The Allure of Success
Award-winning painter, Michael Cawdrey is best known for his city street scenes of Brisbane and serene landscapes. Michael is grounded, humble and competes with himself for constant improvement of technique and process. His latest solo exhibition will be held at Aspire Gallery from 12-22 September 2018.
In your art practice what mediums and styles do you use and why? ~ I work in both Oils and Acrylics. Switching from one to the other keeps me from becoming stale. It keeps me on my toes.
I like the sculptural quality both offer. I’m not a great planner and I don’t take a lot of time drawing on the canvas. When I see a scene I wish to paint I often make a quick pencil sketch on a scrap of paper, but I usually abandon it before it’s done as I much prefer to deal with planes and shapes - colour too, of course - rather than line and cross-hatched shadows.
This means I tend to make a fair few alterations as I go, and oils and acrylics allow me to do this. I believe this approach helps me to produce more spontaneous work than I would if I carefully planned and mapped out the picture space.
I like to work quickly and I make use of large brushes wherever possible. I believe my best work comes when I paint with urgency as if the light will soon fade. This approach can be very useful when painting city street scenes, for example, but is possibly less beneficial when painting a quiet landscape. I have to guard against sloppiness and carelessness, but regardless of that it’s an approach that suits my temperament. While my work is representational I’m not one for precision and infinite detail.
How long have you been a practicing artist and what motivated you to follow this passion? ~ I have painted all my life. As a young boy I was always drawing, and painting is just a natural progression.
My Mother painted in watercolours and oils. She always encouraged me to do the same, and provided me with all the brushes and paints. Using her materials I took up oils at the age of fourteen, and I was hooked. Her brother and sister painted too, so I suppose I was always going to follow the same path.
It is hard to say why I continue to paint, other than my drive to improve my work. There will always be room for improvement. I hope the very last painting I complete in my life will be my best so far.
What is your favourite part of the painting process? ~ Without a doubt my favourite part is the initial blocking-in of shapes and tones. On a good day I can know after five minutes that the painting is going to work. That can be a very exciting time.
What was your first artistaward you received and how did this change the way you continued to pursue your career? ~ Back in 1985 and 1986 I received commendations for my work at the Ascot [Brisbane] State School Art Show. It was a tremendous boost to my confidence and self-belief. I think all artists need reassurance that the effort is worthwhile, and although their goals are elusive there is at least a chance they can be reached.
Those early commendations and the awards that soon followed gave me peace of mind.
Where is your next exhibition and when? ~ My next solo exhibition [my sixth] will be at Aspire Gallery, 53 Kennedy Terrace, Paddington, Brisbane from September 12 - 22 2018.
Can you explain how you plan and develop a series of works? ~ With regard to painting, I dont think I could honestly say I plan anything. A set of paintings - wet street scenes, for example - might seem to be a series but they would have been painted over a period of many months, and interspersed with numerous unrelated landscapes and seascapes. Each painting is my response to how I feel at any given time. The best part of being my own boss is that I get to paint what I want, when I want. I detest timetables and routine.
What does success mean to you? ~ Not sure if you want my definition of success or why success matters, so I shall try to answer both.
For me, painting is a solitary activity, akin to a golfer playing a round by himself: no opponents, no score to beat. Yet there are still goals. He has obstacles to overcome and hazards to negotiate. More than that he is competing with himself, and always striving to improve.
I remember way back to my early days when I had very little idea of what to do. If I could regard my latest work and say something like “Those are the best trees I have ever done!”I would have achieved success. To me it would not matter that the painting as a whole, the product of a raw, untutored beginner, was shoddy, riddled with compositional flaws and sloppy brushwork, and of no monetary value. The trees would have made it all worthwhile.
So success is very important to me. The allure of it keeps me going. If I am not improving I am not succeeding which means I must seek and find new ways to improve. If I improve my efforts are justified and the time spent has been used well. To remain in the one place, never changing, never evolving, would be soul-destroying.
Where can people find you/your work online? ~ My Facebook Page Michael Cawdrey Art is where I have documented all my progress over the past few years. There are many examples of my work on that page and in the photo albums I have set up and Aspire Gallery also has numerous examples of my paintings.
What inspires you? ~ I find much of my inspiration in the everday scenes we tend to take for granted. While I do of course admire spectacular scenery, and will on occasion depict it, an unremarkable country road and the simple scenario of people crossing a city street hold just as much appeal for me, as long as the light is right.
I seek out the humble and the unpretentious.
If I can identify interesting, contrasting shapes and tones I am generally good to go.
What keeps you successful in the arts industry? ~ Whether I am successful in the arts industry is not really for me to say. I am very grateful my work is well received in my own tiny part of the art world. I take note of which works are the most popular and when I feel inspired to do so I produce more along the same lines. However I am no businessman. I do not tailor my output to suit the market. I paint what I feel, when I feel it. Perhaps that is why people like my paintings. I hope so.