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An interview with the painter Oliver Maughan
February 24, 2018
Oliver Maughan is a local London artist aspiring to the skill set and dedication of the 19th century’s Boston school painters. Having trained in Florence at the Charles Cecil Studio, it is only natural that he be so adept to painting his vibrant landscape scenes outside – which he does nearly every day. After his time in Italy, Oliver continued his artistic education in New Hampshire at the Paul Ingbretson Studio of drawing and painting where he was introduced to American Impressionism – this inspired his experimentation with light and colour.
Working from life, he creates landscape scenes of modern London which are filtered through a captivating Impressionist lense, giving new energy to the familiarity of the city. Maughan also paints still-life and figurative works, all of which he exhibits at both private galleries and art fairs such as London’s LAPADA. Oliver is currently represented by The Russell Gallery in Putney and Kaye Michie Fine Art in Surrey.
Candid Magazine: Do you remember the first time that you wanted to be an artist?
Oliver Maughan: I always found the hands-on making of things to be incredibly satisfying. I also felt a constant fascination with the experience of the beauty that comes through the arts and the world around us. Learning to paint and playing music were the obvious ways of trying to share that experience with others. As soon as I left school all my time was devoted to painting and improving my skills. It felt like the right thing to do. I just wanted more of whatever it was.
C.M: Can you tell us a bit about the process of making your work?
O.M: I paint outside directly from my subject ‘en plein air’. It can be full of complications and hazards; however, the light and colour outdoors are so particular and vibrant that I have found it difficult to make anything comparable within a studio. Using oil paint, I do my best to capture the effects of light and atmosphere.
C.M: How did you find studying in Florence influenced your work?
O.M: Florence is a beautiful city. The time I spent studying there was incredibly useful. The experience helped me to make a more informed decision on where I wanted to finish my training. Eventually I found Paul Ingbretson in New Hampshire. Paul is a patient and generous teacher and it was under his instruction that I began to feel confident enough to take steps towards trying to make a career selling paintings.
C.M: What is your daily routine when working?
O.M: In the morning I check the weather before deciding where to go. Usually there are several projects that I will be working on and which one I work on a given day will depend on the light and weather, tides and drying times of the paint itself. Of course, things change outside continuously so getting everything done as quickly as possible helps. Though it can be frustrating working with such uncertainty I find it makes me more decisive and ultimately more productive.
C.M: How has your work evolved since you started out?
O.M: It’s hard to track one’s own progress from year to year. However, when I look back at things I painted many years ago often I think that it had something good about it that I didn’t really see or give myself credit for at the time. When you have faults, it can be difficult to see anything else.
C.M: Which art movement do you find most inspiring?
O.M: People are capable of and have made extraordinary works of art. There have been so many fantastic painters and movements. Both my teachers were influenced by the ‘Boston school’, painters, having been students of R H Ives Gammell. Gammell was a prolific muralist, writer, and teacher of painting. He in turn had been taught by leading Boston school’ artists and, in particular, William Mcgregor Paxton.
Many young American art students who travelled to Europe at the end of the 19th century to study in the academies and under notable European artists were influenced by the apparent closeness to truth of Monet’s paintings of the effects of light outdoors. Though they were also well grounded in the rigorous disciplines of composition and craftsmanship.
C.M: Do you have a favourite work of art or artist who inspires you?
O.M: It would be absolutely impossible for me to choose a particular painting that I could call my favourite. Different things have stood out to me for different reasons at various times. The art of painting has been done to a very high level by many people but if I really want to feel inspired, going for a walk outdoors is more useful than looking at other people’s work.
C.M: What is the best and worst things that have happened to you in your time painting outside in and around London?
O.M: For a while I was planning to write a list of everything that I have been given or offered while painting out on the streets. Eventually I lost track. People in London are both kind and considerate. Had I written the list it would have included some pretty interesting things, as well as dozens of cups of tea and coffee, gloves…….plenty of advice!
The thing that stands out in my mind as the worst experience was when I was discussing prices and availability of work with a very nice woman who was walking her pristine white cockapoo in Richmond park. Her dog was playing with my dog Poppy (also a cockapoo) at the same time as I was starting a large painting. I was holding a few brushes in my left hand when her dog ran under my arm, coming away with a perfect, thick green Mohican of oil paint. I will never forget the embarrassment! I chased the dog to try to clean it off, but when eventually I got at it with my linseed oil it only made things worse. They must have got some strange looks in the car park.
C.M: What is your favourite art gallery in London and why?
O.M: My favourite gallery is the National Gallery. As a lover of paintings there is nowhere else in the country that I know of with such a broad and high-quality collection. I go regularly – even though they won’t let me bring my pastels.
C.M: What advice would you give to a young artist following in your steps?
O.M: When I have a deadline, getting into a good routine helps me to focus on my work.
C.M: What’s next for you?
O.M: My next one-man show will be in the spring of 2019 at the Russell Gallery in Putney. It’s going to be a mixture of paintings of London as well as some pictures of the coast around the UK. The next art fair that I will be shown in is the BADA in the Duke of York Square in March. I will be exhibited by the Kaye Michie Gallery.
Words by Cara van Rhyn