In Conversation With: Richard Friend

What do your days look like at the moment (during lockdown)?

I'm horrified to say that my days are pretty much the same! I've become a bit of a recluse over the years and my days are spent between the studio and Scandinavian murder mysteries on tv. I do however miss weekly trips to the pub where we can pretend that we're young and vital again.

My wife would very much like a return to these evenings as well as it saved her at least one evening a week where she didn't have to listen to me trying to appear young and vital. The cats would pretty much like us all to clear off between meal times.

Are you finding lockdown is stifling your creativity or stimulating it?

A little bit of both I fear. While the galleries remain closed our only income is from my daily eBay postings so while I've had to shelve my more extravagant projects I'm having to produce smaller pieces all the time. This is a good thing really as my work is developing at quite a speed.

When did you first start painting, did you receive any training?

Crikey, I've always drawn stuff. I missed out on going to art college after school because I thought that I should get a *proper job* and applied for the Police Force (now there's another tale in itself!) I finally did my Foundation Year at Canterbury in 1993 (eventually winning the Eric Hurran prize) and then spent 3 years in Liverpool gaining a BA(Hons) in Fine Art (painting)

Who are some of the artists that inspire you?

Paul Cezanne. Paul Klee. All the Pauls really.

How has your style evolved over the years?

Hmm. That may be a question better answered by others. I think that I'm still painting the same thing every day.

What are some of your favourite subject matters to work on?

Ah. I like painting buildings and houses but mostly I'm still painting the woods and forests that used to engage me as a nipper. Little white houses tucked away in treelines. Hester in the red cape and Oscar my dopey cat wandering through the trees always searching for home.

Your works are highly detailed, do you find yourself getting lost in them when you create them?

Good lord yes! I pretty much switch off when I'm working. The paintings are a result of a conversation between myself and the painting surface. If I listen properly the picture surface always suggests what to do next so I just tune in and the hours creep by.

How do you decide on a colour pallet for a piece, is it something that's instinctive or meticulously planned?

Oh I wish I could plan it. It'd be so much simpler. With the forests I generally lay down a yellow wash and see where it goes from there. With the paintings of buildings and houses I spend ages staring at the photographs and then a little interior voice tells me where to start. Actually that little interior voice has got me into a lot of trouble in the past. I should stop listening to it.

Do you spend much time gathering reference images for your local scenes, or just paint from instinct?

Rather unhelpfully it's a little bit of both. With the site specific work I try to work closely to reference photos but the forest paintings grow organically. I need to do both.

Can you describe your workspace, and do you have any habits or rituals that help you?

A bloody mess would best describe it. I have a new workspace in Sandwich which is lovely (I've worked in sheds for nearly 20 years) I have my collection of rubbish vinyl and record player in the new space which is super (friends used to be able to visit) but I can pretty much work anywhere. I just need a kettle, headphones and some red wine (at some point) However I'm a terribly messy bugger though so if I'm in any space for more than 10 minutes it'll look like a tornado has just passed through.

What's your favourite part about being an artist?

Crumbs. That's a difficult one. I absolutely love getting positive feedback when my work has made somebody happy. Otherwise my life is a continual maelstrom of anxiety and fretfulness. I work 7 days a week because I worry that if I'm not working I'm shirking. Income is a white knuckle ride and certainly not for the feint hearted! It's something that I simply have to do. I spend a huge proportion of my time worrying that I'm not working hard enough or that the things that I make are too rubbish. It's a flipping strange way to make a living. However, sometimes I make something that I stand back from it and think, *good grief, did I make that!?* and then someone is sufficiently pleased with it to take it home and THAT feeling is worth everything. To take a piece of paper and a box of paints and make something that didn't exist before but now makes somebody feel better about their world is an indescribable pleasure.


Do you listen to music while painting?

Sometimes. I used to listen to Radio 4 obsessively at college but nowadays I need a narrative so it's either audiobooks or Netflix I'm afraid.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone who wants to start painting?

Get a sketchbook. Start drawing. Draw every day. Keep it simple. A pencil will suffice. The mechanics of paint can be learned (and we continue to learn forever) but drawing underpins everything. Enjoy it.

Do you have anything you'd like to tell people about or promote?

Hmm. Stay at home! Stay safe :-)

Visit Richard's Ebay shop to browse his prints for sale and Taylor Jones and Son for larger pieces
Surething Studio