We caught up with Josie McCoy to see what’s going on in her studio lately, and what direction her work has been taking over the last few months.
You can see all of Josie’s work that is currently available to buy, on the Josie McCoy Profile Page
How important is progression within your work? Do you actively try to maintain a style that you’ve built, or do you try to constantly evolve as time progresses?
I think that if someone paints daily, then it’s inevitable that their work will gradually change. I see painting as an ongoing process of development; sometimes in ability and other times in ideas. I don’t consciously paint in a style but I am aware that I have a particular aesthetic and have a tendency to use certain colours, compositions and types of source material.
How has your work developed over the last 6-12 months?
In the last year I haven’t painted that many oil paintings. I have done more watercolours and drawings than usual. I´ve also spent a lot of time researching and finding source material. I plan to paint a lot more oil paintings this year, which will hopefully show the fruits of that research.
The only marked difference in recent works has been to return to using images from films and tv. The two years or so before, I was using imagery found on the internet or from magazines a lot more. I have consciously gone back to finding film or tv stills which depict emotion.
We absolutely loved your recent work that was presented to Pat, the EastEnders cast member on leaving the show this Christmas. How does it make you feel to know that there are well known actors or celebrities that really love your work and take enjoyment out of owning it?
Once I´ve painted someone, I feel like I know their face completely. I last painted Pat in about 2001, so it was great to paint her again. Apparently, she was delighted with it, and that makes me happy.
People buy paintings for so many different reasons, I don´t really mind what those reasons are.
You recently published a series of photographs documenting your working process toward a complete painting of Johnny Depp – shot each hour. Could you talk us through that process a little, so our readers get a bit of insight as to how a Josie McCoy piece is developed?
I have written a little bit about this on my blog.
I decided to document the process of the painting after seeing friends’ “work in progress” photos on Facebook. I absolutely love seeing other peoples work before it’s finished, so I decided to show some of my own. I started writing a painting diary on the blog, but don’t really have enough time to keep it up. I’ve managed to continue to update the images though.
It has been very revealing to see my own process more objectively. I have since been playing with a (so far) crude animation of the photos and am going to document all of the works in my next show in the same way.
Hopefully you can see my working process in the photos.
When you look at the working methods of photo-realists like Chuck Close, they often use a strict grid-based system to create their work. I noticed from your Johnny Depp piece that you aren’t using a grid – is this typical of your working style, do you feel it isn’t necessary to have the constraint of a grid when you work? Or is it something that you’ve used in the past?
Years ago I used a grid system to transfer the information from the source material onto the canvas, but found it a very slow way to do so, and also didn’t give me a real idea of what the image would look like scaled up until it was finally drawn. I prefer to project the negative of the photo I´m going to work from using a slide projector. This gives me the opportunity to see the image on the canvas in every possible crop or composition. I spend a lot of time choosing exactly where the face is going to go on my canvas, and the projector enables me to do this easily.
Also, I often work from several photos from the same moment of film, selecting the parts of each photo I want for the painting. This works when I project the main image, but would be much more difficult to do if I used a grid.
Can you tell us a little about some of the people who have purchased your work in the past?
I haven’t met most of the people who have bought my work in the past, but every so often get a truly lovely email saying how much joy my painting has brought someone.
The people I have met who have bought works have all been incredibly complimentary and supportive of what I do. Often people buy several works, not necessarily at the same time, but one every year or every few years, and this happens irrespective of whether I´ve met them or not.
I also get some wonderful feedback from people who have commissioned paintings.
How much does the outside world of celebrity affect your subject matter? What defines the subjects you are choosing to paint? Do you see your work as a reflection of popular culture, or a commentator on it?
I live in Valencia most of the time, so this obviously influences what I watch because I only have access to certain television channels. Although there is an excellent DVD rental place near my house.
I generally paint what I´m watching for pleasure, rather than trying to watch things to paint, although sometimes I do watch things specifically to find source material. At the moment I am preparing for a solo show in Valencia in May. I want to find some great movie stills from Spanish films, so I am watching movies by Spanish directors, notably, Luis Buñuel, Pedro Almodóvar and Julio Medem.
Until now, I have always chosen contemporary films because I like the idea of art reflecting society and popular culture. The paintings also act as a kind of diary of what I´ve watched and what moments of what I´ve seen have interested me. However, for my new show I am looking back a little. I am attempting to find films (and film stills) which in some way represent each decade from the 50s up to now. This is obviously entirely subjective. So far I have started paintings of Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Sean Young in Blade Runner, for the 50s and 80s respectively.
Do you ever see yourself working in another style or moving into a different subject matter? Would you ever paint still life, landscape or abstraction, for example?
No, I have only ever been interested in painting faces.
Is there anything else you want to update us about your work or your life over recent months?
One of the best things that has happened over the last year has been the move to the new studio, I think I mentioned it in the last interview.
It´s a former boxing club and is absolutely huge.
You can see the work of my studio mates in the following links:
As you can see, we´re quite a diverse group of artists, but that´s what group studios are all about. It makes me very happy to paint there.