What first sparked your interest in your particular art form? Did a specific style or artist inspire you to go for it or was it independent of that?
I’m not exactly sure where the genesis of that first ignited desire to create images came from. I think creativity is intrinsic to the human psyche, as the 30,000 year old sculpture of a bird from mammoth bone can attest to, along with the greatest images we’ve ever created, the wonderful cave paintings. When I was very young I was obsessed with dinosaurs, and my first inclination was to be an archaeologist of all things. But gradually the eagerness to draw them superseded the romanticised idea of digging them up.
The first really serious thoughts of actually pursuing art as some kind of job or career came when I was seventeen, and that in large part came from my introduction in art class to the Renaissance. The paintings of that era had a profound impact. It lifted art into the heavens and became something worth dedicating a life to. Although I might add, that dedication didn’t manifest itself clearly until much later in my life.
What’s the next Steps for you as an artist? – What excites you about the future?
Improving, growing, honing my technique, and developing a personal vision are all solid reasons to look to the future with optimism, mixed with a modicum of trepidation. “Not a day without a line” goes the proverb, and although that goal is missed occasionally, the principle is a sound one and worth pursuing. For the last couple of years I’ve been working on more commercial work like book illustrations for example, with a sprinkling of privately commissioned pieces. These have naturally enough taken up much of my painting time.
Now, I’m certainly not complaining, as any piece of art undertaken is to be treated with professionalism and demands your full capacity. But I do have several personal paintings I wish to pursue, that have been gnawing away at me and which I’m itching to immerse myself in. My intention is to eventually show these paintings as part of a solo exhibition idea I’ve had for awhile now. That alone is a reason to haul myself out of bed in the grim, cold, dark maw of winter with something akin to enthusiasm.
If you could have chosen a different art form to pursue what would it have been and why?
It’s almost impossible to imagine pursuing an alternative art form to my own other than indulging in superficial whimsy. The dedication and commitment inherent in one is overwhelming enough as it is. I have great admiration and respect for any artist, whatever their discipline, who decide to envelop themselves in that lifelong pursuit of excellence within their chosen field, but beyond that, I have not given it prolonged thought. I’ve never had a thirst for being a rock star or sports champion for example. In fact the solitude of creating art in my studio is of the highest appeal, despite that lack of obvious excitement or adrenaline. Although that is not to say that it isn’t on occasion a lonely endeavour.
Somewhere down in the depths of my ego I would have liked to have been a writer as well as being able to draw. I have an utter fascination, and appreciation for people who can write. To be able to describe thoughts, stories or ideas using words is a wonderfully imaginative skill.
There are many things that help drive and inspire an artist but if one of those things were a musical soundtrack, what music would help to get the creative juices flowing?
What music I listen to whilst painting largely depends on my mood, or sometimes even what it is I’m painting that day. The Planets by Gustav Holst has certainly been played a few times over the years, along with several favourite Global Underground mixes. Even film sound tracks work well for me at times.
But I’ve recently started listening to podcasts and audio books whilst painting, which has been enriching. It has given me a chance to catch up on literature I’ve never got round to reading. I’ve also recently managed to get through a 24 hour podcast on the history of WW1 by Dan Carlin. It was utterly engrossing. I think it took a sliver of genius on his part to construct such a compelling and well paced narrative considering it is such a convoluted story. It was distracting at times, but I managed to find a balance with it in the end.
Describe the perfect day for you, combining and balancing a day of creative productivity, along with the necessary unwind?
I like to get up relatively early on one of my studio days, around 7am, which will no doubt sound obscene to some. But I never go straight into painting.
My ritual (after a mug of tea of course) is to read for a couple of hours first.
This is an important part of the process, as I place great value on reading as widely and as often as possible. I think artists have a certain responsibility to engage in literature, stories, myth, and history. It adds to the process of creating imagery and unshackling the imagination in preparation for the painting ahead in the short term. In the long term the more interest you have in the world the more inspiration you can draw on when developing ideas and concepts.
After reading it’s time to paint. I might paint for a few hours before taking a break, and it’s important to have them. You need to disengage from your work at intervals. Have a cup of tea, go for a walk in the park. Don’t think about your painting for 15, 20 minutes. Then go back to it with fresh eyes, and re-invigorated. It does your work some good to take a breather.
The ideal day is when you can stand back from your work and look at something that can be considered progress. If you can walk away from the canvas and be relatively pleased then that is a reason to be content.
After that a good meal, a few quality stout with chums, maybe a film and that’ll do nicely for one day thank you very much.
If you could own any painting in the world, which one would it be and why?
If I can only have one it would be Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth.
Putting aside the technical excellence of the painting, it fascinates me for its mystery and melancholy. The painting captures a certain haunting loneliness and longing that draws you utterly into its landscape. It seems a quintessential symbol for certain unavoidable aspects of the human condition- abandonment, fear, and fragility. It suggests something deeply disquieting, that we may one day be alone, exposed, and at the mercy of the uncompromising world.
A quote by John Steinbeck comes to mind when thinking of this painting:
“All great and precious things are lonely.”
Peter is an illustrator and visual artist, born in the Rep. of Ireland, with degrees in both Illustration and Animation and a scholarship from Colaiste Dhulaigh, Dublin, in Layout Drawing and Storyboarding.
Although some of Peters work encompasses illustrations based on contemporary texts, his more personal paintings are often inspired by ancient myths and classic literature.
Concepts of narrative are important in Peters work – paintings are not merely arbitrary fragments of time preserved by the boundaries of the canvas, but unwinding stories that invite the viewer to question what is being represented; to go back again and find new meaning.
Peter has been, and continues to be, influenced by many avenues of art, including literature, film, and history, but the imagery of Goya, and the principles of the Pre-Raphaelites, hold particularly special meaning.
Peter currently lives and works in Birmingham.