In 2017 Gary Lawrence made Jerwood Drawing history by winning first prize for a second time with his work ‘Yellow Kalymnos and Fridge Magnets’. The monumental drawing depicting the mountainous Greek landscape on a lurid yellow paper measured an impressive 250cm x 249cm; made all the more impressive by the fact the artist does not have a studio and makes all his work rolled up on his bedroom floor. I was keen to find out how this most dedicated of artists summed up the year just gone.
Lisa: Congratulations for winning the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017! What did winning mean to you and how has it affected your practice, if at all?
Gary: Winning the Jerwood meant to me that other artists and other art world people thought that my work has quality and that the image spoke to them. My art practice and routine has continued the same… I always carry on with what I am doing irrespective of what art shows and exhibitions I’ve been selected or rejected for.
Lisa: How would you describe how 2017 has been in your artistic practice – what breakthroughs and set backs did you experience?
Gary: 2017 has been fairly routine..I have certain times of the day for art making and this has remained fixed….every evening for sure. A slight breakthrough has come by trying indian ink on large scale work – by this I mean 7ft drawings! I have just completed a London theme piece of this scale. The almost guaranteed setback was the usual Royal Academy rejection; they have turned me down about 23 times to date, although I did get in in 2016 and 1984…but because it’s anticipated it’s not really a setback! However an unexpected breakthrough was getting a portrait into the BP Portrait Award. So it was a yes from Jerwood and BP but a no from the RA – not bad.
Lisa: Did you visit exhibitions this year? If so which were your favourite and why?
Gary: The BP Portrait Award Exhibition had some lovely pieces…very skillful painters. I also recently saw the Grayson Perry tapestries at Firstsite Colchester which were powerful, beautiful, witty and inspiring…they painted the walls grey which really showed off the tapestry colours. I also loved the religious art from centuries ago in the new wing of the National Gallery; there were some very clever artists hundreds of years ago!
Lisa: Do you have a plan of what you might hope to achieve creatively in 2018?
Gary: I have 3 large pieces in progress and these will take me well into 2018. I am always trying new materials or new combinations on new surfaces. At the moment I’m trying a large felt pen piece on plastic…we will see on this one! – and have just started a 7ft image of Paris…who knows where this will lead.
Lisa: What art material have you loved above all others this year?
Gary: As I mentioned, I tried Indian Ink in 2017. I liked it; the rich darkness on a large scale…but because I don’t get on with nibs I have been dipping a felt pen into the ink and drawing with this; I usually get to like whatever material I am using eventually.
Lisa: What has been the most important creative lesson you have learned in 2017?
Gary: That you don’t have to have it all planned before you do it. You don’t even have to have any hint of an idea beforehand. Rather, I seem to get on best when I just get on with something and see where it leads; the new London piece I thought was ‘average’ for months but as it finally ended I looked at all the rich Indian Ink and I ended up liking it. So the creative lesson learnt, I guess, is keep going with a piece…
Lisa: What work were you most proud of this year and why?
Gary: The yellow Jerwood piece did look good….the yellow looked good before I did anything! I was trying to draw felt pen on canvas so it felt like a painting. It was a simple medium: one felt pen on a yellow canvas. Although I also like the new London piece because it’s an image change from Greek pics, and it was also a new medium as I used ink for the first time with it.
Lisa: Do you have any exhibition plans in the pipeline for 2018?
Gary: No exhibitions that I know of yet aside from the touring Jerwood and BP exhibitions. Oh, I also have a piece in the Drawing Projects UK Space in Trowbridge, and I will submit to a few of the many open exhibitions there are…including the RA, Jerwood and BP again!
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Gary: There are many blogs etc. of the current Jerwood and there are bits and pieces mentioned when I have been in other shows………to see actual work it’s best to visit the touring Jerwood, BP and Drawing Project exhibition.
Header Image: ‘On The Blacony Rhodes Old Town’ by Gary Lawrence, Acrylic on canvas, 2015