Q&A With Artist Miche Watkins

Miche WatkinsQ: To kick off, tell us a little about yourself and your family:

I am a figurative artist painting in oils with an emphasis on portraiture. I lived in Cape Town for five years but have recently relocated back to Bristol, UK where my family is based. I have three grown up children, Megan, Tom and Joe who all live in England. None of them an artist!

On coming to Cape Town 6 years ago I struggled to start again artistically as of course no one knew my work. I had a very supportive partner, but did not know many people to bounce ideas off for my portraiture. For this reason, I developed my “Line Art” acrylic paintings which were the complete opposite of figurative oil paintings – no facial features at all! These paintings were fun, contemporary and affordable and struck a chord with South Africans who seemed to like this work.

Q: How long have you been painting?  What was the process and the tipping point that took you to the place of being a professional artist?

I have drawn and painted all my life. When I was a child I was forever drawing princesses (never princes for some reason).  I began my formal art training after my youngest child started school but owing to personal reasons had to give up my art degree and find paid employment to pay my bills.  I remember my solicitor’s words very clearly: “I see your future Miche, and it is very dreary…” However, this never stopped me painting. I started painting portraits and through word of mouth got commissions.

Q: How would you best describe your art style/genre and what is your preferred medium?

My art style is figurative as always. I am veering away from straight portraiture towards figurative paintings that have a narrative theme and there nearly always seems to be an element of isolation and loneliness in these paintings. I began with charcoal, progressed to pastels and now my real love is oil painting – I love the smell of turps!

Q: How or where are you likely to find inspiration?

I am inspired by artists like Aldo Balding, who I met at the Christopher Moller Gallery last year, such an unassuming and all round good bloke! Edward Hopper is certainly an influence and I am drawn to artists such as Jack Vettriano and Caravaggio because of the light and dark shadows they use in their work.  I find exaggerating the lights and darks in my paintings makes for a far more interesting piece of work at the end of the day.

Q: You are living and working in Bristol currently. What is your take and experience as an artist of that city?

I am extremely happy in Bristol which is a young and vibrant city with so many artists actually making a living – something I found difficult in Cape Town, being an unknown English incomer.

I am also now teaching life drawing here in Bristol (something I have done in the past) and with the city’s lively and buzzy artistic community this class goes from strength to strength. I am hoping to organise an exhibition of the students’ work in May because I want them to gain confidence in their work, and seeing someone buy your work is the best way to improve self-confidence!

Q: Where do you exhibit / sell your work?

When in Cape Town I sold work through the Lisa King Gallery, Art on The Bay in Camps Bay and of course through StateoftheART.co.za (Jennifer has always been a big support to me).  Here in England I exhibit with the SBA, The Southbank Bristol Arts Trail in May, and am now part of Colin Neville Contemporary Art. I am also exhibiting with Art Extra in Devon at the end of June which is supporting HospiceCare and 25 artists have been invited to exhibit – exciting times for me.

I sell prints of my work through Fine Art America and workART.  I also do a lot of marketing (which I absolutely hate, loathe and despise doing having an artist’s brain) through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and of course my website. I have to say, however, that this side of marketing does work! The rest is word of mouth.

Q: Do you see yourself returning to Cape Town or SA for that matter on a permanent basis?

I don’t see myself returning permanently to Cape Town as my home is here with my family nearby. But I do miss the warmth of that lovely city and my many friends there. I would hope to revisit many times though, and the world is indeed a smaller place with the Internet, and Skype.

Q: If you found yourself stranded on that proverbial desert island, who and what would you like to have there with you?

Ah, the desert island… I would like to have my Bible there please. I found God finally when I came to South Africa and I would need that daily connection with Him to keep me grounded. I know now my artistic talent comes from Him, so I would ask Him to please direct me to some paintbrushes and paints in the jungle. AND I would want my nearest and dearest with me…

{Images via Miche Watkins}

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