Q&A: Beyond the…

Week by week we’ll share Q&As with our exhibiting artists. Here’s the first question and answer from our chat with Darren Hughes…

Beyond the… frame: Darren Hughes

What would you say to someone with an ambition to becoming an artist?

“I would say you need to work hard and be ambitious, but above all, be yourself and enjoy it. I would definitely recommend doing an art course like a level 2 or 3 course or the foundation course similar to one I did. It allowed me to be myself and explore my passion for drawing and working with landscape. But we were constantly challenged and asked to question our practice on lots of levels, which was so important. It also gave me a set of fundamental ideals that I still have today. 

So many people on that course have gone on to be artists, architects, film makers, graphic designers… the list is endless! People can forget there are so many opportunities within the art world and a career in art is so fulfilling. Without artists & designers, we wouldn’t have any of the things we use and enjoy in our day to day lives!”

Did the COVID situation in 2020 change anything in your way of working?

“Yes in a way, I tended to work less and walk more during lockdown ? It was a good time to think and re-assess like most people I suppose. I began making small oil paintings on panels of my immediate area.. Just places and moments I’d see walking to the shop to get milk or just to get out of the house when we were allowed. Just simple landscapes really; finding the joy in the everyday places.”

If there were no restrictions, where in the world would you like to visit and why?

“I would love to spend time travelling across and exploring America. The whole culture is interesting I think… the art, the music and it’s history. I think I’d definitely prefer to get off the beaten track and see some of the small towns and communities, away from mainstream culture. I find certain landscapes there incredible and so varied.  From the desert states, the amazing wilderness to the slate quarrying towns of Pennsylvania and New York state… Such a huge country to explore. 

I think this probably comes from visiting my Aunt in Houston, Texas some years ago and exploring some of the surrounding area… The old western architecture and culture was still to be seen in certain areas, like a bygone age. The light, heat, architecture and just the whole make up of the place was so exciting and fascinating… And a visit to the amazing Rothko chapel was another highlight in a great trip.

I think a road trip in a classic muscle car would be a bucket list item to tick off as well!”

If it were possible, which item by an artist or designer would you like to have at home?

“I would love to have a painting by Michael Andrews, perhaps one of the late paintings of the River Thames, or, one of the Ocean Park series or small still life studies by Richard Diebenkorn. They are two of my favourite artists. Their work is just incredible I think.”

Who or what at any time has inspired you?

“My parents and their work ethic has definitely inspired me. I also think living very near the beach, being in nature and outdoors most of the time growing up definitely had a big bearing on my personality and my love of landscape.

I’ve also been lucky enough to know some great people in my life who have been an inspiration, like Kyffin Williams and Peter Prendergast, who always talked about the importance of drawing and the idea of looking and learning from the world around you. He (Peter) was also a really sensitive teacher, more than perhaps people realise. And his understanding of each individual student’s needs in terms of their work and practice is something that I use in my own teaching in college. So he has been a big influence in lots of ways.”

If not an artist, what other work would you have considered or enjoyed?

“Believe it or not, probably a car mechanic!? I love cars and particularly American classic cars.  I’ve always been fascinated by how things work and as a child I would often pull things apart to see how they were constructed.. Much to the despair of my parents I think… Lots of bike parts and wires everywhere! Yes, so deconstructing things and putting them back together is definitely something I’ve always done and is linked to how I work on images in the studio. I’ve always learnt best through ‘Doing’, so, problem solving, making mistakes and finding ways to overcome them is fundamental really.”

Is there a place, a subject or process you find yourself returning to? What is it and why?

Drawing, as I mentioned, is something I use and frequently return to. I think Bethesda is the place I feel most at home, so I will always work from this area. It has the most amazing light and weather changes.. I’m always finding new ways of seeing and enjoying it’s landscape.”  

What was the inspiration or starting point for this body of work?

“The starting point for the whole body of work was a reassessment of my practice around 3 years ago. It made complete sense to return to basics and to use drawing as my main focus. Drawing has always been fundamental to my practice ever since working with Peter (Prendergast) and the other tutors on the Foundation Course. It is the most immediate way for me to explore the landscape and it’s a process I love and enjoy.

During this time, the drawing process also changed, with me using a new type of large scale paper and using charcoal pigment as a base ground, almost like painting. The layers are slowly built, creating highlights and areas of light, whilst building up the surface. Some drawings are more heavily worked, some are more delicate depending on the mood and atmosphere I wanted to create. 

I wanted to explore new areas to re-invigorate myself and my practice, finding a subject I knew would give me new pictorial problems to work out… new spaces, a differently constructed landscape.. This is how the work about the quarry hospital and the beach in Pentraeth came about. Having such a strong connection to Pentraeth, I’ve always wanted to make a serious set of work about the beach, so I began with walks along the river out to the shoreline and the drawings are a document of this in a way. Also they are places where I played throughout my childhood, and some paintings specifically relate to memories as a child of scorching summer days.”

Another Q&A will be shared next week!

Darren Hughes’ ‘NATIVE PLACES’ on-line Exhibition: