Layering details – Artist April Skinner in the spotlight
April Skinner is in the Spotlight today! See more of her work on her website: www.aprilskinner.artweb.com
Being an artist
Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself
I am a semi-pro artist tutor who has worked as a Community artist/developer/project Manager for various Local Authorities, Schools, Community and Volunteer Centres. I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely around UK, Europe and the Americas including spending long period in Germany and 4 years living in the USA.I am a Mother and Wife. I love walking my dog daily (who has been dog whispered!) and singing. I also love literature, Theatre and Films.
When did you decide to pursue art as a career?
At University in the 1980’s. However, I have always drawn (and sung) from a young age.
What training did you have?
Higher Education in Wales. Majored in Studio/Fine Art as part of BA(Hons) Humanities degree gaining 2:1, under tutorlage of artist Alan Salisbury. MA in Art History (UCW) but at same time gained solo exhibition at Ceredigion Museum and made Banners with Thalia Campbell and Jo Pate. Later in USA I attended BBAA Art College in Michigan ,and in UK Cirencester College, to take classes in Life drawing, Collage, printmaking and Stained glass. Also trained as Counsellor for charity MIND, Play Leader, have C&G(Ed) and latest PTLLs for teaching Adult and Youth Ed, plus various Local Authority courses to work with vulnerable people.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Ann Arbor Art Gallery solo exhibition, Michigan, USA
Having Peace banner in major Banner exhibition in 1990’s that made it to various Museums and centres in UK including House of Commons, and being the official Bannermaker and workshop leader for ‘Valleys Live’ festival Ebbw Vale (1990’s) when also interviewed by Welsh TV and Radio about my Banners.
Teaching Art to young people and adults and seeing the benefits of art and progress made for individuals.
What’s your favourite quote?
‘If you want to work on your art, work on your life’- Chekhov
Who is your favourite artist?
No one favourite. Studied Women artists so admire Kathe Kollwitz, women Surrealists (not the men though!) like Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, artists who can draw like Leonardo Da Vinci, Ingres, Degas, and Laura Knight (particularly her works of women working in the War) and painters like Vermeer , Van Gogh and Larsson. More modern artists include Rauschenberg, Hannah Hoch, Peter Blake, Grayson Perry and Rachel Whiteread (as she makes you think in a different way).
What are you aiming for?
To make a decent living out of my own art but also to spread the word of the benefits of art making and it’s therapeutic qualities to enhance wellbeing for everyone.
How will you get there?
More marketing, networking and exhibiting. Doing new works and keeping them fresh in my new Garden art studio.
Is anything holding you back?
A lot of things have held me back so far- notably the need for regular income, lack of family support in art as a career and lack of connections /opportunities when I left College (things are much better now with Internet, more direction on courses and greater opportunities), ill health, family commitments and moving around too much (although the latter has broadened my horizons and shows in my art). Still battling with health and family issues but more time now to pursue art.
You and art
What feelings or reactions do you hope to arouse in people who view your work? Are you ever surprised by reactions that you get?
In the past I have gained adverse reactions as well as complimentary which I liked as it meant I challenged some perceptions of what art is and what subjects can be done (especially as a Woman at the time). I think I also like that people like my work and have said they find tranquility, beauty ,therapeutic and interesting elements to it which is what I was trying to convey. I think artists have a duty to make people see things differently but also to express how they see the world. Art is a broad church and can hold many different styles and approaches.
From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?
This varies depending on media, and size of work. I can do drawings and pastels very quickly, even some paintings I’ve done very quickly, usually I’m more methodical. Oils and collages take longest. With paintings I tend to leave them before they are finished, sometimes for weeks, and then go back to them. Collages just take a long time as I do intricate cut outs, then placing takes time and thought before final sticking. I’ll often tweak works after meant to be finished.
What music do you like to listen to when you work?
Again it varies depending on mood. Sometimes classical like Chopin or calming like Native American flute music but it’s mostly favourite artists like A-Ha.
What are you working on next? Any future plans or projects in the pipeline that we should look out for?
I’ve been getting myself onto art websites and have ideas for new works that will be mixture of oils, pastels and possibly go back to Collages (as recent Open studio exhib had many favourable comments about my Collages). I want to exhibit more widely and to do work that deals with more challenging subjects.
Being inspired by art
Who (living or dead) inspires you? and why?
Those who are open to new ideas whilst staying true to themselves, also those who have overcome major adversity in their lives yet still succeed. People like Mandela but more recently I found the complex and controversial life of Frank Lloyd Wright quite inspirational especially as he didn’t gain his major commissions for buildings until he was in his 60’s!
What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
Artists who can express themselves through line, shade and colour and piecing things together to make sense of the World, that make fragments a whole. Portraits, figures, but also landscapes that may be harsh but where something survives in adversity. Artists not afraid to show the challenges in life as well as the good things but that leave room for hope. Work that has something to say and keeps you going back for more.
What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?
There are two- a large charcoal drawing of a sleeping woman (done from College model), mainly because I was pleased I could do a really large work (it covers a wall) without it losing shape (no light box or tools used to help me), plus people admired it. Also my ‘Falling Leaf’ Collage because of it’s colours and mood with a tree surviving amongst high rocks in rough terrain and adverse weather. I also played with the elements and images that come together as a coherent whole when on closer inspection they should not exist in real life (nearly all my works start from a real scene/image/object though).
an artist’s advice
For those thinking about turning a passion for art into a career, could you give any advice?
Go to the best Art College/course you can but also be true to yourself. There are lots of ‘trends’ taught in Art schools that can stifle an artists true style and beliefs but mostly they expand your horizons and also network and take opportunities whilst you are free of family commitments. Live a full life, experience as much as possible. Don’t do it just to make money or gain fame. Appreciate artists that have gone before and realise we all have something valid to say through our art. Art is not meant to be exclusive.
Any tips on how to get your work seen and get the commissions coming in?
Get on websites, join art groups, but mostly do enough work and get it seen by exhibiting any where you can. Aim high – yes exhibit locally but get yourself into National and International exhibitions and opportunities. Join A-n for great art business support, latest info and opportunities, Axisweb and Artweb are also good. Let local press interview you when you have exhibitions.