ARTIST Q&A: MIKE HEALEY

Published: 1 June 2019


Scottish painter Mike Healey returns to Thompson's gallery in London for a new solo exhibition. The new exhibition features colourful paintings of the Scottish landscape and also Healey's renowned still lives and seascapes. Before the opening of the exhibition, Thompson's Gallery spoke to the artist about his working progress, who's inspired him, his advice to aspiring artists and more!

View Mike Healey's entire new exhibition ONLINE HERE

(Above): Mike Healey I Home in the Snow (Davaar Island - Campbelltown) I Oil on canvas I 20'' x 30'' I Click here to see avaiability for purchase

Thompson's Gallery: Do you have any studio rituals or superstitions?

Mike Healey: Not really. Though I have precious photos and lucky things on shelves.

TG: Does your process have any established pattern, ie sketching beforehand or resisting pattern in total?
MH: I tend to travel to research visual material.

TG: Do you ever experience 'painters' block'? How do you overcome it?
MH: Yes. I go to public collections and revisit favourite artists. I also read books on the European Impressionists, Scottish Colourists, The Fauves, The Post Impressionists and look at all their work often. I also look at their paintings that come up for auction as these are often paintings I have never seen. This sort of activity gets me inspired.

TG: What has been your favorite painting or subject to paint in the past year?
MH: I still love painting still-life in the studio. It is an intellectual process and you cannot be rained off... Unlike landscape. This past twelve months I have been down to the seashore and painted the surf and low tide. I think we all get drawn to the sea. Itis where we all came from and we are all constantly drawn back.

(Above): Mike Healey painting at Ardnamurchan overlooking the Scottish Western Isles.

TG: How did you first come into painting?

MH: I loved the art and design at School. My father was an airline pilot and the airport where he worked had a huge mural on the history of flight. He took me to the airport often to see his planes and the inside of his cockpit. But I preferred looking at this huge mural in the hall. My mother also read to me some children's books and I was astonished with the drawings. This was when I was under six years old. Later my step-father took me to some big national collections. Before I was ten I had visited The National Gallery in London and the amazing Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow. Albert Healey was a cultured man and bought art books and had prints on the walls. He had a beautiful pencil drawing of a plaster head he did as an evening student at Glasgow School of Art. He was an accountant but like many Scots, who had a broad based school education, he loved the arts. He told me his art teacher lived in a tall flat overlooking Queens Park in Glasgow and how he visited it as a pupil and was very taken by her flat and the view. This was in 1930s Glasgow. I have since found out that all artists and designers live in wonderful interesting places. Later we also had a large contemporary painting in our home that my father bought. He had to pay it up in instalments. As a child I used to examine the brush marks and feel the texture of the paint. My father did not have a lot of money but he buying that painting was important to him. My grandparents collected paintings and etchings which they bought in what is called the Glasgow Barras. These were amazing market stalls in the East end of Glasgow. All the furniture and even the family dog came from there. I still own a terrific landscape done by one of the Glasgow Girls that was bought from there. It is quite valuable now.

(Above): Mike Healey I Yellow Studio Chair I Oil on canvas I 20'' x 18'' I Click here to see avaiability for purchase

TG: What is your best piece of advice to young aspiring artists?
MH: Talent is fairly common and it is not enough. You have to work very hard. That is what will set you apart. Plain hard work. Practice every day. You need to do something every single day. Draw honestly, don't invent. Look at our national collections often. Nobody was born able to draw. It is just practice. Its not unlike running. Some people are born fast. But you will never improve or be really good unless you train. Buying a membership at the gym is not enough. You need to turn up and put in the work. Read about artists. Have an informed opinion.

TG: Do you like having music, podcasts, or something else on in the background whilst painting? Tell us about it. I tend to work in silence.
MH: I find music often too emotional and distracting. If I am bored I may play the radio. But the news can be grim and I avoid that. I quite like my Alexa where I can shout out for particular tracks or artists if I am doing something routine like stretching canvas, mixing gesso or sweeping and cleaning.

TG: Did (or do) you find inspiration in the work of other artists? Anyone who's been influential for you?
MH: I love so much art and design. Sometimes places inspire me , as you will read. Firstly I have to say I love Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his whole body of work. His wife Margaret was a giant of an artist. Their total dedication is a huge example. They worked on visual art all their lives. I admire many artists even though I may never do anything like them. Sickert and a lot of what I call the English school I love. Whistler of course who was Sickerts tutor. My art teacher at school was a Scottish Colourist called John Cunningham. He was a great influence and it is easy to get seduced by his choice of landscape and colour. I love Ken Howards work because he is utterly brilliant with light and he is an effortless draftsperson. His studio interiors are sublime. But his drawings of soldiers in Northern Ireland are incredible. I still love the Fauves because I think they were so brave. Derrain and Mattisse produced some fabulous work in a brief period in the south of France. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was only a couple of miles away in Port Vendre working away at his meticulous watercolours. I find it curious he kept himself to himself when all that hot painterly stuff was being created on his doorstep. When Charles died Margaret went to live in the Colombe D'Dor for several months. Everyone interested in art should visit this hotel. I go often. My wife had a big birthday there not so long ago. In our suite we had a genuine Leslie Hunter above our bed. In the hall outside our bedroom were several Scottish Colourists. The swimming pool has a giant Braque mural of a bird flying across the back of it. There are huge American Calder mobiles swinging in the wind in the gardens. If you have dinner on the patio you are surrounded by Leger originals. There are great black and white photographs of Picasso and Matisse. Film stars loved the place like Boggart and David Niven. Nearbye is the haunting blue and white Chapel created by Matisse. The hotel ethos was instigated by the Scottish Artist Leslie Hunter. He used to spend his summer holidays in a farm near my home and studio in Southend, Mull of Kintyre, Argyll.

(Above): Mike Healey I Westerly Gale I Oil on canvas I 20'' x 30'' I Click here to see avaiability for purchase

Mike Healey's new exhibition opens 30 May 2019 - 15 June 2019 at Thompson's gallery in London 3 Seymour Place W1H5AZ (2' walk from Marble Arch Station). Call the gallery with interest or questions +44(0)207 935 3595 or email enquiries@thompsonsgallery.co.uk

CLICK HERE to see the entire exhibition online.