An interview with our artist Alexandra Connor

2 April 2020

We interview artist Alexandra Connor from the UK

Please describe your artwork style
Portraits and people fascinate me! I am intrigued by the human face and body and in my painting I use techniques that were used in the 14th and 15th century, building up oil glazes to get the maximum luminosity.

I’ve painted businessmen, famous actors, comedians, children - and animals included in the paintings with their owners.

What's your background?
I started painting after I was stalked and attacked. My convalescence and operation gave me time to think and although I had always been passionate about art history my connection with a London pavement must have loosened something in my head, because after the attack I was able to paint portraits. I don't recommend it as an apprenticeship, but it worked for me!

How long have you been an artist?
20 years

Who or what are your biggest influences?
My mentor was Pietro Annigoni who believed in me and encouraged my work. He wrote: “It is incredible what you have achieved. Go ahead, and work hard!” A lovely man and a great painter.

Caravaggio also inspires me. I have written three books about him in my other career as a writer, but his skill and his force are unique.

How have you developed your career?
I knew I always wanted to paint portrait and I didn't want to be seen as an autodidact, so I studied intensively - paint, pigments, mediums and techniques - my works created to look aged. Portraits have been commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company, exhibited in the RSC Theatre and RSC Art Gallery. I have painted Kenneth Branagh, Brian Blessed, Anthony Sher, Frank Middlemass, Ken Dodd and others.
Last year I was invited to Russia and now three of my works are in the National Collection.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

Which current art world trends are you following?
I don't follow trends.

Where do you do your work?
In my studio, away from everyone! And I have special lighting that imitates day light, which enables me to work well into the early hours - something I love to do and the time when I find my inspiration and energy flows best.

What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?
To create beauty - with a twist. That is why I enjoy painting my allegorical pictures, where every colour, gesture, expression and material depicted means something. This enables the viewer to 'read' the painting.

What techniques / mediums do you use?
Oil paint, oil glazes and with many of my portraits I use an egg tempera base layer, then build up the oil glazes.

I also do works in pastel, charcoal, and ink.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
Both are equally important. The subject makes you look, the manner of execution makes you admire. Or not. Sometimes a quick oil sketch can be as wonderful as a fully worked up painting, but in all cases the intent to create as well as the painter is enable is imperative.

How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?
That I am exactly where I should be in this world.

What project are you working on now?
A series of allegories and portraits for an exhibition in 2012

Any current or up-coming exhibitions?
The exhibition in 2012

Where do you find your ideas for your work?
People. Their faces, mannerisms, expressions, words. I watch people walking about, I listen to them talk, I seem to automatically memorise their faces so I can draw on them later.

People, always people.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?
The one I have chosen for this blog. It was bought by a collector in London who has several of my other works and I am proud of it because it has mystery, a sinister quality and also a little humour with the monkey!

How do you know when a work is finished?
When it's alive.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?
Mixing pigments, making dry, coloured dust into luminous, breathing paint. And then drawing that pigment onto the canvas and seeing it come alive on the ground.

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