Back in 2016, Tim Patrick’s Charcoal Portrait of ‘Fiona’ was a close Runner-Up in our inaugural Jackson’s Open Art Prize (since renamed the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize – click here for more information on JOPP 2018). The large drawing of the artist’s former landlady exuded the personality of the subject, and demonstrated Tim’s skill with charcoal. Dramatic tonal depth, variations in mark making, and a clear understanding of how to capture hands, the clothed figure and flesh all stood out in the work. In this interview Tim Patrick explains that his time at the Royal Drawing School has given him the confidence to realise that drawing from everyday life means far more to him than dealing with the subjects he once ‘thought’ painting should be about.
Lisa: Your drawing of your former landlady was beautifully crafted and tender. Was it done from life or from photos, and do you remember facing any particular challenges in completing the work?
Tim: I drew Fiona from life, working mostly from sketches in my sketchbook to find an interesting angle and composition. When it’s a portrait, I really prefer working from observation rather than photography – I think it’s more about discovering the subject as you work, rather than illustrating it. We’d talk, and Fiona was an artist also, so sometimes drew me!
Lisa: To my mind, it is clear that you have a lot of respect and affection for the subject of ‘Fiona’…how important is it that you like the person you are drawing? Have you ever been commissioned to make a portrait of someone that you don’t have a connection with personally?
Tim: Yes, we were good friends, and the drawing of Fiona and the preceding sketches I really enjoyed. I think it does affect the outcome, whether the person is known to me. The portraits that have worked best in my opinion are those where the person is, or is becoming a friend. Sometimes you get it wrong and I haven’t understood them well enough, and end up making a piece that is about my idea of them, rather than their personality.
Lisa: How often do you get to draw?
Tim: I draw a lot! The Royal Drawing school really helped with that – before I was drawing but not so frequently from observation or everyday life. Fiona was made as a result of that change. I tend to work in a sketchbook, usually from life and then working up ideas from memory and these sketches into bigger drawings in the studio – sometimes, these end in a larger drawing and other times develop into a painting.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your residency at Downside School?
Tim: Working at Downside was a really great experience – it is a big Catholic Monastery school, and so seeing the Monastic life lived out was beautiful. I actually tried to make work that was less overtly to do with the Monastery, though more about finding the contemplative and spiritual in in the everyday. The painting called “The Link” was made there.
Lisa: You are also known to work with oils and watercolour – what is your favourite medium to work with and why?
Tim: Well I work mostly through drawing at the moment, though painting in oils is my favourite challenge and medium. Right now, I’m working simultaneously in charcoal and gouache paints, making sketches for a larger oil painting. So a bit of everything!
Lisa: You’re the second artist I’ve interviewed recently that completed a degree at Brighton and then went on to do the Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School (the other being Elizabeth McCarten, winner of the Jackson’s Young Artist Award at the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017). How do you think the 2 institutions informed your artistic practice?
Tim: I think they’re both very complementary of one another. When I was at Brighton, we were encouraged to “paint from the stomach”. It was a painting degree and having come from a traditional painting school in Italy, seeing other people being so bold and exciting in their work helped loosen me up. The Royal Drawing school showed me how to connect my work with my life. I think the emphasis of drawing from the everyday, from the things around you, made my practice less about what I thought painting should be about, and elevated the world I see around me to be worthy of drawing and painting!
Lisa: What conditions are most conducive to your creativity? (in terms of environmental and psychological)
Tim: Gosh, I think I’m a funny one as I need spells of both quiet and of people! I work best when I don’t think too much about the thing I’m painting, but just the doing of painting itself. Painting the verb, not the noun. Sometimes it’s from the scrappy drawings and pages of the sketchbook lying around the studio that I get the best ideas, so I need the actual studio space to be quite busy with stimuli!
Lisa: As well as people you are known to drawing and painting interiors. Can you tell us a bit about the ideas behind your interior paintings?
Tim: Yes I love painting interiors. I’m not sure what draws me to them but it’s something about painting space. I’m Catholic and the idea of painting a quiet, contemplative space, really appeals to me – it’s a like a space for prayer. I think the act of painting depth within a space, of creeping over the surface and discovering mid-tones and different greys, that in itself is a contemplative, prayerful process.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Tim: At the moment, I’m working on a series of large drawings and paintings about representing these moments of quiet contemplation in the everyday. Some are quite big so it’s a challenge! The biggest challenge for me is to make my paintings have some of the qualities I enjoy in the drawings. Mostly, the paintings I’m most pleased with are representational, made in response to observation; they are paintings that are about the process of seeing. The drawings however, are like fictions – there is something artificial about them, that allows them to represent things more imaginatively. Both I think, are trying to get at representing a truth, but I’m looking to make the paintings have more of a feel of the imaginative drawings.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Tim: I’m in a group show at MIAR Arts in Hove also, every weekend from the 25th November until the 10th December. My website should also be up to date soon! www.timpatrick.co.uk
Header Image: Tim Patrick’s Studio