Inside the Studio
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
My work is very much inspired by nature and my background in research science. Carrying out research on a daily basis hones your observational skills. My art is not a literal representation of what I see on my walks or while looking down a microscope, but – on a subconscious level – I am always observing shapes and colours. Being a research scientist means, amongst other things, being curious, observing your surroundings, trying to understand how things work. Although my approach to painting is very intuitive – I have no formal training – I find myself using those same skills to explore the balance between marks and colour.
I am fortunate enough to live close to the ocean and usually start my day walking the dog in the countryside surrounding my home. On my walks I can slow down, observe my environment, take in colours, patterns, textures, sounds and, most importantly, the light, which has a particularly vibrant quality here in California. Once I am back in my studio, the work takes on a personal note. I am most interested in exploring the balance between the strong and the delicate. Strong shapes or colours, overlaid by light delicate marks. Although the marks I put down can reflect the forms I see outdoors, they are also an expression of life itself, which is full of powerful, contrasting emotions interspersed with moments of lightness – the sound of gentle breeze, or the unexpected sight of migrating geese. I try to find a meeting place between the strong and the delicate.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I did not go to art school, and therefore have not had a formal mentor. However, a friend and fellow artist once told me to trust the artistic process. I’ve returned to those words often. I tend to seek control over my life, but painting allows me to let go, to learn that a “mistake” will simply lead me in another direction, which will be equally rewarding. It is an invaluable daily lesson.
Just as importantly, the support of family and friends throughout the years has allowed me to give space to the constant – and powerful – urge I have to create, no matter the medium.
Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I almost always work with the radio on – NPR (National Public Radio). It keeps me company throughout the day, although when I’m truly focused on painting it fades into the background, as if I were working in silence.
If you could have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
A hard question to answer. Depending on the day, a portrait by Modigliani, a painting by William Scott, a sculpture by Michelangelo or Ruth Asawa, a piece by Adela Akers.
Who are your favorite writers?
Another hard question to answer, as I’m an avid reader and have gone through many phases of favourite writers. Salinger, Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh when I was younger, contemporary Indian and British writers in later years. Recent discoveries include Ann Patchett, Emma Donoghue, Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let me Go”. Favorite books -books I’ve read several times over – include Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”, Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People” and Salinger’s collection of short stories.