I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Tom Gowen.
Tom, we studied Fine Art together at the University of Gloucestershire. I can't believe that we are approaching 8 years since our graduation! What type of work were you doing at university and how has your practice developed in the 8 years since?
Most of my student life was mostly spent glued to a sketchbook, travelling to different locations, research and utilising large areas of the studio in order to create and experiment with ideas on a broader scale. I developed a strong interest in landscape and architecture which has since carried through to much of my later work and it was a great opportunity for me to explore and develop my practise further using various mediums in order to establish a technique that suited my artistic ability.
Your oil paintings are made using predominantly palette knife, what is it about painting with palette knife that you enjoy so much?
Using a palette knife gives me quick results with good colour saturation and allows me to create a more expressive, immediate effect in my work. I love using texture which is why palette knife painting became a bit of an obsession, it is such a versatile tool that is not only useful for mixing colours but can be used to apply thick layers of paint directly onto the canvas.
Your subjects include harbour villages in Cornwall, rolling countryside hills, lighthouses and rugged coastal scenes as well as picturesque towns in Europe. How do you decide on a subject?
I just paint what appeals to me I suppose. I would usually begin with a preliminary sketch often on site in order to help me decide on a suitable composition. Lighthouses have always been a favourite subject area, as have seaside towns, rugged coastline most notably Italy, Cornwall and Pembrokeshire and rural areas such as the Cotswolds!
What is the process of a painting from start to finish?
I normally plan my work in stages so firstly would begin with a basic background wash and with oil paint to roughly map out the composition using relatively thick brushstrokes. I would then start to mix together thicker colours for covering large areas of the canvas in order to suggest background detail such as the sky and land. Once I’m happy with that I would then apply it directly over the top and spread evenly until it is completely flat and just keep adding more detail with a smaller palette knife.
What advice would you give to an artist graduating from university?
I remember wondering what style to adopt as a painter and I realised quite quickly that style needed to find me through practice and developing my painting technique on a personal level! Although it was an overwhelming experience I knew that graduating meant deciding what I wanted more than anything was to continue painting so setting up a website and promoting my work on social media is an essential starting point.
Tell me about your studio or creative space.
I currently occupy a room in my house as a studio space but would ideally like to have a proper purpose built studio with heating and more space to store my artwork. The fact that I’m based in the countryside means I don’t have far to go to look for inspiration and I like to work outdoors when it’s sunny!
What artists (living or dead) inspire you?
I‘m strongly influenced by the work Turner for his use of light and colour and gestured brushwork particularly in ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (1839) and his more dramatic subjects such as the ‘Snow Storm – Steamboat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ (1842) as well as other pieces some of which featured in an exhibition held at the Greenwich Maritime Museum in 2014 where I went to see lots of his work including sketches. Cezanne is a particular favourite of mine for his use of strong colour as well as some of the more contemporary painters such as Robin Mason, Alice Hole and Kurt Jackson.
I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.
I have beautiful flat coated retriever called Benbow who I walk every day and I’m a bit of a coffee lover. I love to cycle, draw and I often go for morning runs before I start each day.
Finally, where can people follow your work online?
Thank you to Tom for agreeing to be part of my interview series, it's been lovely featuring someone who I studied with. Tom is heavily involved with Handmade Hour and Just A Card Hour on Twitter, you can follow him there for a chat. Please do take a look at his Etsy shop as well as his oil paintings really are stunning.
If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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