Exclusive interview with abstract artist Jo Darbyshire
I like to paint with oils. It’s so old school now—like slow cooking—an oil painting is made using layers and this can be quick (wet on wet) or slow (wet on dry).
The materials are quite toxic so I wear old clothes, gloves and sometimes a mask so I can get down and dirty.
I particularly like to use transparent colours and work with colour theory ideas. My work is usually abstract, but occasionally I work with representative symbols. Most of my canvases are big, up to 1500cm square.
I was inspired to be an artist as a child. Mum came home with oil paints one day when I was eight. She let me have a go and I never stopped. I’ve also met amazing artists at just the right moment, all who have supported me in some way and encouraged me to continue.
A typical workday might start with a basic job, like priming the canvas or cutting
up rags. I turn on Radio National to get into the studio mood. I start by laying my paintings on the ground on a tarp and pour paint on them. Often I let them semi-dry overnight and then start again the next day. I build up textures and colours depending on the theme. Usually, I work on a series of paintings over a six-month period. The paintings evolve together. I usually work from 9-5pm and it’s precious not to have any interruptions.
It is crucial to know when the artwork is finished. No words can explain this. It’s a skill or instinct built over years of practice. Going to art school helps because you see other artists exploring the limits and you gain awareness of the process.
So many things inspire me: nature and the natural world, history and the marks left behind, water and the underwater realm, dreams, poetry and writing.
My biggest challenge. Graphic design is king at the moment and it’s the opposite of what I do.
My aim is to keep painting honestly. I’d tell my 20-year-old self to not worry so much. People might be surprised to learn I enjoy Modesty Blaise books.
If I couldn’t be an artist, I’d be unbearable!
My worst job was packing sausages in the cold-room of a kibbutz in Israel. I also had to boil 200 eggs for breakfast every morning.
My dream job is ‘artist in residence’ for three months each in Spain, Venice and Tokyo then writing a long article for Vogue about the experience. Like Eat, Pray, Love but more ‘Eat, Paint and Dream’. Can someone organise this?