An Interview with Conor Collins - Winner of #InkToWin Competition
Conor Collins won our #InkToWin competition with a wonderfully creative and personal artwork. Conor described his entry as, ‘a word painting created using thousands of journal entries marking from the day my heart broke to the day I recovered. Some entries are funny, some sad but all are honest entries about what I thought and felt.’
Conor has developed a unique and engaging approach to portraiture, receiving interest in his work through the power of social media (he has never had an agent). In an interview with Conor we discuss his inspiration, methods and approach to self-marketing.
What drew you to painting portraits?
I think it’s because people are infinitely interesting. Even the most boring person on this planet has something interesting about them. They will always have that one story that gives them depth. Also it’s the fact that people are so fascinatingly shapable. A baby born can turn into millions of different people depending on their lives events. When you meet a person you aren’t really meeting a ‘being’, you are meeting a storage device of all their lives events. That really interests me.
Which is your favourite piece that you created?
For me it has to be the piece I entered into the competition. Some pieces I create try to be art but miss the mark and end up more as craft, but that piece, I would say is art. It means a great deal to me and expresses more than any piece I think I have ever created. It started as a piece of therapy for me, a means to express at a time when everything that had ever been bottled up was spilling open. I needed a way to expressing it or else it would overwhelm me
Which is your favourite piece by another artist?
My favourite piece not by me has to be ‘The Scream’ by Edward Munch. It was the first piece I saw that wasn’t just a reflection of things that are. It expressed beyond the boundaries of realism. Though I first saw that piece at around 8, and didn’t start painting for another 13 years after! But it stuck with me.
You are quite experimental with your media. How do you decide what to use for each portrait?
I try to stick to things that are key to the piece, however I don’t want to be constrained to keeping a piece ‘beautiful’. Beauty has its place but when you realise that what we consider beautiful has simply been socially constructed it loses its important. For example a moth and a butterfly are really the same, but to kill one is killing a nuisance, but to kill the other is to be a monster, purely due to our socially constructed perceptions of the beautiful. So sometimes my pieces are ugly, and I like that. All I want to do is make sure someone looks at the piece. I suppose on some level the more interesting the material the longer someone might look at a piece. Taking time with a piece is important. People often visit an art gallery, will see a piece and think…that’s just awful. But they often haven’t taken time. You wouldn’t go to an opera, hear the opening lines and say….well this is a load of tosh! I’m off!
How do you promote your artwork?
I’ve always used social media and word of mouth. I think the art world has evolved so much that to exhibit in a gallery shouldn’t be considered bad, but it certainly isn’t necessary. All my best commissions have come through social media (twitter, tumblr, facebook etc). To give an example I produced 3 portraits for a wonderful lady who was the mother of the girlfriend of a friend of a friend on facebook. That all comes from posting a painting on facebook which gets shared!
Is it important for an artist to have an agent?
Not at all. I have had some very well known art gallery’s approach me offering to reproduce my work and give me a cut. Sounds a good deal until they explain they would like to take 90% of the profits (genuinely true!!). All you need is publicity. Tweet everything. For every artist who believes in his or herself there are a thousand who don’t. The one that thinks their stuff is worthy will tweet it, facebook it, Instagram it…and ultimately sell it. If you don’t show you won’t sell. I am not saying that sales is the end goal, if you go into art to make money you are going to be sorely disappointed, however if you do genuinely want to make a living out of it, you have to be willing to put in the effort outside of the painting as well.