Faces and the figure have been my source of artistic inspiration since a I was a kid. Nothing gives me more pleasure than discovering the fleeting contours of expression with my brush or pencil. It is an incredibly subtle thing.
I first showed and sold drawings and painted works aged 15 in a gallery in Dulwich Village. This early success ignited a desire to become successful in fine art.
But as college wore on I tired of the Euston Road approach and was seduced into the world of design. I still continued to create artworks and sell but it became a shared creative practice with major interior design, sign gilding and typographic projects.
You are an ‘impressionist’ Nick Garrett…
Using software in design has enabled me to integrate design benchmarks in my fine art practice. I can photograph, check and inspect my work at high magnification during it’s progress, a dynamic new process that has allowed me to see how the deftness of the tiniest brush stroke picks up detail and leaves it as a mere yet defining trace on the canvas.
This is a wonderful insight and has reignited a subtlety in my work. It has allowed me to paint once again as I did in my early career, with a freedom and openness without the need to over paint the image: by design if you like.
The result is a freshness and liveliness across the picture.
Many of my favourite artists such as Goya, Picasso, Degas, Manet and Bonnard also allowed this freedom to dominate the plane. I now open my brushwork and allow it to breath – nothing new but when done beautifully creates a ‘dream’ of a painting.
Many contemporary English and Italian portrait painters have gotten stuck on minute, photographic detail – Many people see me as a detailed artist but there are 2 sides to my work. I do go into close detail if the image asks it. I do not generally automatically assume a mechanical technique and go into a piece with a premeditated approach because it becomes too processed, academic and plastic. Generally great art allows for all eventualities which can include high detail yet never insists or relies on detail.
I feel the over emphasis is a result of insecurity and a pandering to the traditionalist view on art.
Great art always owns zest, passion and risk.
Painting the essence
Good portraits are often mysterious things. No matter who creates them, there is always a richness of life lurking within.
My own work is founded on a simple principle handed down by my mentor Euan Uglow – It must be a most determined, honest search for truth. However where I diverge from Uglow is in the need for the moment, freedom and life.
Some of my earliest works centered around the idea that deep detail is an essential part of identity – it is not necessarily so. It is indeed a quality many patrons demand and rightly so if they want a trophy of sorts. A portrait serves to describe people in the most definitive way – permanently. However it must also stand on it’s own as a great piece of art in order to stand the test of time.
Narrative it need not be – but there again sometimes the image demands it.
Judged, and worked it always is.
A true likeness it will always be from my brush.
Life in the work
But the best painting comes from courage and spontaneity. It’s knowing when to stop to preserve that special moment.
The first painting I ever had hung in the RA Summer Exhibition was a portrait painted in 9 minutes.
Because portraiture is usually art in a pure observational form, while serving as an important record of identification and memoir, I feel it stands apart in a special way, from landscape or even the figure for example.
Great art for me has an immediacy, a life of it’s own – both mercurial and expressive at once.
Please look at my work closely over a period of time – return and talk to me about what you would like to have in particular, alive in your own portrait commission.