to paint but interests the viewer.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?

I would hope so and have been told on many occasions that this was true. As an Expressive painter I think the energy of the brush marks can be exciting, they show the power of the paint and hopefully how brave you can be with a loaded brush.

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc?

People close to me get to know painting keeps me happy, others wouldn’t know, I wear my heart close to my sleeve.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?

I love sculpture. Recently I worked on a few small nude bronzes, which was exciting. I worked on all of the processes. They were modelled in wax which I found incredibly therapeutic and would love to do more. They somehow helped a new push in my painting showing the way forward.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?

I need a good subject to start me off or the work would not be done, but, the execution is what interests me more about the process of painting.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

You just have to look at my work to see I love a more expressive style, it’s harder to control but when you hit it right it’s a great high.

What is more important to you in your work, content or technique, concept or product?

A painting has to work on different levels, no one thing can be more important. In my own work the technique and the mark making process invigorates me, but there has to be a balance though with content. The content is a complimentary factor which helps to draw the viewer in.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?

I think art and culture in general is what makes people civilised. Everything from music to designing our cereal packet creates a better world. If your surroundings are well designed whether your home or outside it makes you happier and it’s very often the simpler elements which work the best.

Are you the sort of artist who seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?

I personally shun the limelight a little although I want my work to speak for me and would be happy to see it well promoted.

Technology (websites and social networking sites to name a few) has become an important marketing tool for many industries and individuals, what are your thoughts from a “You Inc” perspective and your art sensibility.

I have work on a few of these sites, I have never got much in the way of sales from them but they are good for getting to know other artists and have made good “cyber” friends who exchange knowledge and encouragement. It has also been handy when someone is interested in your work to let them see a good collection of your work without having to travel to your studio.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?

All my paintings are worked from drawings. These drawings can be done from life or from photographs. I have got into the habit of when working from photographs I will turn them upside down so that I don’t get bogged down with trying to “copy” what I see. Instead, I just want to use them as starting points, drawing upside down can create a dysfunctional element which becomes your own.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?

At the end of a painting session you can be left high or down depending on how well the work is going. Finishing a painting is always a high.

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist that really made their mark in art history?

I think it’s a very difficult thing to try to make a “masterpiece”, they become that way through time. I would however like to make work, which would be seen in the future as quality of its time. Meanwhile, I paint because I love to do so.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?

The struggle can be depressing but can also show you that the world doesn’t owe you anything and it makes you try harder.

The problem with the art scene today is…

The same problem as it has been for many years, the high end of the art world is so stuck on finding the latest sensation it forgets about talent and quality in many cases. There are great artists still struggling and talentless fame seekers getting all the limelight. But nothing is fare in the art world and it’s still a case of being in the right place at the right time or playing the game in the right way and who you know. I suppose this sounds familiar for many other areas but it is particularly relevant in art.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Work hard, see it as a job not a hobby. Be professional, get to know about such things as tax, how to do your books etc. Remember you have a talent people want, do not sell yourself short, an architect wouldn’t work for free, you have bills to pay like anyone else. It is a fight, in general others want artists to just give their work away. Be realistic.

How long did it take to develop your own style?

I don’t think I really cultivated a style, I think through time my work just looks like the same person has produced them.

What personally motivated you to begin a career as an Artist?

Simple. I found from an early age it’s what I was best at and more importantly what I loved doing the most.

Did you intend to become a professional artist?

Yes of course. At school I looked to art college as my goal. Suddenly when I left I realised how hard it was to survive by your work alone.

Would you say your paintings reveal something private about yourself?

I am quite a quiet person, fairly laid back and wouldn’t say particularly excitable. My work on the other hand shows my passion within which only a select few ever see.

How many artworks do you produce in a year?

On average I paint about thirty oil paintings a year now, but also do many drawings and works on paper, which can vary.

What technical aspects do you focus on in your work?

I tend to work wet into wet, which means a painting for me has to be hit or miss everytime I work on it. I will scape the paint back off and try again until I find marks, colour etc. I work on the whole painting trying to keep it fresh and continuously spontaneous.

How long do our works they usually take to complete?

A work can take a matter of a few days or I can work on them for up to two years. They often get beyond a point where I feel happy working on the surface, in which case I destroy them and start again.

How has your mind-set changed from struggling to find your own style to solidifying what you are doing today?

My style is a result of painting in a way that is the most natural to me. I am quite impatient and always want to see instant results it is only the fact that I want to be discerning that I struggle on until I am happier with the result.

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

I usually work on up to four or five at the same time. They can develop in different ways and be completed at differing times. As I finish one I start another. I find also this helps when I am working on a series, one painting can spur on another.

Do you think art school nurtured you or somehow crushed you?

It definitely nurtured me. Of course like most people you didn’t use it to your best advantage and would love to have the time and resources again to do a better job. Money was always a struggle but it did give you time to experiment with other mediums and experiment freely.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?

After spending five years at art college with the financial support of my parents I felt I had to start working and pay my way more even if it meant not in the art world. I have worked in Social Care, Teaching, Construction and Customer Services jobs to pay bills and support my family.

Does the gallery make the artist famous or does the artist make the gallery famous?

I think it’s hard to have one without the other. Artists need outlets for the work to be seen and sold and vice versa. I think galleries sometimes forget that without the artists they would not have a living, they can be a little guilty of their own self importance and look down on the artist. High street galleries are just shops which sell a form of luxury merchandise, it just happens to be artwork, gallery owners are shop keepers when it comes down to it. The artist is the talent, a good gallery recognises this and nurtuires them which can only be a good partnership for both.

What was life like for you as you were growing up?

I had a very good loving upbringing. My parents were supportive and allowed me the freedom to follow my passion. We were never particularly wealthy but never particularly went without. They encouraged reading, music and to have an open mind to the world. It was an easy place to grow up, safe and without much in the way of hardship or struggle. Perhaps my laid back attitude was a result, I know I am not as driven as perhaps I should be.

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time or…

Constantly. I daydream a lot, thinking about paintings. I paint in my sleep or built imaginary studios. If I’m not doing anything I’ll pick up an art book and lose myself for a while.

Eccentricity is seen as a common trait of artists of many disciplines, how about you?

I wouldn’t say I have any eccentricities. Sometimes artists become that way by cultivating a persona which will make them stand out as an “artist”. Art for me is just something I do I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. I think I am happy within myself and confident enough to know it’s about the work not me.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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2 Responses to “Peter Tudhope – Artist”

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