Read our revealing interview with prolific artist John Connolly. John is having a solo exhibition with us from 4th -19th May. Join us for wine and snacks at his preview on Friday May 4th from 5:00-8:00pm:
- Why did you decide to become an artist?
I have always painted since I was a child but wanted to be an actor more than anything else. I got a place in drama school but was persuaded by parents to do a ‘proper job’ so I ended up at teacher training college and then working as a teacher. I taught Art and Drama for many years but then set up a Compact Theatre, a professional theatre company, and acted as Harry Connolly for about 15 years. During this time I also painted, for my own pleasure mainly, but in 2003 I started exhibiting professionally, in Cornwall at first and then throughout the country. I did much less theatre work and taught Art during the day and painted after work until late at night. In 2010 I became a full-time artist. Since the death of my father, in 1991, my outlook on life changed. I became ‘driven’ and felt a real need to create something and to leave something more than memories when I pass away. So I wrote plays and painted. I paint almost every day now and still feel absolutely driven to produce art. I may even do more writing. Who knows.
- What inspires you?
I am mainly inspired by the beauty of the landscape. In particular the play of light on water, and the ever-changing colours in the landscape. I am particularly drawn towards the sea and dense woodland areas like The New Forest. I love returning to the same place to capture it in a variety of weather conditions, time of day and seasons.
- What medium of art do you prefer?Why?
I started working mainly with watercolours in a very traditional way. Then I moved into mixed media almost by accident when a watercolour wasn’t working. I would use inks, pastels and crayons to make marks. This work was done on paper. When I experimented with canvas and board, it felt logical for me to use another water-based paint so I used acrylics. I have used oils but much prefer acrylics because of the versatility. They can be used like watercolours but also impasto like oils. I also like the quick drying time of acrylics.
- Which artist inspires you the most and how have they influenced your work?
I have been inspired by several artists including Monet, David Hockney, Anselm Kiefer, Turner and in particular Cornish artist Kurt Jackson. When I first met and saw Kurt’s work I was so excited to see how he was using watercolour and mixed media in a similar way to how I was using it to ‘correct my traditional watercolours’. I immediately started to loosen up and produce work that I was really pleased with. My style continues to develop now as I strive to become more loose and expressive with paint.
- What do you regard as the key benefit of your workshops to participants?
Key benefit that I hope everyone gets from my workshops is that participants learn new techniques and grow in confidence. They benefit from not being afraid to take risks with ideas and materials.
- What advice would you give to prospective artists who want to attend your workshops?
Anyone who wishes to attend my workshops must mainly be prepared just to ‘have a go’ and be prepared to take risks. Don’t be afraid to try out new techniques working with materials and don’t be put off by anyone else in the group if you think they are better than you. Everyone learns from each other so be prepared to share YOUR ideas too. Approach the workshop in a positive way.
- What do you regard as your major achievement? Please elaborate.
My major achievement was selling my first painting. It gave me so much confidence and pleasure to know that someone appreciated my work enough to part with hard earned money. I also feel really honoured when I am given a commission. Once again, because a client appreciates my work enough to want it on their walls. In terms of winning competitions or becoming a member of an art group, I don’t enter or apply. I’m not thick skinned enough and don’t like competitiveness in the arts in general. To quote Lowry… “I am not an artist, I am just a man who paints”
- Where do you see yourself going from here – future goals/ new areas to explore/ different direction, etc?
I am constantly striving to improve and to produce a piece of work that I am 100% pleased with. I certainly want to loosen up MUCH more and become far more expressive and less ‘pictorial’. I would like to experiment much more with abstract and semi abstract work using an even wider variety of materials.
For more information on his workshops, see our workshop page.