Artist Interview: Alan Fernihough
Alan Fernihough is an art tutor and ex prison art teacher, of whom featured on episode 8 of this years Landscape Artist Of The Year as a wild card entry. Alan has had a career full of art with studying Graphic Design at Derby College Of Art, becoming a front line designer to being an art tutor for a category B prison! Even retiring didn't stop Alan with his love of art, as he pursued his own teaching career. We had the pleasure of asking a few questions and finding out about his tv experience.
'It is never too late to change a career as I proved when I started teaching art at the age of 55. '
'As it was time to start I had to tie my easel down to the railings to stop it blowing away whilst others struggled to find a sheltered spot and for those of you who know the promenade in Blackpool, there is not any!'
Q: Did you feel pressure with the judges walking around or were you in the zone?
I really did not notice the judges apart from when they started talking to me.
Q: What art materials did you use on the day and why?
I normally work in watercolours but I decided to try acrylics, which would eventually prove to be the best option on that day due to the weather.
Q: Can you explain your process of the artwork you produced?
I knew a few days prior that we would be situated by the South Pier so I decided to arrive a day early and recce the place. In the hotel room the previous evening I painted a blue ‘ground’ on my canvases which of course would be inspected the following morning just to ensure that we had not already made a start. As a bit of a novice to plein air painting I simply chose a view with plenty of perspectives which I enjoy painting. After a few bits of sketching it was straight in with the paints. I did not stop painting from 9am until about 3pm with just a chocolate bar and a flask of tea for lunch. I was visited by a couple of students from my art class who helped by holding the umbrella and giving me moral support.
Q: Did you manage to meet any of the other contestants and see their interpretations on the day?
I only had a brief look at the other contestants work and some seemed to be struggling with the wind and rain. From what I saw of the artists work in the pods and the wildcards there was not much to choose between them all.
Q: Due to enjoying the process, would you consider entering more?
I’ve already entered for the 2024 contest and my experience will be invaluable if I am successful. I definitely enjoyed the process but it was a long day after the booking in process at 7am. I did manage to be interviewed by the film crew and they seemed very interested in the fact that I had previously been an art tutor in a high security prison. I eventually served my time and was released after 10 years! With the stories and experiences over the years I could write a book, but recently I found someone had beaten me to it!
Q: Would you say you found a love for teaching more so than creating art?
I enjoy both and the reason I started my own art classes was that after a couple of months retirement I missed it so much. I did look at buying an art class franchise but decided that it would be easier and a lot less expensive to do it myself. I tend to either paint every day or I am preparing for my upcoming classes and I even take my materials on holiday as I am not a beach person.
Q: What materials can you simply not live without?
The obvious choice is a sketchbook which I tend to keep in the car and my set of waterproof fine liners which I prefer over pencils as it makes me concentrate more when they can not be erased. Of course running art classes I nearly always have a boot full of materials so it looks at times like I am a travelling salesman for an art shop!
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists on how to create a career out of passion?
I always advise people to enjoy their art before deciding if they can make a career. Treat it as a hobby and if you manage to sell anything then that is a bonus. It is never too late to change a career as I proved when I started teaching art at the age of 55. Two years teacher training to gain a degree to teach in adult education is something that anyone can do. Then you can turn your hobby into an income and help other people to progress too.