An Interview With Alexandra Darbyshire
What do you do?
"I am a painter working in acrylics and oils, and have taught painting to people of all ages and skill levels since 2000."
Where do you start with your artwork? Do you work on preliminary sketches or go out and take photographs before creating the main piece?
"Lately my paintings have been quite textured and abstracted, so I have begun by just randomly mixing up various colours on my palette and applying paint with pure gut instinct. I haven’t created any studies or sketches, so the process is in-the-moment and unpredictable. Although this “Corridor of Uncertainty” can make me feel uneasy, the results can be very satisfying."
What is the most unusual place or thing that has inspired you and why?
"It is very hard to pin point just one place or thing that has inspired me over the decades – having said that, memories of travel to big cities & countryside in foreign countries and films have been a large influence on how my brain shapes my studio practice."
How do you overcome artist block?
"Artist block can be terrible, but reminding myself that I am an artist is key, and basically putting my blinders on, trudging through it, working through it, regardless of the not-so-hot works produced while it is happening. Eventually you come out the other side like most things in life. You can’t get the highs without the lows."
Do you have a favourite medium and why?
"Acrylic is pretty amazing for it’s flexibility. It’s remarkable how many effects you can get with just one type of paint – and fast drying! When I teach acrylics at Pegasus, I introduce students to the magic of adding acrylic mediums into acrylic paint, such as matte medium, acrylic flow release and polymer gloss varnish, which enable specific techniques."
Is there an underlying message in your artworks? What are you wishing to communicate through your work?
"My current painting series “It Fell From Earth” springs from fragments of the world we inhabit, bringing together a collection of small encrusted and gloopy oil paintings, and collage work assembled from torn and painted pieces of paper, sometimes stitched or taped together. The work is presented as a conversation around the unknown, while vaguely referencing the things that surround us. Some artworks could be interpreted as microscopic/biomorphic phenomena, or outer space life forms from another planet, another cosmic dimension, or dreamscapes. The imagery ends up hovering somewhere between reality and painterly fantasy, organic life and dystopian form. In turn, I aim to allow the viewer to ponder all these worlds and atmospheres through my work in a way where the point of origin isn’t clear."
When do you consider an artwork finished? How do you prevent overworking a piece?
"For me, there’s no formula to gage whether a painting is done or not, but usually I can feel it in my gut the moment I’ve made the last paint stroke & stepped back to look at the results. Sometimes looking at it in a mirror or upside down or both at the same time can confirm this if I’m not 100% sure. I’ve also placed paintings on a clean white wall to see what it would look like on display as opposed to what it looks like in the midst of studio clutter & chaos."
How do you decide on a title for your artwork?
"I start by thinking about the personality within a piece, and then random words seem to fall into my head until I come up with a title that has a spark to it – I feel titles are very important and have to suit the artwork as a draw from outside it’s edges."
If you could work anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?
"Hong Kong would be interesting. I’ve always had it on my bucket list as a place of high contrast between skyscrapers water and mountains. I’d also say I’m pretty happy to be working here in Stroud. The Five Valleys region is storybook beautiful to a North American like me!"
Do you have a favourite artwork by another artist? What is it about the piece that captures you?
"I think my favourites are constantly changing all the time. So many incredible artworks created over years and years. The thing that grabs me most about artworks by other artists is when I can tell their artwork was heartfelt in the making process, and a love of mark making shows in the finished work."
What would be your top tip for other budding artists?
"Make a lot of work, and keep at it, even when it’s not working. You will get to higher ground eventually."
If you couldn't be without one item in your studio / art box, what would it be and why?
"I have a load of can’t-do-without items, which fit this question, but the one I discovered at Pegasus Art Shop is my Da Vinci Black Russian Sable filbert brush size #16. It is so silky and beautiful to use with acrylics and oils! I highly recommend it to others looking for good tips on brushes to add to their own collection."
More About Alexandra Darbyshire
Find out more about Alexandra Darbyshire and see examples of her artwork on her website alexandradarbyshire.com.
See further information about art workshops, courses and one-to-one instruction from Alexandra Darbyshire and other independent artists in the Gloucestershire area on their website www.gl5-art.com.
Interested in taking an art course with Alexandra Darbyshire? We offer an exciting programme of creative classes at Pegasus Art in Stroud on our Classes & Workshops page.