In the build up to our Winter Exhibition we meet Ania Hobson, and learn about her path from Ipswich, to Florence and to the National Gallery.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an artist?
Since I was very young. Both of my parents are really creative so I was brought up with it. My dad was a painter and my mum very good at crafts and painting as well. I couldn’t put a date on it, it was just something I have always wanted to do. It has been a main goal for as long as I can remember.
Where did you study your degree?
How do you feel that sculpted who you are now as an artist?
I don’t want to feel like I’m bad mouthing the university. It's good in the sense that you are given a space and are left to build yourself as an artist, to work with other people and bounce ideas off one another, but I didn’t feel like I learnt enough technique which is why as soon as I left uni I went to do some courses to build that up.
When did you graduate?
It was 2011 when I left university, I worked in a pub for a bit and did little jobs and painted along side them, then I got quite a few exhibitions and commissions which had a snowball effect. Once you start you need to continue and things start to fall into your lap. Now I am self employed full-time and do a lot of commissions. There are periods when nothing will come in and then others when you are loaded with work. I really enjoy it and the struggle; it makes it more worthwhile.
After your BA you went to the Prince's Drawing School and went to the Florence Academy of Art, how did you find these experiences?
After uni I wanted to continue building up my skills and I heard that short courses are the best ways to do that because they try to ram everything in in those weeks, whether it is one or three weeks, they give you all the techniques down at once, it is quite intensive.
Tell us about the Florence Academy of Art.
I started a Kickstarter because I didn’t have the funds to go there, so I created a project online. Kickstarter is where people pledge money online from all over the world. If they pledged certain amounts I offered them a commission, a print or a drawing. I raised the funds that way.
Florence was amazing, you are surrounded by art everywhere you look. There is inspiration everywhere you turn your head. You can see galleries with Botticelli. It was just such a good experience. I went for two weeks and they actually offered me a free week back so I went back out for it.
I was painting the figure in life and portrait painting, it was very tiring because you are up from about 8am to about 5:30pm and it’s just solid painting, so by the end of the two weeks everyone was sort of falling asleep at their easels. What I learnt there was how to mix the skin colours, to create the different tones, sizing from life rather than actually using photographs which I relied on before. You would think that it’s easier to paint from photographs but it’s not, it is easier to draw from life when you know how. I am always looking to go back.
Why the human form?
Well, you are looking at faces every single day of your life. It is quite a hard subject to do but once you get the hang of it it’s satisfying. I really enjoy painting faces, I find it fascinating. It’s not about finding a great face to paint, but it is how you paint and portray it.
How do you choose your subjects?
I do self portraits quite a lot, I also tend to use my sister quite a lot because I actually feel more comfortable painting myself or people from the family because I know they will be less critical. If I am doing a commission I will be more worried about ‘oh, are they going to like this? Are they going to like my style?’ because a lot of people say I paint people older than how they look, that is just my style not because I’m trying to make people look old! I did find a Spanish waiter on holiday that looked so traditional, quite old with black greased hair, and I managed to get him to sit for a photograph, so that is a painting I am waiting to do.
We found you through Instagram, how important do you think social media is for an artist in 2017?
I think it is so important, I know some people huff about whether it is good to represent yourself that way as an artist, but Instagram reaches so many people, it’s like a continuous exhibition and you have a portfolio online, you don’t know who is looking at it. That’s how you found me so it is an important thing, and I do rely on it quite a bit for work.
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career so far?
I think exhibiting with the BP portrait awards. That was always a main goal of mine and I didn’t think I’d be doing it at twenty-seven years old. I always assumed I’d be applying year after year, but that was my second time applying and I got through. It was a thrilling experience to see a painting of mine in the National Portrait Gallery.
Ania shall be exhibiting these fantastic paintings in our Winter Exhibition at the Menier Gallery this December 12-16th.
Private view: 12th December 6pm - 8:30pm. To attend please click here.