Scottish artist Faye Woods depicts through her practice everyday experiences of loss and love to help her navigate through life. We met with Faye to tell us more about her greatest influences and the journey to the artist she is today.
That’s a strange question really because I have a lot of trouble with knowing when to call myself an artist. To me I just paint, and artist always seems like such a grand term! I guess you could say I started in the art world when I enrolled at art school.
I was born in Yorkshire but moved to Scotland around 6 years old and my parents chose a nomadic life of moving about every year. I guess there wasn’t much sense of home or place as a child so that’s probably why I’m shit at painting context in my work, the figures tend to be uprooted and never in reality. I was brought up without a TV and that sort of forced me into finding entertainment through the arts.
I was about 17 when I first found the work of Egon Schiele and it all sort of clicked, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I did a few years at college before applying for art school and they were incredibly formative years for me. I was like a sponge just soaking up all the knowledge that the art world had to offer. It really pushed me to work and evolve. As well, I think I’ve always enjoyed that post painting sugar rush, the high of completing something you’ve obsessed over I think that has kept me going.
What’s the message of your work?
I don’t really think about the purpose of my work or the story it should tell. Most of the time the narrative is incredibly personal and comes from my own experience of the world so I don’t tend to spend much time thinking of the narrative for the viewer. You could say the over-arching themes are of grief and humour, but I just try to tell the truth. I would describe my aesthetic as ‘overwhelming’.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
The aforementioned BBC classic Jonathan Creek.
Who and what are your greatest influences?
– My partner (I know everyone says that) is an incredibly goofy man. I am never short for inspiration, in fact, he’s the male figure you see in all of my work. He’s so wild he takes me out of my very serious nature. Before I met him I was painting sad dead bodies, so I’m forever indebted to him. Also, Lucian Freud, Maurice Sendak, Kate Bush and Jonathan Creek.
Are your works planned? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?
God this is a sore spot, they are very, very planned. I start off with my sketchbook, I try to draw in it every day and wait for my brain to vomit up a good idea. Once I have a rough idea I spend days perfecting it, creating a study to work from. I leave the details up to chance but starting a painting is so anxiety inducing for me that I need to have a safety blanket study to work from. Regarding the viewer, I want people to just sit with my work, not think too much about the story, but just be present with it. But when I’m working I definitely don’t really think of an audience, in fact I get terrified when it’s time to let my work be seen by the world, it feels very raw for me and vulnerable.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise?
I experienced a huge loss last year. It really triggered the autobiographical core in my work. Before I was making work based on Scottish folklore and I think it missed the truth that my work now has. This year has been great for my confidence in colour. I’ve always been pretty monochromatic and hesitant with colour, but this year it just clicked. I do a lot of small experiments on canvas but really I’m constantly trying to evolve my practice. I’d hate every piece to look like a copy of each other.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
A good studio day for me needs to be bright and sunny with a juicy playlist. I really need a space I can sing as loudly as possible to get me going; I’m at my best screeching tone deaf to Salt-N-Pepa, having a little dance between each brush stroke. Saying that, I do find a hangover does wonders for my creativity. In between the sad dry heaving I get quite a lot of painting ideas.
“Tell us a little bit about one of your works.”
‘Big wee!’ is based on the night I bought my first car. To christen it, my step dad decided to wee on the front wheel and in retaliation, drunk on my birthday, I scaled his ex-AA van and pissed all over the windscreen, denting the roof. The story always makes me laugh and feel loved. Weird really.