"A Conversation" with Niki Duffy

September 19, 2018

Niki Duffy is an oil painter based in Manchester selling locally and internationally. He studied animation at university and for a couple of years following he worked as a cinema projectionist. He believes his work has been influenced by his proximity to film. Niki focuses on intimate and mundane scenes, with a view to sensitive expression in light. In his current work, he is trying to draw attention to the quiet and beautiful drama often overlooked in everyday moments. Niki usually work with friends as models to create my paintings.

 "A Conversation", Niki Duffy, Oil on Linen, 90cm x 60cm, 2018 


What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?

My parents were always creative people, growing up myself and my two brothers were encouraged to draw and be expressive. All three of us grew up pursuing the arts.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I'd say I'm a realist painter for now. I like to try and make the simple and mundane feel evocative and dramatic. I like to see what feeling I can create with simple poses of models and scarcely decorated rooms.

What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?

I studied animation at university, and following that I worked in a cinema for a few years, I was working as a projectionist for a couple of them. I think the proximity to film and photography have influenced the way I compose my paintings

"At the Window", Niki Duffy, Oil on Linen, 40cm x 30cm, 2018 


What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?

Inspiration will always come and go. I've found that idling waiting for ideas to come can often lead to an atrophy in creative spirit. I think the most important thing is to keep working, even if you're not feeling it, or even hating what your doing, you have to keep up your practice so that when the ideas strike, you're ready.

Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?

Pursuing art would have been almost impossible if it wasn't for the support and encouragement of my parents, brothers and close friends along the way.

When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?

I mostly work in oil paint on linen canvases, occasionally making studies on heavy paper.

"Dot Dress", Niki Duffy, Oil on Linen, 40cm x 30cm, 2017 


Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution? Also when it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?

I'm mostly inspired by scenes i'll come across in everyday life. Like the way someone is sitting on a chair, or drinking a brew by a window. I'll have an urge to capture it or an image will stick in my mind and i'll recreate it later in the studio.   I usually work with friends as models, when it comes down to collecting references for the paintings i'll encourage the model to have input too.

Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?

My routine is pretty scattered and I play by ear. I work part time so have to try and maintain a balance of work, painting and having some form of personal life in between. As for the time that i work, I'm a bit of a night-owl, often-times I might not start painting until 11pm and work right through the night.

When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?

I'm usually working on one piece at a time, unless the piece isn't working, then I'll abandon it and put it aside and start another.

"Study (Chloe)", Niki Duffy, Oil on Primed Paper, 42cm x 30cm, 2017 


How has your art evolved to be where it is today?

I used to solely make pencil drawings of lone figures. I'd always had an urge to paint but it wasn't until about 6 years ago I decided to commit to the medium. I spent my first couple of years painting just making studies, trying to gain a confidence with the medium. Once I felt confident enough to hold my own with the craft I began working out my own compositions to fully fledged paintings. It's been a long journey and I really struggled with having confidence in myself as an artist. I'm improving in these areas and I'm constantly trying to ward off my own tendencies towards being over-cautious.

Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?

There isn't a single one, and I'm often a bit too busy to keep up with whats going on out there in the art world. I like social media for this, as you can easily peep out and see. I find it encouraging to see there are still painters out there thriving and creating beautiful work in a contemporary climate.

If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?

I reckon it would be pretty cool to chill with the impressionists, but only for a little bit and then I'd come right back to now. How much absinthe can you drink?

"Hair Drying", Niki Duffy, Oil on Linen, 60cm x 45cm, 2016 


What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?

Probably the same challenges as any preceding artists!

What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?

I think if it's what you truly want to do, it's going to get you anyway. Be prepared to fight for yourself, be prepared to be rejected and be faced with little prospects of success. I think most importantly; find your passion, commit yourself to it, if you do that, you will find a way of building a life that makes it work.

We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?

If I've put a piece aside because I didn't feel it was working, then I might return to it weeks or months later, if I'm having a lull of ideas, I have a few unfinished canvases lying about the studio but I do find getting back into the head-space of an old composition is pretty tricky. Knowing when a painting is finished is always hard, sometimes I'll turn a canvas around and then look at it again a few days later and see how I feel. Sometimes I'll work on a piece so much that I'll feel so sick of it I have to stop or I'll go mad.

 "In the Hallway", Niki Duffy, Oil on Linen, 60cm x 45cm, 2017


Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?

I reckon that all depends on the artist and what they're trying to do, I think expression is always valued in society. If you're really good and committed to whatever practice your involved in, then no doubt you'll end up contributing to that artistic zeitgeist whether you intended to or not. 

What are you working on at the moment?

I recently finished a piece that needs a bit of aftercare, oiling out etc. I'm varnishing some older works and collecting ideas for more paintings. I'm in between at the moment so I'm just making small studies and drawings before jumping back in!

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