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Artist Interview: Alan Fernihough

Alan Fernihough is an art tutor and former prison art teacher, whom featured on episode 8 of this year's Landscape Artist Of The Year as a wild card entry. Alan has had a career full of art, studying Graphic Design at Derby College Of Art. Becoming a frontline designer to working as 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. 

Alan Fernihough

'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!

Alan Fernihough

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 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.

Be sure to follow and find out more about Alan:
Instagram: @alanfernihough
Website: www.alanfernihoughimages.com/

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