Of all the artists I’ve learnt about, the ones that I admire the most are the ones who weren’t afraid to be innovative. They were very skilful at painting and drawing, but they took their art to the next level by pushing boundaries and doing things that hadn’t been done before. They weren’t afraid to experiment and be different, even if that meant they weren’t appreciated by the critics or the public. Many artists only start to be truly appreciated once they die. The passing of a creative person often regenerates interest in their work.
What really interests me is the artist themselves. I love reading about their life and about their character – it helps me build up a sort of connection with them. I find the more I understand the artist, the more I understand the artwork. The two are always intrinsically linked.
Caravaggio is known as one of the great Italian painters of the 17th century. He was a baroque artist and led a wild and notorious lifestyle. He was involved in numerous brawls – in fact one led to him stabbing and killing an opponent. He then had to flee Rome, settled in Naples for a while then travelled on to Malta and throughout southern Italy. For one of his first public works he was commissioned to decorate the Contrelli Chapel in the French Church in Rome with scenes depicting the life of St. Matthew. The reaction to these paintings was overwhelming thanks to their extremely high level of realism and the dramatic contrasts of light and shades, a technique known as ‘chiaro scuro’.
Andy Warhol started off in New York working as a freelance shoe designer for a variety of fashion magazines. Even though popular opinion was against him, he managed to carve out a career as an artist thanks to his business acumen and technical drawing skills. His life was brought to a sudden end when he died following a routine operation in 1987.
Frida Kahlo never actually had any proper training as an artist, yet she is still widely praised for her work. She was the first ever artist to produce a series of large paintings depicting different stages of her life. These paintings told the story of how she experienced both mental and physical pain throughout her life, including incidents such as a bus crash she was in when she was a schoolgirl, and the abuse her unruly husband inflicted on her. Tracy Enim would later reintroduce this concept to the public, achieving much critical acclaim in the process.