Ms. Swan, like many of our previously featured guests, showed up on our Union Jack-themed radar by total chance. During a recent visit to Twitter, we saw one of her posts featuring one of her works and we thought, straightaway, “This woman has loads of talent and she deserves to be shone in a proper spotlight.” Without a moment of hesitation, we contacted her and invited her to visit Anglophile Studios. Ms. Swan proved to be a most amiable and utterly pleasant guest. She even brought some samples of her work which she most generously gave to us as parting gifts. As we enjoyed an afternoon tea, we chatted with Ms. Swan.
1. What do you think makes your work distinctive? And when
you paint, do you do it for your own happiness or because
you’re excited to share it with others or both?
I guess you could say it’s ‘in the blood’. I am a 4th generation Londoner so I feel very close to London (East especially) where my relatives and descendants come from. I hope that inherent atmosphere comes across in my work. I work because I need to on a very personal level. I have worked in offices for my bread and butter for most of my life, but this is what I was born to do.
2. What are your favourite art museums in London? Do you
often visit exhibitions to garner inspiration or
The Tate Britain and the National Gallery are both major wells of inspiration and places of wonder for me. But I also love to visit the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury (just across from the British Museum) for its history of cartoon and collection of wonderful drawings. The Mall Galleries in Pall Mall are also great to visit to see what is happening now and are very supportive to new artists and the major art societies. These are all places of inspiration and meditation when at a low ebb or if I need to consult the masters if I am phased by a problem in my work. Everything every artist needs to know is contained there I believe.
3. Do you need to paint in silence or do you have background
distractions, like the telly or music? When you’re
painting, how do you feel as you see a creation that was
previously in your mind become a reality?
I find music helps if I’m finding it difficult to still the mind. No music in particular to be honest. It depends on what stage I am at in my work also. Sometimes I can relax and work on autopilot so am happy to listen to a talk show but that doesn’t happen too often!
Mostly it would be easy listening, but that could be to do with my age!
4. Given that you mention, on your website, that London
largely influences your work, what about the city compels
you to paint? Are there particular sections of London that
you hone in on?
I may have already answered this question back in the beginning, but it’s where I’m from, has made me who I am and holds so many memories for me. Good and bad. I have also read a great deal about East London in particular. It has a very special place in my heart.
5. What makes you proud to be British?
I am proud to be a part of something that has been very special to a lot of people worldwide. Like all nations, we have and have had our problems. But overall, for all that our ancestors may have got wrong at times, when I walk around my city, I believe we produced something pretty special.
6. Do you constantly think about painting or do you have
moments where you need to switch off?
I never switch off to be honest. There is always a ‘view’ in my head when I am walking around doing the most mundane things. Whether its weather conditions, someone’s stance while waiting for a bus or a beautiful view. It’s so ingrained that I can’t separate myself from my work. But a great question! Thank you, this one really made me think.
7. You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty has asked
you to choose a book and luxury before she casts you off.
What do you choose and why?
The book would have to be Atkinson Grimshaw’s Painter of Moonlight and a bale of paper to draw upon. I could always make colours from leaves, plants etc and fashion a drawing impliment out of wood or seagrass!
8. Since you’re being interviewed by The Shipping
Forecast, we can’t help but ask; have you ever listened
to the R4 programme and, if so, what do you think of it?
I have always found it a great source of comfort and a leveler at the end of a long day. It’s been a part of British Life for so long and reminds us of those whose livelihoods depend upon the conditions at sea and general weather conditions. It reminds me of how fragile life can be when pitted against the elements .
9. If you could invite any painter, alive or deceased (the
latter would, for this occasion, obviously be alive), to
dinner at your home, who would you invite and why?
No hesitation, John Atkinson Grimshaw. He captured the atmosphere of the city like no other I have seen. Having seen many of his original works, they have never failed to knock me off my feet. They are dexterity and grace without the feeling of showing off.
10. What is your opinion of street art and what do you think
I do think some of the work is stunning and very clever and understand how the phenomenon has grown in cities. But really do not enjoy seeing buildings, windows and transportation being defaced. I initially found his work entertaining as it was very subtle, enjoyable. But as he is now a well-established artist and his work is worth 100,000’s, it’s time to commit the work to canvas or other portable surface and stop painting/stenciling on buildings in poor areas and creating a bunfight for ownership of the artwork between local councils and property owners. This is not being clever or ironic Sir!
11. Who are your top five favourite artists?
John Atkinson Grimshaw
12. If you had to go one day without painting, how would you
spend that day?
Sailing with a very large Pina Colada!
(These are the parting gifts bestowed upon us by Mary)