Inside the Studio

Alexandra Gallagher

What is your medium?
I love using digital media to create and often use it to sketch out ideas before I use a more traditional medium such as paint. I’ve found it to be really useful and something I’ve grown into. Although I don’t like to limit myself to a particular medium; it depends on what I am trying to achieve.

How many years as an artist?
I’m not really sure. I still struggle with calling myself an artist. I think I’m constantly learning when it comes to creating art, so I never feel I am at that point where I can call myself an artist. Although, I’d say I have been focused on my work consistently for about six years now.

Sketchbook? Do you use one? What type?
Yes, I sometimes use a sketchbook to plan out a piece. Although I mainly use one to jot ideas down and make lists of words that come to mind with a concept. I am quite bad for just jumping into a painting and the digital work I do is never planned. It grows organically. I can never predict the direction the final composition will take; the process is intuitive, visceral and inherently natural to me.

Most important tool you use?
The Internet. It’s a fantastic tool for research, viewing the work of, and talking to, other creative people. I also find it a really useful for the modern artist to share their works with others.

Where is your studio?
I use my back room at home. It doubles up as my office, studio and dining room. I’m a very messy person so it takes a lot of tidying up when we have guests over for dinner!

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
That it’s not easy and you have to work hard. Learn about everything and read as much as you can. To practice, practice, practice!

Art school or self-taught?
A bit of both. My father paints, so I was brought up in a creative environment. I did a BTEC National Diploma at college and now I am studying towards a Degree in painting. I have learnt a lot through trial and error. For me, it’s important to constantly learn, to constantly absorb new things, to adopt new modes of thinking. I like to think that I will be learning for the rest of my life.

I have two. One I had done by a friend when I was 17 and one done by myself.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I work to music. I love music of nearly every genre and I can’t stand silence when working. I like to be taken off and lost in my own world.

iTunes, spotify, records?
I like to listen to music through lots of different platforms. I sometimes go retro and get my cassette tapes out from when I was 15 and listen to those.

Succulents or cigarettes?
Cigarettes… and every week I say I’m giving them up!

Favorite sound?
People playing tennis and football on the TV. I actually hate watching tennis and football, but the sound of it on the television makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It reminds me of being a child.

Who are your favorite writers?
At the moment I am finding Melissa Lee Houghton’s poetry really inspiring. Houghton’s recent publication “A Body Made of You” is a collection of written portraits of writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. I find it really interesting for her use of written portraits rather than the more conventional and traditional paint or photography.

Would you rather see your art on a t-shirt or on a billboard?
I wouldn’t mind, I would be excited about both! Having my work anywhere is an honor and a privilege.

Favorite contemporary artist?
There are a number who’s work I love at the moment: Catherine Brooks, Zhou Fan, Michael Hlousek-Nagle, but I’m really into the beautiful but disturbing work of Monica Cooks right now.

Oil or acrylic
I use oil paint. I find oil paint more vibrant, more alive and easier to manipulate.

Photo references?
I mainly use photo references. I find photographs a really useful tool when painting. They can capture more than a sketch.

Is painting dead?
No not at all, and I don’t think it ever will be. Since the beginning of time have people have loved to make a mark. There are millions of people out there that like to paint and so many more that appreciate looking at paintings, so how can it be dead?

What do you wear while you paint?
My pajamas mostly! I get up, sort my kids out, grab a coffee and get working – my husband is always commenting on the fact that my pajamas have paint on them and that I should have more ‘painting clothes’.

Painting Inside or Outside?
I paint inside. When I am out I take loads of photographs to use as reference rather than sketching or painting outside.

Monet or Manet?
Monet. I love the way he tried to capture the light. When I was younger my father taught me how Monet painted, his techniques. That taught me a lot about the use of colour and how to build up a painting in layers – how to build texture and form.

Favorite editing software (if any)?
I nearly always use Photoshop, although I am addicted to the new trend of vintage and toy camera apps you can get for iPhones and the iPad.

Camera type?
I use a Sony DSC-HX21 digital camera. I take it everywhere with me.

Film or digital?
Digital. I find it so much easier and more rapidly accessible for the way I work. I use photographs as the base of my digital collage work or paintings, so the digital format is so much quicker and works better for me.