Sussex-based artist Julian Sutherland-Beatson paints the landscape, coastline and urban areas in a style recently described as ‘contemporary realism’.
Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row, who sells his work on a permanent basis, hosts his solo show, Cityscapes, from 5th to 24th March. We caught up with this prolific artist and quizzed him about his work.
Can you tell us about your early years? What do you recall about your earliest artistic influences?
I remember my father making ink blot images on blotting paper. The idea of making something beautiful out of nothing has always appealed. I was fascinated by the Pop Art movement as it was happening and had the pleasure of meeting Peter Blake, one of my childhood heroes recently. I was really taken by his modesty and humility.
You studied at Eastbourne College of Art and Design mainly in illustration. A number of years later did a graphic design course. What do you feel are the main lessons you brought away with you from those courses?
I think the value of discipline and guidelines. I have found that in every area of endeavour that requires technical competence such as playing the saxophone, dancing salsa or skiing, mastering at least the basics allows you to, in time, be more creative than without the discipline and guidelines.
Printmaking helps an artist to think strategically and methodically and I’m so pleased to have learned etching, lithography, woodblock and screen printing during my years at college.
Which artists do you admire most? And do you have an artist or artists who inspired you to paint?
I think Peter Blake, who I mentioned earlier, touched something in me, and I love the audacity of Picasso and Warhol. I’ve always been a huge fan of the work of Norman Rockwell and current favourites are the cityscapes of American Jeremy Mann, Lars Lerin from Sweden and the atmospheric paintings of Anne Magill from the UK.
Tell us about your decision to become a professional artist, your Sussex 365 project, and being Artist in Residence at Glyndebourne in 2011.
I have been working for over 25 years as a graphic designer and about 10 years or so ago I responded to an open invitation from the House of Lords to create new work in the style of 1930s travel posters, to complement a collection of original work in their collection. Having been lucky to have 2 accepted and on my return from the launch at the Palace of Westminster, I decided to create a new collection of 12 in similar style.
It was at that point that I first thought I could possibly paint full time. Following a few years specialising in automotive subjects and exhibiting at Goodwood and the Antwerp Classic Salon in Belgium, I started, in 2008 to create a daily painting in the same size and format each day. This developed into Sussex 365, which was a year long collection of paintings of the Sussex countryside, coastline and urban areas. I was lucky enough to be able to show these at Glyndebourne Opera House in 2010.
I was then asked to return as Artist in Residence for 2011, creating a daily record of the Glyndebourne Festival season between May and August. In the first year I concentrated on the buildings, gardens and visitors. The next year I went ‘behind the scenes’ and made paintings of the various specialist departments, including wigs, costumes and scenery.
For the past two years I have continued to create work that I hope captures a certain timeless quality at this wonderful institution. It is such a privilege to be able to visit so often and see the seasons change in the gardens and be part of this annual celebration of music.
Having worked as a graphic designer for most of my working life has certainly helped me as a professional artist. It gave me an understanding of the value of getting things done and doing what you say you are going to do by the time you have said you are going to do it, if not sooner. And to dispel the myth that rules are the enemy of creativity. For me the opposite is true.
I understand you have become very involved with Eastbourne Artists’ Open Houses?
Yes, back in 2008 I was asked by Eastbourne Council to organise the Open Houses in Eastbourne to run alongside the Eastbourne Festival which was initiated to celebrate the opening of the new Towner Galley. After a successful first year we have repeated the event annually since then and also added another opportunity for Eastbourne’s artists to show their work at Christmas.
What advice would you give to artists who are on the cusp of becoming professional?
Do what you love to do and do lots of it. Be open to creative influences. Have an idea of what success means to you then make a plan to make it happen. Decide which is most important to you: creative personal creative development? financial remuneration? peer or family approval? awards & prizes? Don’t just sit in your studio and wait to get discovered. Get out there and meet people and be open to opportunity. I saw a great saying recently: ‘Good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’.
I’m also a big fan of regular practice. I guess I’ve been lucky having had many years working as a graphic designer and understanding the importance of delivering on time, presentation, communicating changes and so on.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book ‘Outliers’ talks about the 10,000 hours that it takes to achieve a specific level of expertise and excellence. Mozart did it, The Beatles did it, Muhamed Ali did it. Picasso did it. My way of ‘doing the hours’ is to create (along with larger works) a small ‘daily painting’. I can’t begin to tell you the huge number of opportunities that have occurred through developing this habit.
I have developed a time management system for artists called Artplansystem which I use as the base for a full day workshop for other artists who often have problems working out ‘what to do and when to do it’. On the workshop we establish what success means to you, then develop a plan for accomplishment and cover staying motivated, pricing, marketing materials, framing and presentation, traditional and alternative places to show work, your online presence and a lot more. This year I’ll be running just 4 through the year. Details on www.artplansystem.com
I’ve often found that when you commit to something, great things occur. A whole myriad of opportunities can arise once one is truly committed. There has never been a better time in history to achieve success as an artist and I if I have one further piece of advice to give it is this, attributed to Goethe.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it – begin it now!”