Fiona Long is an artist extraordinaire who lives, studies and works in
1. I understand you have a degree in Psychology and are now working towards another degree in Art. You also come from a musical background. Would you tell us more about your history and how important you feel it is to the art you create today?
Hi Kim, that’s right. I did a degree in psychology over ten years ago. It’s a fascinating subject and I loved it. What I really wanted to do, however, was to paint. I really wanted to study art but felt that I ought not to as it wasn’t the ‘sensible’ thing to do. I felt I should follow a career path that would bring me a stable financial existence and make people proud. I started off doing drawings and paintings in my spare time but it was just too painful not to devote more time to it so in the end I gave up almost entirely for a few years. It spilt out into things like my cooking though.
It is so interesting how we deny what is really right for us. But I suppose we live in a society which doesn’t encourage us to always follow our own intuition or goals. It is the same for me.
Yes, I’m glad you found your art too Kim!
I guess these things can spill out into music too and singing has been another creative expression of mine. My Dad is a keen blues singer and guitarist and I sometimes join him at his gigs. This interest in the Blues led me to do the official portrait of the late, great Tommy Johnson which is currently housed in a Blues school in Mississippi and will eventually live at the Tommy Johnson museum when the TJ Foundation have raised the funds to build it in honour of this legendary man.
Fiona, this is such a cool story and it is neat this is now housed here in the States waiting to be hung in a museum…now how great is that?
It’s really great! I’m so excited about it!
I’ve now just finished my 1st year of my fine art painting degree at
I am sure your tutors were over the top with your work. I bet you are eager for the next year to begin and more exciting work. Is your summer break filled with art?
Of course! I’m going to be making a lot of it and when I’m not doing that, I’ll be absorbing new situations and aesthetics, going to exhibitions, reading and letting all that wash over me for a while. Then I’ll try to work out what it all means in a couple of months time!
1. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be an artist really. I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I could pick up a brush or a pencil as a toddler. My Dad would bring home reams of computer paper for me which I would fill with crayon scribbles. I could amuse myself for hours on end like that, only breaking to have the odd dance around the sitting room or to climb a tree. Spending lots of time on my own like this led me to be a bit of a dreamer which has helped me to do the creative thinking I do today.
You sound like the child of any busy parent’s dream. J And I am sure you were.
Oh…I’m sure I had my moments!
I knew that I wanted to become a professional artist when several things in my life fell apart at once. I turned the negatives into a huge positive because I felt that this allowed me to follow my dreams and stop just being ‘sensible’. Sometimes it just isn’t sensible to deny what your soul demands that you do! I allowed my heart and soul to have a say for a change and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t be happier!
Ah yes, the push to follow your muse…to do just what is important to Fiona! I am sure many people can relate to that kind of life changing event. You are so right, it is not sensible to “deny your soul demands…” I can’t say I agree more.
1. Your paintings like to push the limit of every day things you see. Your body of work which focused on Urban Decay and your more recent focus of what is stored below people’s sinks clearly bring the every day to life. Have you always focused this way or were your early works differently focused? Do you think it is your psychology background which is showing an influence now?
I used to have terrible difficulty defining my work but you’ve done a great job here Kim! People asked me what I painted and I would say: well anything really: flowers, fruit, animals, portraits, occasionally landscape. But yes, what has always fascinated me is looking at real things but in a slightly different way. My early paintings looked at many things like flowers etc but focused in on them almost to the point of abstraction. I enjoyed how intimate they could look. Of course, Georgia O’Keeffe was a real inspiration in this.
You know, I think it takes another creative person to be able to help you see in your art what you need to explain it to others. To me, we have far too much tied into our work emotionally to explain it to someone else who has a more difficult time making that kind of connection. I know I have a very hard time explaining my work to others. The blog world has helped me a lot with that. I am sure your connection at college does that for you, too.
Oh definitely! I’ve learned how important it is to be able to talk about one’s work and it’s something we’re really encouraged to do at university. And yes, it’s helpful to get perspective on our work and others by stepping back. A bit like doing a large painting really and needing to get back and maybe leave it alone for a while to really understand how it’s going.
Last year my work focused on and around urban decay in my series of work ‘Urban Flux’. With this work, I was definitely challenging the way that we look at the everyday. I wanted to demonstrate the beauty that surrounds us even in things that we might not usually see as beautiful. When I moved away from the beautiful New Forest where you have also had the delight of living, Kim, I was struck by the difference of the aesthetic of
I have to say I completely agree with you. I adored living in The Forest and I adored my time in
I can’t tell you how pleased I am to hear that Kim!
Yes, my latest Under Sink Cupboard paintings have definitely been playing with the everyday and what can be perceived as art. It has been interesting to focus on something so apparently banal but with lots of underlying metaphors. My psychology has really come into this body of work as it looks at how our childhood perception of space and the home affect the way we experience the intimate spaces of our environments.
I have to say when you first asked for those photos of under our sinks I kept wondering what in the world…and to create an online museum of sorts of those photographs was brilliant. But you have again, taken what you learned from those and created something to make viewers see beauty and creativity in a different light. And it was an honor to be a participant in this adventure, too.
Ah! Thank you Kim! The whole Facebook group was highly amusing to me and it was so funny to wonder how people might be reacting to the craziness of it all. Some of my friends admitted to me that they thought I actually had gone mad! When I painted them, the Sun was shining and I wanted to add a sort of childlike excitement and exuberant palette to express that childhood wonder of exploration. Did you ever like to make little dens or hide in a torch from the grown-ups thinking it was all terribly adventurous?
Oh yes, the whole “fort” thing of the blankets over the dining room table, so we could have “walls” to hide away from the rest of the world around us. We were so safe under there. And I never thought you made, Fiona
1. Your work has the most incredible detail. What mediums do you prefer to use? How do you best work?
Thanks! Well, I always used to be, almost exclusively, an oil painter but I do love to experiment with all kinds of mediums nowadays from marble powder and rust to concrete and tar! My brick wall paintings are fairly simple. They’re pretty much just sand and glue so they even feel like walls!
That is so cool….sand and glue to create some excellent art. You know I adore those. They must be relatively heavy, though. Is that true? I think it is fantastic to have true texture a viewer can touch. I wonder if these hung in a public space and people were encouraged to touch them how long it would take to show that wear…talk about interactive art!
Yes, I love the idea of that! I always feel really honoured when someone gently touches my paintings. They generally know that one shouldn’t normally touch one so surely the urge to touch must overcome these social constraints. Success!
Also, with my interest in the way that things decay and change with time, the idea of one of these paintings being eroded by people is absolutely perfect! Totally on theme! Great idea Kim!
Oh, and yes…they’re getting really quite heavy! I’m working on reducing the weight in my more recent ones…but I do love that texture!
1. What artists influence you the most (past and present)?
Gosh! This could be a very long list! I’ll try to limit it a bit.
These are really great artists, Fiona. I also have an interest in women artists…I wonder if that is because women painters are relatively new…like women writers?
Maybe. I don’t know really but I often find that their work really resonates with me. Of course there are loads of male artists I love too!
1. Who else has had an impact on your work?
Well, I love to read which can really inspire my work. The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas, The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard and The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard have all been enormously inspiring. The support of my parents has also had the biggest impact of all and I couldn’t have done it without the advice from tutors and the people around my life including my wonderful cyber friends like you Kim!
Yes, we are really lucky to have cyber friends who influence us so much. I know tutors and personal friends are always important in our work because they are the ones who help shape our life and give us the personal experiences we draw on. Thank you Fiona, for the nice words and honor here.
1. Of the work you have done to this point, what is your favorite? Why do you think?
Oh, I don’t know. This changes all the time and I still feel that I’ve yet to produce my favorite work. I think this hunger to find and create something that I’m truly proud of is what keeps me going and going!
Having said that, I love making my brick wall paintings and they seem to be pretty popular. I’m glad that so many people have responded not only to the aesthetic but the sense of humour which lies behind them also.
You have a lot of lovely choice, Fiona. The brick wall is also a favorite of mine…now do you have plans for other wall surfaces?
Yes, I have lots of plans for making variations over the Summer. I’ve been looking at different brickwork bonds (patterns) this week and collecting different coloured sands around the
You are going to have some great summer works, Fiona. There are some lovely variations in Lymington, I remember. I know it is just out of the
Thanks Kim. I’ll be sure to check those out.
1. What do you think is the greatest artistic risk you have ever taken?
Something quite simple really which turned out to be quite fundamental in the change of my work. I got a bit stuck, when I was younger, trying to make my work representational. I went to some art classes in my
I can see where that is a big risk for you at this point. I think risk means something which makes you struggle to move past what is making you feel stuck or frustrated.
I quite agree. Sometimes it can be quite a small change that makes a huge difference. I suppose our artistic learning is an evolution with revolutionary eras!
1. What do you think is your greatest accomplishment to this point? At 30, you still have lots of time to realize more.
I guess it was just resolving to paint again really and getting emotional reactions to my work.. That and selling 3 paintings in one night at Art For Youth last year! Oh, and getting my work into the State of the Art competition exhibition at the Royal College of Art was pretty cool too! I’m so pleased I got into
Those are fabulous accomplishments! I like how you acknowledged being able to get emotional reactions to your work…you are right, that is indeed HUGE.
1. What do you think has been the greatest benefit to you so far in finding your artistic voice? And by-the-way, how do you find that voice?
I think I just look at the world around me. There is always something to make and always something to say.
Voice is a struggle for so many…it seems to come naturally to you. I wonder if that is because you grew up with a man who painted with his voice and in a place where your voice could be heard…I felt The New Forest was like that.
It could well be. Yes, the
The perfect voice, but it does take some longer to know what to express than other, I think.
1. What do you think will be your next project?
Over the summer I’m going to get to work on some commissions that I haven’t had time for over the academic year and I’m going to work on pushing my brick walls a bit more. As you know, I love to experiment!
Yes, and I am with you on those experiments. That will be fun to work on those projects. I hope we will be able to see them as you get them completed.
Of course! I’ll pop them up on my blog ;0)
I will be watching closely.
1. What is the most difficult project you have ever worked on?
I’m not sure really. I guess I embrace the challenges and don’t really see them as difficulties. I suppose it was my Urban Flux sculpture. I had to dismantle a lot of electrical items and then assembling the whole thing was pretty back breaking. I spent hours on end crouched over with a screw driver in hand. My classmates were shocked to discover I was a girl at the private view!
I bet they were…that is funny! I can see where that would have been very physically challenging to be sure. I love the way you say you don’t see them as difficulties, but embrace the challenges! What a great approach!
(This is a photo from the London Underground at Stockwell. It isn’t my work except that I observed and snapped it. This is the kind of thing that inspires me though)
1. Do you enjoy writing about your art?
Yes, I do enjoy writing about it because so much thought goes into it, I want people to know about it! Then again, a good artwork should talk for itself so I try to be careful about that….sometimes!
Well, I know I enjoy reading and seeing your art…so keep on doing both!
Thanks! I will!
1. What other art forms hold an interest for you?
Gosh. I think I love all of it! Video, performance, ballet, music…..
An all around creative person, Fiona!
Well, I can’t say that I do it all but I certainly appreciate an awful lot of art forms!
1. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thank you so much for reading and I’d encourage all of you to enjoy and embrace your creativity. It’s one of the most wonderful things you can do!
It sure is! I second that!
Fiona, you have recently had an additional honor of having a music CD inspired by you with some of your art on the cover. Will you tell us a little bit about that and your experience with that CD?
Bob Cheevers, the enormously talented Americana singer songwriter and I met when I went to his gig at the Platform Tavern in Southampton. I did a sketch of his eminently drawable face which I showed to him during his break. He was rather taken aback and asked if he could have it. I gave him the sketch and he gave me a signed CD of his in return. We began a wonderful symbiotic artistic relationship by email where he would send me poems and we’d spark off each other. He would inspire paintings and the result is this wonderful CD: Fiona’s World! That’s the sketch I did of him in the moon on the front cover and that particular moment of meeting is described in track 4 Pictures of Strangers in bars where you can hear me singing! Bob Cheevers lives in Austin Texas but he’s coming over to Britain shortly to do a long tour and promote the CD. I might be joining in with a couple of the gigs. Fun!
Fiona’s World is available to purchase
…And in closing…
Thank you very much for interviewing
me Kim. It has been an honour and really interesting to do. It has
given me a new perspective on some things!
Oh this has been so much fun. I always feel so honored artists are willing to do this with me. I learn a great deal and every artist has expressed how much they have learned from the process, too. Believe me, you are ever so welcome.
(I will return on Friday.)