Modern Contemporary Artist Osian Gwent
How did you start as an artist?
I had an interest in drawing as a child. As a teenager, I had a strong desire to attend art college. I studied fine art painting and sculpture for four years. College taught me how to paint but failed to prepare the business skills a young aspiring artist would need to pay the bills. The pressure from others was to get a “real job”. I went into teaching. Fast forward 30 years and I found myself in a tough place. I had lost almost everything. I returned to the UK with two suitcases, no home, no job, and very little money to my name. It was becoming quickly apparent that age was not in my favour. It was now way harder for me to find that “proper job”. I began painting again for the first time since college. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If I failed, then at least I tried. It was a bit strange at first getting used to painting again. I had to relearn and retrain my fine motor skills from scratch. Seriously, anyone watching would think I had the shakes or something!
Can you tell me a brief background of your work?
I was trained to be a figurative painter. My work has evolved by drawing upon feeling and intuition. I allow the painting to talk to me. I am becoming more expressive and less focused on the details and more connected to the subject.
Who or what are your biggest influences in becoming an artist?
As a child, my eldest sister inspired me with her amazing paintings and drawings.
How do you seek out opportunities in your line of work?
My goal is simple. Don’t starve! Actively seek or create opportunities that will further establish Credibility, Exposure, and Recognition.I focus on building authentic, personal, relationships. I surround myself with supporters and encouragers. You can’t do this alone. I stay away from negative people. I listened to the dream stealers in my youth. The ones who said, “you’ll never make a real living”, or “you won’t be famous until you are dead”. They are the ones who will tell you to get a “real job”. I filter out these comments. No one is jealous of losers, but isn’t it strange how jealous he or she becomes when you do well? Perhaps that is a good indicator you are on the right track. I am a member of several local and national art organisations. I am continually learning to use social media as one of my tools for effective marketing. I have learned to utilise their intricate inner workings such as analytics and target marketing. It’s how many national and international galleries/curators/collectors discover me. I also create opportunities myself, e.g. teaching workshops. I set aside time to research new techniques, funding, and residency opportunities. That means lots of paperwork and has nothing to do with painting, but everything to do with maintaining the business. That includes hours and hours of writing, blogs, articles, and posts. All this requires time and consistent diligence and hard work. Painting is valuable but so is marketing. As a visual artist, my natural choice was to prefer using Instagram as it is such a visual platform. I didn’t get Twitter at all. However, the more I familiarised myself with Twitter, the more I realised, that I needed it in my toolbox. I came to value the power of Twitter when I was invited to submit several works to the Welsh Contemporary Art Exhibition in London. Twitter is mighty!
What serves as your motivation in creating art?
I was born and grew up in Wales – a beautiful part of the world. I have lived overseas for 21 years. I returned two years ago. I am so happy to be back close to where I grew up as a child. I have come full circle. I find the Welsh landscape to be one of my most significant sources of inspiration. Other artists inspire me too. Moreover, I am inspired by the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Especially those stories that rise above all the odds. I hope my account will one day be added to that list of inspiring others to reach out further.
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses when it comes to drawing/painting?
My biggest weakness now is my eyesight. I wish I still had the clarity of vision I had in my younger years. Another “weakness” is my technical skill. It’s been 30 years, and yes I am rusty. However, you know what? That’s not important anymore. I have life experience. Moreover, that is my biggest strength. I am beginning to pull that into my work. I am also more driven and focused compared to my younger years. So that too is a strength. 30 years ago my biggest weakness was a lack of life experience, lack of money, and a lack of focus to see things through. A lack of self-belief. My older wiser self can see past that. I’ll make a way, where there is no way.
What recent artworks have you done that you are most proud of? Why did you choose these ones?
My recent work has become way more abstract and expressive. To many, may look easy. However, it is not as easy as it seems. Other’s may think it’s rubbish. I have to let that go. The older I get, the more straightforward and simple my life gets. I reflect that in my art. I strip away the details. All the fluff. I begin to get to the essence of the subject. It becomes an expression of me.
Do you have any advice to people wanting to pursue art, but don’t know where to start?
You have to enjoy what you do and be focused. Not everyone is going to connect or understand your work. Keep producing work. Keep evolving. At first 1 in 20 paintings may turn out OK. Over time, this will become 1 in 15. Then 1 in 10. After many years it should be around 1 in 3.
Not all of us are fortunate to be plucked out of obscurity. I don’t believe in luck. I do believe in opportunity. Focussing on planning and preparation is important. You need to be ready to strike when planning and preparation intersect with opportunity. Or what others call “luck”.
If money is an issue, and it will be, then be realistic. Part-time work pays the bills. You may have no option but to work full-time. That will have a noticeable impact on your painting. However, that didn’t stop a young artist I know. He worked full-time for four years. He saved and saved and made many sacrifices. He went onto Italy to learn how to paint classical portraits for another four years. And he is brilliant!
• If you can’t afford classes, then look at the school of youtube. I have learned more techniques from youtube than they taught me at art school. • Learn how to market yourself – digital marketing (youtube/internet/schooling/other business owners). • Learn the inner workings of social media/ creating SEO websites. • Learn how to target your online market and measure what strategies are/not working. • Learn how to run a business – it is a business. • Get your work out there – keep producing– keep putting it in front of others – online and in person. Build personal relationships. People buy from people they like. • Network with people. Real people. By that I mean, authentic personal relationships. Pay it forward. Help others succeed. It’s not all about you. • Attend art fairs/ trade shows/ markets. You need multiple streams of income. • Galleries typically take around 50% in commission. Not always a good route to start out on. • Don’t waste your time on competitions. Leave that for the hobby artist. • Stay away from vanity galleries. If you haven’t come across them yet, you will. They will contact you and flatter you to hook you in. In all fairness, your work has to be good. You will end up absorbing most of the costs, which can run into the £1000,s. You pay them for the wall space up front. They still charge around 10% commission. They have got their money, and there will be other suckers to replace you if your exhibition tanks and you come out of pocket. • Watch out for scam artists too. Treat suspicious emails and phones calls with care. Google the number or details from the email. • Research residencies in other countries, e.g. the British Council. • Be resilient. Be resourceful. • The only failure is not to try.
Frequently Asked Questions About my Work
What mediums do you use?
In the early stages of a painting, I will add a liquin medium. This extends the paint coverage and allows me to work at speed and improves glazing and blending.Sometimes I use cold wax medium and encaustic paint. Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which coloured pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.
What other materials do you use?
I paint with professional artist oils. For my drawings, I use a range of graphite pencils, graphite powder, and charcoal. All drawings have a coat of fixative. This is to protect the work against smudging and fingerprints.I prepare and prime every surface with gesso. I also use a traditional rabbit-skin glue for sizing the canvas. This acts as an adhesive for the paint. It is essentially refined rabbit collagen and was originally used as an ingredient in traditional gesso. I paint on stretched canvas, canvas board and wood panel. Sometimes I will use an impasto medium to add texture to capture brush marks. For some paintings, I will add a top coat of gloss, semi-gloss, or matt varnish. This can only be done when the film of the painting is completely dry. This part of the process may have to be delayed several months, depending on the thickness of the paint. All care is taken, to prevent cracking and ageing, so that you can enjoy your artwork for years to come.
What techniques do you use?
I work from life and refer to sketchbooks frequently when I am back in the studio. I paint in the open (en plein air) and in the studio. I work from a limited palette. This helps to maintain colour harmony. Take a look at the Zorn palette.The three stages of my painting are basically; composition and blocking in, modelling, and finally the details. Initially, I paint what is called fat over lean. In the early stages of a painting, the paint is used thinly, with less oil in the mix (therefore it dries faster); as the painting proceeds, the paint applied gets thicker. The fat over lean process prevents the surface of the painting from cracking. I enjoy blending colours. The buttery consistency of oil paint and cold wax, and the natural blends that occur as brushstrokes mingle make working into wet paint very satisfying. I will use the brush in various ways, such as stippling and daubing. I paint a process called alla prima, which is the ability to adapt and change a wet painting (wet on wet) and is usually completed in one session. Sometimes I will paint with non-brushes. That could include, but is not limited to a palette knife. I recently painted a 4′ x 4′ painting just with my fingers! And I thoroughly enjoyed it! There is a technique I use of scratching into the paint when the call arises. This is called sgraffito. When oil paint is dry, I can paint over the top of it, with a thin transparent film of colour. This is known as glazing. Sometimes I will use a wash, which is a thin layer of opaque paint, laid over dry colours. One of my favourite techniques is to ‘scumble’ a thin, dryish glaze, mixed with a small amount of white oil paint, scrubbed lightly but vigorously, over dried paint with a bristle brush. Sometimes I will use an impasto medium, which adds depth, body and texture to the painting.
Is your work for sale?
Yes! My online shop is currently under construction. In the meantime, if you are interested in a painting or a drawing, drop me an email at email@example.com, or message me via the contact page, or call 07484763507. I will do my best to respond within 24 hrs. I include a provenance and an invoice with your new purchase.In your message, please mention the title name of the work you are interested in, and where it is to be shipped. You will locate the title, by mousing over the image or clicking the image if you are viewing from a smartphone. I will get back to you with further information about the work, and a price that includes shipping. Please note, most of my work is unframed. Framing is a personal choice, and I usually leave that with my patrons to manage for themselves. If is it framed, I will let you know.
Do you have a refund policy?
I offer no-questions-asked refunds to all my collectors and patrons within 7 days of purchase as long as the work is unchanged and undamaged. If you are not satisfied with my work, then simply send me an email within 7 days, and I will refund your purchase upon return and receipt of the original work, minus all shipping, and any additional costs to me personally, such as framing. (Please note, most of my work is sold unframed). My goal has always been to create a happy, thriving community of collectors and patrons. If you are not thrilled with the artwork, or you are not enjoying the experience, then it is not in my interest in forcing you to remain an unhappy customer.