This month on ‘Spotlight’ we are joined by Scotland-based artist Brian Petrie.
On any given morning, you will find Brian Petrie hard at work at his easel, elbow-deep in the luminescent sunset pinks, and deep velvety ocean greens he so adeptly uses to depict his local coastline and surrounding landscape. After lunch, Brian puts down his paintbrush and picks up his social commentator cap to work on his regular cartoon feature for The Scottish Sun newspaper. As he signs under a different name for his cartoons, fans of Brian’s oil paintings are often amazed at the discovery of this second, unique artistic talent. We spoke with Brian from his Westhaven studio, overlooking the waves on Scotland’s beautiful East Coast.
1) So Brian, could you tell us, what initially drew you to becoming an artist?
From a very early age I was never going to be anything else. Art books, drawing books and cartoons were my main interests, even before I knew you had to actually work for a living. Plus art was really the only subject I was interested in at school.
2) When did you know that it was meant to be your chosen career? And did you have any trouble grappling with the decision?
I never thought of actually earning a living from paintings, so after studying design and print at College I started work as a magazine designer with a large publisher. I then moved on to drawing cartoons for a number of publications and painting as a hobby to supplement my income. It did take me a few years to pluck up the courage to leave the safety of a large firm and start working for myself as an artist and cartoonist but I’m so glad I did.
3) What inspires you in your work?
I am constantly inspired by the coastline and countryside around where I live and work. Plus a huge chunk of my inspiration comes from visiting galleries and seeing howother artists paint and compose similar subjects to mine. A successful exhibition or a few good sales are also a good kick start if work is beginning to drag.
4) How do you think success can be defined artistically?
Success for me is people liking my work enough to want to buy it and hang it on their walls. Also and probably more importantly, is achieving what I set out capture in a painting. And not going to bed with an artistic problem rolling about in my brain. Which happens frequently!
5) Why did you choose your current location as a base?
My studio overlooks the waves at Westhaven on the East coast of Scotland and is so inspirational so it just had to be here. It’s an area I’ve lived and worked in for most of my life but I see it differently every day. Being a stones throw from the sea and only a thirty minute drive to the rolling hills of Angus it’s a good base for all things artistic.
6) How do people react to your paintings, as opposed to your regular cartoons?
I’m very fortunate that I get generally good feedback from the public to my paintings. I can also tell from my Artist’s Web pages which pieces are being viewed most often, which is a great help planning a direction as regards colours and subject matter for future work. As I use a different name for my cartoons, many customers of mine are surprised when they find out it’s me who’s responsible for the daily cartoon in the Scottish Sun. I don’t think the two paths interfere with each other.
7) Have you had any significant people help you to get to where you are now? If so, what role did they play in your success? (Ex: a supportive partner, a mentor etc)
My wife Paddy is my best support and critic and has a fair idea of what I’m aiming to produce. Often I get so blinkered with a piece I can’t see the wood for the trees and ultimately turn out a painting that just hasn’t worked and she can tell instantly. 99% ofthe time she’s right with her judgement.
Thankyou Brian for your interesting and insightful answers. We wish you every success with your work in 2008.