As part of the run up to the Southern Nature Art Exhibition, we are running a series of interviews, including some written interviews too.
In the first of our written interviews, Megan spoke to Fiona Champion, who is an award-winning, self-taught artist inspired by nature, in particular big cats.
Megan: How did it all start for you?
Fiona: I’ve always enjoyed art, but never really had the chance to do anything until I married, emigrated, and found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I just started to draw a bit.
M: Why did you decide to go down the self-taught route for your skills?
F: I did look at doing a formal qualification at one point, but having visited the college to see what the students were doing and producing, I found I really didn’t like the end results, so decided to actually enjoy my art and do what I wanted to do rather than be constrained by a course syllabus.
M: What are the pros and cons of self-teaching?
F: Pros are that you paint what you WANT to paint, what appeals to you. The main con for me is having to work everything out for yourself, perhaps not thinking of something that would help or improve my work. Sometimes a suggestion from another person is a brilliant idea, one that I haven’t thought of.
M: What’s your advice for those thinking of giving it a go?
F: Go for it – it’s great fun.
M: What is your favourite medium?
F: Acrylic, at the moment – it’s so versatile.
M: What is your process?
F: An idea comes to me, and I will firstly draw out my subject. Completing a painting is like going on a journey, and if I don’t have some sort of ‘map’ to show me where to go, I’m definitely going to get lost.
M: What is the inspiration for your work?
F: Animals, nature, and anything to do with the natural world.
M: Why big cats specifically? Where did that inspiration start?
F: I just love the big cats, they are so impressive. They are beautiful, powerful, graceful… I could go on, but won’t.
M: Are there any artists whose work inspires you?
F: Loads, so many contemporary artists, and many who exhibit at Southern Nature (I won’t name them, for fear of embarrassing myself, but there are some amazing artists there). Famous ones? – Carl Brenders is incredible.
M: After winning awards for your artwork, how do you start over with a new collection? Do you follow a similar process as before or is it a case of completely starting over?
F: I am genuinely amazed when my work is selected – so many of the artist exhibiting are brilliant and I find them so inspiring. It is humbling, but it also makes me determined to improve (hopefully) and do better with my next painting. I don’t distinguish between collections as such, but do move from one style to another (traditional to ‘wacky’ for example) as the mood takes me, or as I feel the painting would suit. I do like trying different things – some work, many don’t.
M: What do you love about being an artist?
F: The fun part – creating, meeting other people, be they other artists or customers. All the artists I have encountered have been great, customers too.
M: How has creating artwork been beneficial to you?
F: Especially over this past 18 months (I won’t mention the word) it’s been great. Unlike many of our friends and neighbours, I haven’t been bored or fed up, I’ve just been painting or sculpting and having a good time. It gives me a real purpose and I can’t wait to get up each day and make a mess in my studio. Only trouble is, I am the one who has to clear it up too.
M: Do you have any advice to give to others about creating artwork?
F: Just do it, try and do what you have in your imagination. It doesn’t matter if it works or not. Just have a go. Listen to worthwhile advice – there will be plenty, don’t worry that not everyone likes what you do, we are all different and like different things.
M: What are your favourite tools or products etc. to use?
F: Gosh, just about anything and everything. I love doing BIG things – so large canvases and big pots of stuff – paint, resin, ink etc.
M: Why are you taking part in the exhibition?
F: I just love it – the people, artists, atmosphere. It’s great, and if a painting sells, WOW, then it’s been brilliant. It’s great fun.
M: What artwork can we expect to see at the exhibition?
F: Um, I expect it will be the one I was demonstrating last time, (with no exhibitions since, I still have him – an old lion), perhaps a tiger? Who knows? I’m always a last minute decider on what to enter.
M: How can people find your work?