Artist Insight: Kirsty Owen, winner of Pegasus Prize Readers Choice Award, Artists & Illustrator magazine
1. You won the Artists & Illustrators Readers Choice prize of £750 worth of art materials at the Artists of the Year awards in 2019. Do you enjoy entering art competitions and if so, why do you think it’s important?
Having recently tasted success in a national art competition, I can confidently say that I feel they can be an important part of an artist’s journey. For me, winning has reassured me that people like my work and that I should carry on doing what I love. I realised, some time ago, that being shortlisted in a competition is not a measure of your success or direct criticism of your work. Every artist will have an audience who both love and hate their work in equal measure and once you can accept that you are free to satisfy yourself and can stop trying to please everybody else. Entering competitions allows you to be critiqued by professionals and create an opportunity to learn and evolve.
In addition to the amazing £750 worth of Art Materials from Pegasus Art, which is going to keep me painting for some time, I have also taken away something invaluable which is a sense of validation to my work. No matter what my family, friends, clients and followers tell me about my paintings to be shortlisted by a panel of art professionals and voted for by complete strangers is overwhelming and an incredible feeling.
2. What inspired you to start painting?
I was always creative but was steered away from Fine Art College and into a conventional career (Graphic Design). Whilst on maternity leave I decided to join a small art class, taught by a successful artist. I was very quickly hooked and found myself painting whenever I could justify spending a few hours, which always felt quite self indulgent.
3. Have you always been an animal artist?
I started out painting a lot of landscapes, seascapes and still life studies. It was not until I began to do the odd pet portrait commission that I found a love for painting animals. I still paint various subjects but often I will come across a subject or place and feel utterly compelled to paint it. I find myself looking at things constantly as if they are going to end up on a canvas which can, at times, be quite distracting.
4. Are you a full time artist, or do you balance your painting with other jobs?
As a single mum of three children, in a very busy household, it is very much a juggling act! I am fortunate enough that I have been able to spend the last year really concentrating my spare time (if there is such a thing) on trying to make the move from being a hobbyist painter to professional artist. I do often find myself painting into the early hours and have to remind myself to go to bed. The problem is the more you paint, the more you want to paint so trying to find the correct balance can be difficult at times.
5. What is your preferred medium and which suppliers do you favour? Do you always paint in watercolour?
My preferred medium is without a doubt oils. I tend to use a variety of brands but mostly Windsor & Newton and Old Holland. When painting with watercolours I use Schmincke, as I recently upgraded my Windsor & Newton set. I have to admit I have found the change quite difficult and it almost felt like learning to paint again. I am slowly getting used to the different way in which the paint behaves. The subject often dictates which medium I will use.
6. What advice can you give to graduates leaving art school?
I think some graduates would quite possibly have better advice for me than what I could offer them. That said, I would probably advise them to take criticism positively, paint what you love as often as you can and force yourself to spend time marketing your work! I have spent the last year forcing myself out of my comfort zone and it is now paying dividends.
7. Do you paint every day? What keeps you going? Do you attend art classes yourself?
I can’t always paint everyday although I would love to. I do however ‘think’ about painting every day! Keeping painting is not really a choice as I don’t think I could ever stop. I do not currently attend any art class but am always looking out for workshops and events. They are a great way of meeting other artists and learning other styles and techniques.
8. 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?
There is so much support and resources online for artists that it can be quite overwhelming and you can literally loose hours on a screen. Social media is a great platform and source of creativity, however, I believe there is a fine line between inspiration and intimidation. I sometimes feel that there is so many insanely talented artists that I question ‘Am I actually good enough?’. At that point I know it is time to take a break from it and get in the studio!
9. Were you formally trained or self taught and do you think that matters?
I was not formally trained as an artist and I often wonder how much this has effected my style. I have mixed views on whether I feel that formal training is important or not as undoubtedly it allows an artist to be more experimental and expressive during those formative years. I feel like I am still playing catch up when experimenting with styles and mediums. Whilst I do not regret the route I have taken I have found the need to try and gain the missing knowledge by attending various art classes over the years. We should never stop learning but I do believe that passion and creativity comes from within and can’t be taught.
10. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you think galleries are still important for artists in the age of social media?
not currently represented by a gallery and that is one of my ambitions for the
future. I have been working hard to get a strong enough body of work together
to have the confidence to start approaching galleries.
I feel that galleries are essential and provide a very important service to both artist and buyer. When purchasing a piece of art, no matter what the cost, I personally would want to view it. Art has a very tactile quality to it which can not be appreciated by looking at it on a screen, often only a few inches in size. Although I appreciate social media as a marketing tool and self promotion, I feel that it totally falls down when it comes to sales.
To view Kirsty’s work CLICK HERE.
Kirsty’s Facebook page is HERE.