Landscape artist Andrew Gifford and I sat down after his lecture at Varndean College to talk about his career, inspirations, and artistic vision. Here’s what he said…

Me: Would you like to introduce yourself?

Gifford: My name’s Andrew Gifford, I’m an artist mostly known for my landscape painting, born in 1970, went to Newcastle Art College in 1994.

M: When did you start considering painting as a career?

G: It’s a funny question. I painted ever since I was three, and they were just little drawings. I got to about fifteen and I’d sell my little bird paintings to my parents’ friends. I did work experience as a vet, weirdly, at this aviary. I didn’t know if it was the birds I was interested in, or drawing them. Eventually, I decided to do a foundation in York, and decided I wanted to be an artist. Then I went to Newcastle. I got straight with this gallery called the John Martin Gallery, so I became a professional artist quite early.

M: Were there any influential people in your life who helped you pursue your career?

G: Absolutely! There was my sixth-form art teacher, Mr Corbin. I failed to get into Newcastle the first time I applied, and I was trying to reapply, and I brought down this illustration of James and the Giant Peach I’d made to this print teacher called Chris Woods. And he said “Giff, you could be a great artist. Go out and do paintings of what’s around you.” So I became a landscape painter. And then obviously my parents backed me up. And meeting John Martin, my gallerist - I met him when I was 26, I’m still with that gallery.

M: Why do you paint landscapes in particular?

G: Maybe I was just in a landscape tradition, looking at the work of Turner and people like that. We had all these paintings up in the house, prints of Van Gogh and blue period Picasso and Utrillo. I used to stare at them when I was a kid and that had a big influence on me. I was brought up just outside Middlesbury, in North Yorkshire, and the landscapes are pretty amazing there. It set a bit of a blueprint in my bones for painting landscapes. At the moment I’m painting nature but I think I didn’t really want to start tackling nature full-on until I was good enough, and I think about four years ago I went “right, I’m probably good enough to paint nature now. I hope.”

M: What advice would you give to young artists just starting out?

G: I would probably say: always listen to everything. Soak up as much as you can as a young artist. Have a sketchbook, if you can. Do as much drawing as you can - drawing your parents, yourself, your friends. Most of all, try to be yourself. The reason I’ve made it as an artist is because I had the bravery to just do what I wanted to do, not what was in fashion. It’s good to be ‘with’ everything when you’re a student, because that keeps you topical, but don’t be overly ‘with’ it. Because if you end up copying another artist who happens to be big at the time, then when things get hard - the art world is a very competitive world - if you’re not doing it for yourself, then it’s very easy to lose your way. Whereas if you’re doing what you want to do, then you get back the art you made, and it pays for itself a little bit. You understand what I’m saying?

M: Yes.

G: Another very important thing would be to go to a lot of art galleries. Surround yourself with great art all the time, and sketch in art galleries, and just look at as many pictures as you can, on your phone, whatever. That’s it, really.

M: Good. Well, thank you!

G: Thank you.

(end of interview)