THE latest artist in The Impartial Reporter's series of artist features is Chrstine Irvine. When she is not creating art, Christine is a lecturer at South West College.

What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school/do courses?

I’M ENTIRELY self-taught. Art has been an obsession since childhood, but I was encouraged to follow a more academic path in school.

I ran my own business painting animal portraits in watercolour for many years when my kids were small.

Commission work is very restrictive, though, and ultimately not very artistically rewarding.

In the past year I have re-engaged with my artistic side, and while lockdown separation from family, working from home, etc has been very stressful, this has been a wonderfully creative time for me.

What inspires your art?

I SUPPOSE my biggest motivation is an emotional response to something I read, see or feel.

I feel compelled to try to reproduce that visually, not always with success!

Sometimes it is about capturing a moment in time over and over, like my magpie – the moment of that bobbed head, the tail up. Perfectly itself, perfectly un-self-aware.

That fascinates me, and painting it catches the moment in my mind’s eye. The painting is static, but it triggers a live moment.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

IN TERMS of artists, I greatly admire David Hockney – not necessarily for his art, but more for his attitude to what art is, and how valuable it is to the human condition and our navigation through, and response to, life.

I’ve also been reading Robert Henri’s, ‘The Art Spirit’, which is essential reading for creative people, I think.

My personal circumstances have had a very positive influence on my art.

I live with another artist now, and the intellectual engagement of discussion and sharing a space with someone who is also exploring and experimenting with art is very stimulating, and I think we encourage and support each other in this.

Is there a specific place that you do your work? Do you have a studio?

YES – when I moved out of the family home into my own space just before the pandemic struck, the only unshakable necessity I looked for was room for a dedicated studio.

I believe that having a specific space to work is hugely important.

Being able to walk away but to leave your work out where you can see it, and come back to it, is important to me.

I need thinking time, distance. It’s an important part of the creative process.

Having to set everything up and put it away again every time you want to create is very de-motivating, especially for someone as lazy as me!

What has been your most ambitious piece, to date?

WORKING on large scales is quite daunting. I’ve been moving to bigger canvases as I find I’m running out of space on smaller ones.

Life-size nudes are quite intimidating on a wall, but I find them very striking.

What different artistic media do you use and which is your favourite?

I STARTED as a watercolour artist. I love the fluid immediacy of it.

A friend introduced me to oils last year, and this was life-changing, artistically.

I’d always been scared of them; they were ‘proper art’, if you know what I mean!

There are challenges [with the medium]; it’s slow-drying; it’s easy to overmix, and end up with muddy colours, but it is very rewarding when it goes well.

There’s a rich luminosity to oil that I think isn’t there in any other medium.

What are you currently working on?

I’M CURRENTLY working on a series of figures. I’m exploring the human shape in its simplest form, reduced to the solid core of expression and movement.

Do you exhibit your work anywhere?

SOME of my work is currently exhibited online with Hambly and Hambly through their very supportive Imagine art project on Facebook. I hope to have a physical exhibition once it is safe to do so.

Any new artistic ventures planned for 2021?

I GOT a pyrography [wood burning] kit and a lino printing kit during lockdown, and I’m enjoying working on different creative processes through that, particularly lino printing.

I’d like to produce limited edition prints for sale, once I perfect the process. I’m also interested in getting back to watercolour.

What has been your favourite project, to date?

IN TERMS of sheer enjoyment, probably producing wood-burned boxes for my friends and family.

The close concentration of the pyrography work, and the feeling of closeness it gave me, to think of the person I deeply missed as I worked, was very good for me, at a time when I felt very separated from loved ones in the various lockdowns.

What are you up to when you aren’t creating art?

TEACHING Applied and Environmental Science for South West College, which is an exhausting but ultimately very rewarding activity.

I’m glad we went online, as I feel very strongly that it was the right thing to do.

However, I’ll be very glad to see my students' little smiling faces in real life again.

How would you describe your artistic style?

IT’S hard to say if I have a ‘style’, as such. I like solidity and a simplicity of line, especially in figurative work.

Lately I’ve started experimenting with drip and run techniques, and as a result my style is continually evolving and developing as I learn to manipulate the random.

What does your art mean to you?

I THINK art is about your voice, your subconscious voice, a voice you might not even know you have.

As I draw or paint and the lines appear on the canvas, I feel a deep sense of calm and focus. It quiets my mind.

Creating art can be a deeply frustrating activity, but also incredibly rewarding.

It’s deeply personal. It’s not about anyone else, or whether they would like it, really.

Art made coolly to justify your ego or to satisfy a need for praise or validation would be self-regarding, I think. Art can’t fix that.