Where do you live?
I currently live in Kent, England, but I am originally from Dublin in Ireland.
What is your background?
With a background in the scientific arena and a PhD in immunology, I have worked in academia and in the commercial environment as a project and product manager and as a technical expert in medical diagnostics. I have no formal training in art, but if you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would have been an artist. I started creating art quite suddenly and spontaneously following a silent retreat in 2016. Up until that point, I had never put pen to paper nor brush to canvas. My art is like meditation to me and is something I am really passionate about.
I distinctly remember the moment I decided I would draw a mandala. Looking back, it wasn’t just a thought like “Oh, I think I will dabble with some drawing”. I actually thought, whilst standing in my kitchen, “I am going to draw a mandala now”, and there was a sense of urgency about it; almost as if I didn’t do it then and there, something would have been lost. I had no art materials; I’d never drawn anything in my life. I found some printer paper, the remnants of working at home for a period in my last job, and a black marker which I must have randomly acquired somewhere. I took a dinner plate, a side plate and an egg cup to draw concentric circles and then set about filling in the spaces. And there it was, my first ever piece. I was completely hooked.
How did you learn your craft, i.e. college, self-taught etc., and what did that entail?
I am entirely self-taught with the exception of some recent online geometry classes whilst in lockdown during the pandemic. I learn from several sources: asking questions of other artists in my network; reading about media and technique and applying that knowledge practically; and exploring online resources. There is so much out there. I might see something I really like on social media channels I follow and try and teach myself the technique to utilise in my own work. The learning process never ends and that is something which I love and embrace.
Which media do you prefer to work with?
I work mostly with pen, ink, pencil, watercolour, and gouache, and am recently exploring techniques with texture. However, I feel just at the beginning of my artistic journey and hope to explore many other types of media. My creative space is very small and, as yet, I don’t have room to house big paintings or canvasses. I am striving for a studio space of my own in the future where I can fully explore all that I want to.
What does your work aim to say?
I feel my work, being completely intuitive, does not have a definitive general message. I would like fine art to be more accessible to people, and for them to see that it’s something they can relate to – it’s not just for art collectors paying millions for a piece! I feel my art is relatable for everyone as it taps into and represents emotions and expresses them visually. That is my aim – to stir some feeling or emotion in the viewer – something that resonates. If my art does that, I am happy. My commission pieces are different in that they are designed with a particular feeling or theme defined by the client.
For all my commissions, my clients have been really moved by my work. For me that is the most satisfying response I could get.
Does your work comment in any way on current social or political issues?
Who are your biggest influences?
I’m very interested in the work of geometers as the construction of all my mandalas are based in geometry. Currently, I am exploring how this geometry underpins the art of the Islamic world. I am constantly amazed by the complexity of the construction of the designs, and their beauty. This sacred geometry links mathematics, the structure of the universe and life as we know it, which is completely fascinating to me. We hear every day how everything is connected, and this exploration really highlights this connection in a real and visible way.
I derive inspiration from so many there are too many to name. Given my current interest in geometry, established geometers and illumination artists are of particular interest to me and I follow and admire many on social media. Their work is outstanding in terms of analysis, accuracy, dedication to their art and their humbleness.
My commission work focuses entirely on this aspect and the design is based around a general theme encompassing anything that the client wishes to acknowledge, welcome or invite into their lives. This is created using symbolism or elements and colours that are meaningful to the client.
I am also interested in abstract, usually geometric art, life-drawing, nature-inspired work and, currently, the world of Persian miniature painting. This is an absolutely fascinating subject in terms of symbolism and technique.
However, whilst I have always used geometry as a construction tool, and learning about this area has refined my processes, my focus is not purely on that. I am very connected to the spiritual aspect and meaning of mandalas, which have been utilised in many cultures as tools of meditation and focus. Carl Jung used them in his psychotherapy practice and suggested that they were expressions of the unconscious self.
How do you navigate the art world?
I think the art world is one where it can be easy to constantly compare yourself to others. Art is so highly subjective, there will always be those with whom your work doesn’t resonate. I think it’s important not to focus on that, however. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I tend to agree with this sentiment and feel that I would not like to be compared with anyone. Each of my pieces has a little part of me in them. To allow that to happen inevitably requires a degree of vulnerability and exposition of my inner world. I’m not sure something as precious as that should be compared to anyone else. I also think it’s very important to focus on your own definition of success. The art world can be elitist to a certain degree, and sometimes commercial success can be dependent on how much visibility you have with the right people. I think the same can be said for any profession. I create for the joy I get from it and for the joy in the feedback I receive from my clients. If I can make a comfortable living from it one day that would be a dream come true.
How have you developed your career?
I have gone from starting to make drawings in my kitchen to creating art on demand and selling artwork via Instagram and my website.
My first exhibition piece came two years after I first put pen to page, which was a real thrill for me. Since then, despite my health limitations, I have managed to participate in other exhibitions and broaden my technical ability. My main marketing tools are social media, word of mouth and my website.
How do you seek out opportunities?
I have been lucky in that opportunities for commissions have come my way. To develop my experience and confidence I try to put myself forward for activities such as this interview, art exhibitions and such like. I am limited in that I suffer from a chronic health condition and that means that I have very limited energy to partake in all I would like, or do as much creating as I would like. I do what I can, and hope for a time where my health improves.
My prices are based on cost of materials, my time and my experience.
Which current art world trends are you following?
I tend not to follow trends. My art is where I play and express what is within, in a way I enjoy. This process is intuitive and is independent of what’s trendy. That’s the beauty of your art – only you can create YOUR art. It’s as individual as you.
Do you know where you are heading career-wise?
At the moment I am unemployed because of my health condition, so it’s very difficult to make any career plans. I would love to have my own studio, create and deliver workshops that would allow people to create their own mandalas, with the ultimate goal of making a living from creating.
Do you have any tips for young artists just starting out?
Keep practicing and enjoy letting your creativity free.
How can readers find out more about you e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc?
My website is www.GentleForceCreations.com
My Instagram handle is @gentle_force_creations, link www.instagram.com/gentle_force_creations
My Facebook page has the same name – Gentle force creations (link is https://www.facebook.com/devilishlydancin/)