The Viaduct speaks to Kate O’Brien, a Stockport-based artist who creates original and unique hand-painted artwork and gifts depicting the beautiful architecture and scenery in the town. To check out Kate’s work, have a look at kate-obrien.co.uk.
Thanks for joining us Kate. First, as you’re an artist, we’ll ask you the most important question. Is Banksy really Neil Buchanan from Art Attack?
Wouldn’t that be hilarious?! Seriously though, some of the ‘Big Attacks’ Neil did were awesome, so you never know!
You were brought up in Derbyshire. That must have been a nice scenic place to live for an aspiring artist?
Definitely! I used to sketch out and about around Buxton quite a lot. I think that’s where my love of dramatic architecture comes from. But there’s a definite colour inspiration too; I often bring to mind the rich purple heather or earthy peat colours of the Peak District when I’m painting.
You studied Textile Art at university, which is a very specific subject to choose. Had you already decided a career as an artist was definitely for you, even from a young age?
Absolutely. Even at primary school I was always the child winning the art competitions, designing logos and posters etc. Hopefully it made up for my complete lack of skill when it came to anything sporty or maths based!
After leaving university, you taught art at a secondary school for ten years. What was that like?
For all the challenges that came with teaching, I feel so blessed to have been a part of so many fantastic students‘ journeys. For so many pupils art was the one way they could really find their voices and there are some amazing pieces of work, and more importantly amazing young people, that I will always remember.
How did the transition go from leaving your school job to becoming a full-time artist?
It was pretty full throttle really; I’d been selling my artwork at various markets at weekends for a few years and the same month that I left teaching I appeared on the first episode of Home Is Where The Art Is on BBC1. The level of exposure that brought was fantastic and I was inundated with commission work. I haven’t really taken a breath since!
What made you choose Stockport as the location to base your shop and studio?
I had been focusing my work on the Peak District and central Manchester but when I took a look around me at where I live I felt that the beauty of Stockport was actually quite under-celebrated. Stockport suffers from a bit of bad press sometimes and I wanted to showcase some of the fantastic scenery and architecture we have here. The opportunity then came up for a shop in the historic market hall and I could not think of a better place to be! My years as a teacher meant I was completely comfortable with having an audience while I paint so it seemed logical for the space to double up as my studio (and also meant I could stop working at home with my two-year-old constantly wanting to “help”).
What’s your favourite Stockport landmark to draw or paint?
The Viaduct was one of my first Stockport pictures and I’ve since drawn it many more times. In fact I think I may have drawn all 11 million bricks at some point!
Who’s your favourite artist?
Vincent Van Gogh. What a completely brilliant man. I love the colours, the application of paint and the vision. BK (Before Kids) I once queued for four hours to see an exhibition of his unseen sketches and letters. Totally worth it!
Tracey Emin was controversially nominated for the Turner Prize for exhibiting a bed featuring used condoms and blood-stained underwear. Should that be classed as art?
I did like some of Emin’s work but not too sure about that one! If someone can connect with it and get something from it I suppose it has its place, but I think that whole “art for controversy” thing has probably had its day.
I was crap at art at school, but I did manage to draw a brilliant picture of the back of my mum’s head. If I dig that out of my loft, how much do you reckon I could sell it for?
Perhaps stick on some blood-stained underwear and you could win the Turner Prize?
What’s the art scene like in Stockport at the moment?
I think it’s really great now. With all the new developments here, Stockport feels like it’s going through positive change and people now want to celebrate this. We are also lucky to have such history here. Although there were already many brilliant established artists in Stockport, I think all this change is feeding a huge amount of emerging talent. Stockport is definitely on the up.
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