Artist Insight: Fhiona McKie, winner of the Pegasus Prize at Bath Society of Artists Open Exhibition 2019

Artist Insight: Fhiona McKie, winner of the Pegasus Prize at Bath Society of Artists Open Exhibition 2019
Fhiona McKie, winner of the Pegasus Prize Bath Society of Artists

You won the Pegasus Prize of £350 worth of art materials at the Bath Society of Artists 114th Summer Exhibition. Do you enjoy entering art competitions and you do you think it’s important?

Yes, it’s good to be challenged by outside opportunities!

What inspired your winning painting? Tell us about the process and materials too!

I live near Hauser and Wirth Somerset and the inspiration came from an Autumn visit in 2017 to the Piet Oudolf Garden there . At the time I was working on a series of relief prints using fragments of lace and women ‘s collars from the 19th & 20th Century. I called the series Aphrodite’s Wardrobe. I had been very preoccupied with stories from Greek Mythology.

Aphrodite's wardrobe relief print

The garden presented me with a sense of nature being drawn back into itself, back into the earth, and I was reminded of the Story of Persephone. This theme has continued into further work.

I am often influenced by the appearance and surfaces of Italian Fresco work, in particular in the Convent of San Marco, Florence, in the work of Fra Angelico and also in Verona at the Basilica di San Zeno . So when creating the layers and surfaces of the picture I was trying to achieve a certain faded & layered effect without using the actual fresco method . The mediums were made from Acrylic paint and Graphite Sticks. I probably applied and then took off around six layers of paint. At one point with a kitchen scourer. This was a fairly high risk strategy as the work is on Somerset paper not canvas.

Are you a full time artist, or do you balance your painting with other jobs?

I have worked as a full time lecturer & course leader for around 22 years firstly at Norwich School of Art & Design and then Bath College and Bath Spa University . Before this I owned a vintage clothing business and before that a small fashion & textile company designing and creating fabrics and garments. Last Summer 2018 I stopped working full -time in order to concentrate on my own work. It is not easy to balance work, art and family I have always kept up my own practice in particular drawing.

What is your preferred medium and which brands do you favour?

When I use water based mediums I use:

 Liquatex Heavy Body Acrylic

Golden Heavy Body Acrylic

 System 3 Acrylic if I am covering a large area and just exploring ideas

 For oils :

 Winsor & Newton Oils

Were you formally trained or self taught and do you think this matters?

Yes I was formally trained firstly at Exeter College of Art  Foundation, followed by  Dartington College of Arts. My B.A. is from Norwich School of Art & Design. I am actually about to continue studying at postgraduate level part-time.

 I believe that studying provides you with the time and place to explore and experiment and learn. It also encourages you to take lots of risks and to be challenged by an audience of critics and to become much more aware of the context you work within . I think it would be very difficult but not impossible without this kind of in depth training.

What advice can you give to graduates leaving art school?

Put to use the training you have had at art school. Employers value the transferable skills you acquire, including:

  • the ability to develop individual ideas and collaborate with others
  • strong observational, research and analytical skills
  • creative problem solving
  • the ability to learn from criticism and be objective about your work
  • an openness to new influences and concepts
  • entrepreneurial skills in marketing your work and possibly setting up a business.

Through showing your work at competitions and exhibitions, you also gain experience in working to briefs, organising your work and meeting deadlines, displaying work to advantage, lighting, marketing and event management.

Do you paint every day? What keeps you going? Do you attend art classes yourself?

I certainly try to draw nearly every day even if not to paint. It may only be 30 minutes. My favoured medium is charcoal . However when I am on a bigger painting project I tend to work in intense periods of hours and days where I may even loose track of time. I don’t attend art classes.

Which websites can you recommend for resources and support for an artist. Is it important to be part of a group, society or club? How do you stay in the loop?

Yes it is important for artists to be connected.  I have been very fortunate in my job as a lecturer to have links to those kind of friends and groups. Apart from the obvious London based galleries , exhibitions,  there are a number of regional organisations  in the South West that I would recommend. A number of them function as gallery spaces but also run workshops, lectures and also provide studio spaces.

Fhiona’s recommended links:

Hauser & Wirth

Drawing Projects

Spike Island

Visual Arts South West

Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre

Pegasus Art

Are you represented by a gallery? Do you think galleries are still important for artists in the age of social media?

No not at the moment, although I have exhibited in a number of galleries. Yes I do believe galleries still perform an essential function in the Visual Arts.

The 114th Bath Society of Artists Open Exhibition runs until 29th June at the Victoria Art Gallery, open from 10.30am – 5pm every day.

For more information about the Bath Society of Artists click here.