Q&A with... Mari French
F&A: When did you start painting abstracts? Did you study art at university?
MF: Although I’d always wanted to be a painter, I studied design at college and had a long career as a graphic designer. Eventually I was able to switch to working part-time and concentrate on painting, going on to paint full-time in 2009 once I moved to Norfolk. Before this we had lived on the Isle of Skye for 15 years, an experience that definitely influenced my choice of landscape as subject matter. However, rather than reproducing a conventional ‘scene’ I always wanted to capture the essence of the wild weather and extraordinary light. So I have been working for the past 13 years at loosening up my painting and developing a more abstract expressive approach.
F&A: How have you approached your career as an artist?
MF: After many years as a graphic designer, I promised myself in my 40’s that by the time I was 50 I would be a serious exhibiting artist and I’m proud I was able to achieve that. But I’m not sitting back by any means, I feel as I came late to a career in painting I have a lot of catching up to do. So I am constantly pushing myself to work hard and make up for lost time. Like many artists it’s my passion and I have to paint. I’m an experimental and intuitive painter and enjoy playing around with various media to achieve the results that excite me. I am constantly learning and I love that, it feels like I’m still on a journey.
F&A: Who or what inspires you the most?
MF: So many artists have inspired me, but the two most influential would be: Turner, for his later light-filled almost abstract works. He was so far ahead of his time. Joan Eardley, for her energetic land and seascapes. She was out painting in all weathers.
Music is also a big inspiration, mainly classical (early or modern) and piano, especially work by the likes of Ludvico Einaudi.
F&A: What is your favourite medium to work in?
MF: I would have to say water-based media. I use a variety of media in most paintings, but acrylics, inks and water-soluble media are indispensable to me. I love the element of chance when working wet-in-wet.
F&A: What advice would you give to someone looking to carve a career as an artist?
MF: Don’t wait around for inspiration to strike, work as hard as you can and the inspiration will come. Be as professional as you possibly can be in your work, its presentation and in your dealings with galleries and other art contacts. Build up a network of artist friends whose work you admire, their support will be invaluable.
F&A: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
MF: It’s a choice between: Venice, which I first visited 5 years ago and fell in love with. I want to spend more time exploring the islands of the outer lagoon for an ongoing series of paintings I’m working on.
Antarctica, I’ve never been, but the light and colour of ice and snow are said to be incredible.
F&A: What is creativity to you?
MF: Liberating, joyful, fulfilling and incredibly frustrating at times, but I couldn’t live without it.