Exploring themes of nature, community and ritual, London-based artist Stephen Doherty creates exquisite drawings, paintings, and prints. He chats to us about his experience growing up in Manchester as one of the few creative kids in his cohort, discovering his artistic talents, and his new limited edition floral prints.
Q: Hi Stephen, tell us about your upbringing, were you a creative child?
A: I was always interested in making and drawing from a young age. I lived in the art rooms at high school, spending my lunchtimes and after-school there.
My art teacher showed me how to set the alarm so I could stay into the evenings after she had gone home.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up on a large council estate in Manchester. I was a quiet, sensitive kid so being creative was a bit of an escape for me. It’s where I felt confident.
Q: Was there a key turning point when you decided you wanted to become an artist?
A: I remember my high school art teacher showing me one of Alexander McQueenʼs collections when I was 13 or so, I think I was making a hat out of chicken wire at the time.
Up to that point, I hadn’t realised that making beautiful things/artwork could be your job. I was blown away. That’s when I decided I wanted to go to Central Saint Martins.
Q: Did you do any other jobs before becoming a full time artist?
A: I worked as a designer for a couple of years after leaving St Martins for Craig Lawrence the British knitwear designer. I found it really exciting but more and more I missed making my own work, so I left and gradually started building that up.
I really wasnʼt sure what I was doing at the time but Craig kindly gave me a space to work in his studio while I figured it out. Since then Iʼve worked as a visiting lecturer at Central Saint Martins, Ravensbourne and Kingston University. Iʼve also worked in a lot of bars along the way!
Q: Where is your studio?
A: I work in my studio at the Sarabande Foundation in East London, which was set up by Alexander McQueen. I always have music on when I work, I change it up depending on my mood, but more often than not it’s quiet and meditative – recently a lot of Kelsey Lu and H.E.R.
‘I like going to new places and being stirred in new ways, seeing what arises. I also look a lot at the people around me, my friendships and our shared experiences.’
Q: What materials do you use?
A: I use a variety of inks, pins, brushes, sponges and water. I have a favourite pin I use to score the paper, I regularly turn the studio upside down looking for it!
Q: Are there key themes to your work?
A: Nature, ritual celebration, connectedness, faith, hope, joy.
Q: Do you draw on personal experiences?
A: Yes. I like going to new places and being stirred in new ways, seeing what arises. I also look a lot at the people around me, my friendships and our shared experiences.
Q: Do you have a current favourite piece of work of yours?
A: I made some large-scale cyanotypes during lockdown with my friend, artist Diego Valente which I love! I’ll definitely be exploring that more.
Q: Which artists inspire you?
Q: Are there any contemporary artists whose work you follow?
A: Donna Huanca, Michael Armitage, Lou Fratino.
Q: What art do you hang on your walls at home?
A: I have a couple of pieces that I love from William Farr, Dominic Myatt, Aly Helyar, Scott Ramsay Kyle, and Ziv Gil Katzenstein.
Q: What are your ambitions and hopes for the next few years?
A: I want to travel more, maybe doing another artist in residence or two. I’d like to be involved in more group shows, work with galleries overseas and have a big beautiful studio somewhere.
Just really to continue to be working, for my work to connect with people and explore what is possible.
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