Stephen Conroy has been Art2Arts’ artist of the month for October. He’s a Wimbledon  graduate who spent 20 years without producing a single piece of art, until he experienced a creative renaissance. He now creates fantastic and boldly colourful cubist paintings, with strong echoes of Picasso, Kandinsky and Joan Miro.

Starry Night painting by UK artist Stephen Conroy
Starry Night by Stephen Conroy

Penny -Did you always know that you would be an artist? Where did your involvement in art stem from?
Stephen -I always dreamed of being an artist but I am not sure why.  My favourite uncle is creative and I think he had a strong influence on me.  His drawings are my first memories of art.
Did you go to art college?. If so, was your experience of art college like?
I went to Wimbledon School of Art to study sculpture.  Although I learnt a great deal and enjoyed my 3 years in London, with its multitude of galleries, it was the wrong subject for me.  I have never produced a sculpture since I left the college and, in hindsight, should have studied painting.

Who are your main influences?
I have many influences – perhaps too many as I often get pulled in different directions.  Picasso, Matisse and Kandinsky play a major role in my day to day thinking but I love many other artists and absorb what I can from them.  I am especially interested in Islamic art and this is beginning to have a greater influence on my work as is ways of interpreting my love of music visually

Do you still work as a teacher? 
I gave up teaching to become a full-time artist.  It has meant great financial sacrifice but I could not achieve a balance when trying to work and create – it had to be one or the other.

Could you please describe the practical process you go through when making a painting?
As mentioned earlier, I can often be over-influenced which has resulted in a lack of true artistic identity.  I am now working to resolve this by focussing on a narrower set of themes and methods.  My work process is instinctive and intuitive – I never draw but create directly on the canvas, often allowing the first shapes and colours to dictate, to me, the way forward.  I rarely have a firm idea of what the painting will look like – I work on it until I believe it is finished.  I sometimes finish a work then return to it many months later.

How do you generate ideas?
My ideas are varied – some subjects are traditional, like my nudes.  The abstracts are born out of a love of pure flat colour, broad bold shapes and a strong design.  I do suffer from OCD, so often my methods reflect this with a use of repetitive processes and a certain amount of precision and control present in my work.  It is something I have been fighting against for years but I now realise that, artistically at least, this affliction can have some advantages.

The Three Graces Painting by UK artist Stephen Conroy
The Three Graces by Stephen Conroy

Do you ever get artistic blocks or creative droughts? How do you stay inspired and engaged with your practice?

I often have artistic blocks, especially after completing a painting – self doubt creeps in and I question my way forward.  I can spend days walking the dog and watching TV but I will always be thinking about my next piece.  For me, the contemplation and creation of the work is more important than the finished painting, so I am never in a hurry to work.