"I usually work with paint, but do not like to pigeonhole myself too much," says Loz Atkinson, "It comes down to the idea and then that goes on to decide the medium."
Loz Atkinson has exhibited extensively in London, New York, Geneva, and on the Trans-Siberian Railway form Moscow to Beijing. A practicising artist for nearly 10 years, she has had 3 solo exhibitions and featured in 'The Other Art Fair' and the 'Affordable Art Fair' in London and Bristol. One of her 'Imagined Nebula' paintings is currently travelling through space on the NASA probe OSIRIS-REx. Loz has produced many pieces for public art events to help raise awareness for wildlife and children's charities. She was assistant curator for a Roger Hiorns exhibition and has run her own pop-up gallery.
A DAY IN YOUR LIFE
Tell us about what you do
I’m an independent artist creating works for sale and exhibition. I also take on public and private commissions.
What does a typical day as an artist look like for you?
In the morning I’ll usually do a couple of hours of admin, emails, website and stuff then I’ll get on my bike and head to my studio around lunchtime. Once there I’ll put the radio on BBC 6 music and get down to it. Whether working on canvas or paper I like to work on a few paintings at a time and get into a kind of rhythm with them all collectively.
Loz Atkinson, Unititled, from the 'Cloud' series
I usually start a work by laying down a flat base background colour and I’ll do that across all the canvases or paper. Then I’ll work on the layers of colour and whilst one is drying I’ll move onto the next.
By the time I’ve done the last one, the first piece will be ready for its second layer. If that part of the process is finished then I’ll move onto the geometry again. I like to get quite a few finished before moving onto the next stages so I can do each stage to a lot of works to get into that ‘zone’ - especially with the geometry parts.
Loz Atkinson, 'Milky Way Trajectories'
Although my works involve a lot of maths I’m definitely not an expert, so have to get into that mind set so they are all done correctly. The same with gold leafing - it's such a fiddly process and always feel a little pressure working with such an expensive material as 24ct gold. I’ve got to get into that flow and do many pieces at a time. I usually stay in the studio pretty late.
How did you come your current theme if you have one?
I am working on two series of paintings which share similar themes but are expressed in different ways. My work is influenced by the sky and universe and I am fascinated by nature, science and the great beyond - the night sky especially used to terrify me. The untitled series of 'cloud' paintings is concerned with our human need to measure and understand the mysteries of the universe and find patterns in random or meaningless data.
Loz Atkinson, untitled from the 'cloud' series
The indistinct stimuli represented by the clouds are combined with mathematical concepts, such as the Golden Ratio expressed as a geometric grid.
The 'Imagined Nebula' series describes the vastness of the universe of which we are intrinsically a part.
I use different textures and layering within the paintings to play with objects that cannot be perfectly measured, and our perceptions of what is seen and not seen.
Loz Atkinson, 'Imagined Nebula'
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I get to be my own boss, be surrounded by amazingly creative people and do something creative and different every day.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Staying motivated and disciplined. You’ve got to get up and show up everyday! You are responsible for every aspect of your career so if you don’t do it no one else will and sometimes that can be a heavy weight to bear. Balancing that and other parts of your life can be hard as your work can really take over. That’s why I take the weekends off!
What skills are essential to you?
Curiosity, learning, versatility and noticing. One minute you’re the painter, but the next you’re an accountant, sales person or PR agent so to be sturdy and have many hat hooks is immensely important.
How did you get to where you are now?
The short answer is not in a straight line. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice and hustle. There have been many ups and downs, dead ends and paths I could have never imagined.
What and where did you study?
In college I studied Psychology, Sociology, ICT and Art. I enjoyed them all but I got my best grades in psychology and my worst in art. Against all reasonable advice from pretty much everyone I went on to study an art foundation and then Fine Art BA at De Montfort University. Ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an artist so never really questioned it as a career path even against better judgement, struggles and doubt.
I became a full time artist after receiving the Prince's Trust Business Start-up Award in 2010.
What challenges have you faced?
There have been many challenges along the way, self doubt being the main and recurring one. To be honest I haven’t and don’t think ever will overcome that. I’m just in a weird unhealthy cohabiting relationship with it. You’ve got to develop a pretty thick skin being an artist as 90% of your life is rejection so to maintain a dogged determination is pretty important and have an unwavering belief in staying the course.
What’s the proudest moment of your artistic career so far?
Loz Atkinson, 'Imagined Nebula'
Having a digital file of one of my 'Imagine Nebula' paintings on the NASA probe OSIRIS-REx is pretty cool.
I’m particularly proud of my public art pieces or my 'artivism'.
Loz Atkinson in Trafalgar Square, London, 'Year of the Bus', 2014
I’ve created many pieces for public art trails such as BT Artbox, Big Egg Hunt and Year of the Bus. These are what keep me going in the down times and dark moments, remembering you can do good things.
Loz Atkinson, 'Deliverance'
The first public art trail I did was Elephant Parade London back in 2010 for Elephant Family charity, in aid of protecting Asian elephants and their habitat. My elephant “Deliverance” was displayed on the South Bank out side the Royal Festival Hall. It went on to be sold at auction for £10,000. I went on to work with in Jungle City in Edinburgh, where my bird sculpture was used for the front cover of the accompanying art book that went alongside the event.
Another crazy moment was on another public art trail called Wild Dolphins Aberdeen in 2014 .
Loz Atkinson, 'Defiance to the Stars'
My “defiance to the stars” dolphin sold at auction for an unbelievable £22,000 for the whale and dolphin conservation charity as well as the local children’s hospital. I still struggle to believe that happened.
More recently a great moment was having a stand at the Affordable Art Fair London with my awesome fellow studioname comrades.
Loz Atkinson, 'Those in Glass Houses', 2017
'Those in glass houses' - was in a solo exhibition in Leicester as part of Studioname's take over of the LCB Depot's Lightbox gallery in 2017.
Do you have any regrets?
Not really, I don’t like to live like that. I mean, like everyone, I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had made different choices but regrets are too negative and pointless to waste your time with.
What advice would give your 22-year-old-self?
Chill out!! Stop trying so hard to be something you're not and stop asking for permission to be yourself! Get out of your own head, stop being scared, get stuff done and anyway - who’s going to stop you!!
EITHER/OR. . . .
Coffee or tea?
Tea - but really I’m not a huge fan of hot drinks, I’m already too wired for caffeine, so I’d much prefer a cold beer.
Michelangelo or Picasso?
Loz Atkinson, 'Imagined Nebula' series
Mac or PC?
Do you prefer morning or night?
Night. All night long. I’m a legit night owl always have been I guess always will be. It’s when the best things in life happen.
Do you listen to music as you work?
That's a huge yes for me! its almost like I'm conducting the music with my brush when I paint. It definitely helps me get into that mind set for painting that strange void of conscious and subconscious action.
I could never say I have a 'favourite' band, it all depends on my mood instead. A staple band throughout my life is the Foo Fighters - their music and gigs bring back a lot of amazing memories for me and they were definitely the soundtrack of my youth. I have many favourite individual tracks I listen to - 'Everlong' by the Foo Fighters; 'You can call me Al' by Paul Simon; '(Your Love Keeps Lifting me) Higher and Higher' by Jackie Wilson; 'Mannish Boy' by Muddy Waters.
Your favourite three artists?
Ralph Steadman is a favourite because of the fearless freedom within his work.
Rachel Whiteread for her simplicity but ambition in scale.
Francis Bacon for the horror, pain and anguish that grabs you by the throat whenever you stand in front of one of his paintings.
Favourite holiday spot?
I’m not one for sitting on a random beach somewhere, I’d much rather explore. Best holiday I’ve had was a road trip across the USA in 2016 just before the elections. We travelled across 16 states in 31 days between New York and Los Angeles via the Deep South.
Loz Atkinson, 'Imagined Nebula'
The best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Let’s see the work. The rest is whispering.
Work by Loz Atkinson can be seen at The Cank Street Gallery from Friday 15 February 2019
The Cank Street Gallery
44-46 Cank Street
Leicester LE1 5GW