Who are you and where are you from?
I’m a 39-year-old man from Canada. I’ve been living in Asia since 2002.
Can you tell us a little about your work and the reasons behind it?
I make oil paintings, usually of people/scenes, but also non-objective sometimes. It’s difficult to explain the reason why, I’ve always drawn or painted since I can remember. Making a picture is a very satisfying thing for me, it’s a way for me to document a certain time or mood in my life.
How do you think your childhood impacted your style?
I had a very happy, healthy childhood, with a loving family, in P.E.I., Canada. I don’t think my childhood had a huge impact on my painting style, that’s more from looking at art, making mental connections with stuff I’ve seen and responding to it.
Can you tell us a bit about your workspace?
I just moved to a new place in Taipei, previously I rented a separate apartment to paint in. I’m pretty hard on the walls, floors, so I’m trying to figure out how to paint from my home. Probably going to be less free-wheeling with paint spatter everywhere - try to be more controlled, organized, but we’ll see. I’ve always been able to adapt to new working conditions.
Do you listen to anything while you’re working, and if so, what?
I just have Spotify running all the time, no matter what I’m doing. Right now, there is Khun Narin, a psychedelic/traditional band from Thailand, playing in the background.
How do you approach the creative process? (Talk us through how you construct a piece? Do have a concrete idea of what it will look like before you get started? What type of reference do you use?)
Most of the time, it starts with a sketch I’ve done of something I’ve seen in reality or my imagination. I have some idea what the finished thing will look like but I leave some things unplanned and hope that lady luck finds me. I’m not afraid to destroy or paint over a picture that I’m not 100% behind.
When creating feels forced what do you do to get things flowing again?
Sometimes you need to force yourself to do stuff. You can’t always wait for something external from you to inspire something to come out. This is where sketching comes into play. I can figure out if something is worth the effort of painting. If I’m really not feeling it, I go outside and try to get some nature in. I recently read an interview with Joan Mitchell, she agrees that nature is a source of creative energy.
What have been some of the greatest breakthroughs you’ve experienced within your learning as an artist? (Those moments that have opened up whole new creative avenues or that have led to you taking large leaps forward in your development?)
When I saw Cezanne’s paintings in real life, for the first time. That was a game changer for me, to see that a painting could be representational and abstract simultaneously.
A few years later, I was a student of Mitchell Wiebe, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He showed me that paintings could be humorous, playful, but still very painterly.
Any artists (new or old) that have been inspiring you as of late?
Lucas Cranach the elder, Caravaggio, Max Beckmann, David Park
What do you look for in art of others? What would you hope people look for in your work?
Whether it speaks to me, or reflects something back. If it has that blend of subject matter, story-telling, technique, or magic that pulls me in.
I hope that viewers can identify in a similar way to my paintings.
Are you ever satisfied with your work?
I like to get feedback from my friends and family while finishing pieces. When I was first starting, I would sometimes overwork pieces and they looked strained as a result. As I’ve grown though, I’ve learned to stop and experience the piece before deciding if it’s truly finished.
What are some of your favourite places or things in Taiwan?
The riverside trail through Taipei is great. Favorite thing: cheap art supplies.
Some projects in the works. Follow me on Instagram @nathaniel_synge_murray . Stay tuned.