Meet Vanessa Foley — a Newcastle-based artist with a passion for art and wildlife currently working on a series of paintings exploring traditional British wildlife.
Hi Vanessa, thanks for taking time to talk to us about your work!
From looking at your website you seem to have a real interest in fine art… do you produce most of your work for galleries? How did you get started in your art career?
I have always had a great love of art, both producing my own and going to galleries to see other artists work. But I was very casual in my approach to my own work, it was really more of a hobby. But then about three years ago I had a “what am I doing with my life” crisis and decided to commit myself and register as a self employed artist. This small action really focused my efforts and I began to work on a body of work that I could exhibit in small venues locally. I started off having small solo shows in places like public libraries and waiting areas of local businesses, and have progressed to exhibiting in the Heaton Art Festival and larger local galleries.
A great help to my career as an artist has been social networking sites like twitter, instagram and Facebook, where you can make connections with other artists and hear about events and opportunities to submit work and get involved in exciting new projects, Tiny Pencil being a good example of this.
For the last couple of months I have either been working on private commissions or completing work for group shows at galleries in the North East, which has been keeping me very busy. It has taken a couple of years to get to this point of constantly having deadlines to meet and it can at times be stressful, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Making art my career has been one of the best decisions in my life.
You paint as well as draw… what do you enjoy about each medium? What are your favourite materials to use?
After a long spell at either drawing or painting it always feels nice and fresh to have a switch to another medium. I am grateful that I can incorporate both into my practice as each appeals to different sides of my personality, with paint I tend to be a bit more expressive and free and this can often result in some lovely mark making. Whereas my love of organisation is comforted in the very controlled way that I work with pencils, especially graphite. I find the simplicity of a pencil and a sheet of paper very soothing.
Tell us a bit about your drawing process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
I don’t really have a strict process as such, most of the planning and ideas get mulled over in my head for a long while before I start work, so even before I pick up a pencil or a brush I have a clear idea of what I want from the piece.
I work a lot from reference photos and would often have on average 50-60 for each piece I do. From these I would make many sketches and mostly do the final piece from the sketches, using the reference photos for colour matching.
What is your favourite subject-matter and why?
I am a great lover of wildlife, and although I have occasionally worked on other subjects I always return to the natural world and in particular, birds. I’m not sure what it is about birds that hold such a fascination for me, I think initially it was the fact that they were easily observable in the wild so I was able to draw from life. But the more I looked the more I absolutely fell in love with them, in fact I have turned into a fully fledged ‘twitcher’ complete with binoculars and bird spotting guide stuffed into my pocket.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Not as well as I should! It’s a constant irritation with me that I am such a hopeless sketchbook keeper. I have many beautiful ones I have bought over the years to tempt me, and the first few pages are always filled beautifully but then they end up being used as impromptu telephone books or to do list books.
Tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite memory of a drawing experience.
I am very critical of my own work so my favourite piece if always the piece that I am currently working on. When it is still at the unfinished stage it seems full of such possibility and hope, but then once I am finished I just tend to focus on the things I should have done better, and will do better next time. In one way it can be quite hard to be so tough on myself, but I’m aware that this attitude always makes me determined to try harder next time.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I am very interested in starting to get signed limited edition prints of my work made. I put so much time and effort into each piece I make, and then very often they sell (not that I’m complaining!) and are gone forever. So the prints would be partly for myself to have a record of my work, and also to be able to offer a reasonably priced piece of art for a wider audience.
To see more of Vanessa’s work and look out for her upcoming work, visit vanessafoley.co.uk or her facebook page. For any queries about Vanessa’s work contact the artist directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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