Hanna ten Doornkaat
Where do your influences come from?
I went to Kingston University, which at the time was incredibly conceptual. I went through that training and then tried to get rid of it because it isn't me. I'm more of a maker. I can't get it completely out of my system though.
I need the concept to accept what I am doing, if that makes sense. Otherwise if it's just process, it isn't good enough. I need to think about why I'm doing it and where it comes from. I look at Malevich’s black square and deconstruct it, or think of how I would turn a painting into a drawing.
I am also influenced by Agnes Martin. I have lots of artist friends who think she is so boring as there's no colour, but I love her work.
Describe your technique?
I consider my work as mainly drawing, not paintings. My layering technique is based on the idea of revealing and concealing - uncovering a memory and helping it come through.
I use the hardest pencils, 8H, and really inscribe. Which means when I go over with the sander it doesn't take everything off, it leaves traces. The marks the sandpaper leaves are both unpredictable and uncontrollable. It's always a surprise.
I like this. It's like when you go into an old Italian building with flaking paint, then underneath there is something else.
Going back, you went to University in Kingston, graduating in 1998. What were some of the lessons you learnt throughout that period?
At the time, Charles Saatchi was the man. Every student waited for Charles to come into the degree show and say 'I'll buy the lot'. As a result, there was a 'Saatchi' style - the more daring the better.
But I always listened to my tutor, the head of department who was quite old but a good sculptor. He always told me to stay true to myself and follow that. That was probably the main lesson.
You said you were a mature student at Kingston, what was your journey before that?
I did create, but I worked in international banking for over five years in Germany. The worst job for me as I am not good with numbers!
I was adopted by a couple that could have been my grandparents. Whilst I just wanted to make art, they directed me a lot towards accountancy. I ended up studying English in Cambridge, then did a business degree and ended up in banking.
My turning point was when I moved to Switzerland with my then husband, where I could not get a work permit so I started an art course. When we returned to London, I thought I would continue with my focus on creating.
Which artist would you like to have dinner with, alive or dead?
How do you know when a piece is complete?
My strange way of knowing when a work is done is to put it at the end of my bed and stare at it for a long time. Then I sleep on it, and if it survives the night, I think it is complete.
Or what can happen is that weeks later, I come to the studio and realise something is not right. I have no problem going over work with sanders, so I put a layer of paint over and sand it down and start drawing my lines again and see where it takes me.
What are your key principles for producing consistently good quality work?
Keep working, improving, and progressing all the time.
Remember, it is all subjective - sometimes, the work I consider my best is not liked by others.
Often, when I dislike something at first but it survives my judgement, I can come back and think it is a really good piece. It is a love - hate relationship.
If you ever find yourself in a creative rut, where do you find your inspiration?
It's funny, rarely will I visit a gallery. I might see a tiny thing that interests me. Reading a lot inspires me. Or it could be nature, or things happening that are unexpected or unplanned.
What would you say are the biggest myths and mistakes of the art world?
For a student, it's a mistake to think that you will be famous after the degree show. You really cannot give up. The art world is very fickle. Perhaps, if you have a good story, you will be picked up - the media loves stories.
What's the importance of titling for you?
When you submit work to an art competition, it's almost as though if you have a good title you get in even if the art is not good. I believe that I recently got into the Jerwood drawing prize because I named my work 'Me Me Me Me'. That's not to say I don't think the work is good, but I have tried to get into that competition for many years, but this is the first time I got in. So perhaps the title had something to do with it.
How would you approach a training program for me if you only had four weeks to train me?
I would take you on a road trip to Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. The road trip would get you acquainted with the different types of art. Then we would do a residency together in Belgium. There is something about Belgium and Dutch art that isn't as loud as London.
If I had eight weeks, I would probably teach you traditional techniques such as drawing skills, and then we could go on the road trip to get ideas. You do need the skills, even if you abandon them later.
What book might you recommend as a good resource for other artists?
A good one is 'Art and Instinct' . They are short essays written by Roy Oxlade, the late husband of Rosie Wylie.