Tracy Watts' idiosyncratic paintings provide a psychological confrontational, and emotive response to the figurative. Instantly recognisable in style, providing representations of art historic narratives plunged into modernity.
Watts' new body of work 'Special People’ turned towards portraiture with a flourish of flamboyance and attitude. Creative muses entice her with their strength, individuality and talents. From the visual arts, music, performance art, burlesque.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
Always my mother. For her relentless support.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I will create with whatever resources I can acquire. No favourite brands or brushes. I used to work in oils. The history of oils as a master media, and the smell that equates to art as a solid force was important to me. But, when I became pregnant I switched to acrylics. Never returning to oils. I continue to be fascinated with the way you can play with watering, layering and solidifying acrylics for effects. What as a painter you can make it do. Also the colours are so bright.
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I am drawn to a sense of flamboyance in my subjects. Psychologists maybe say it's a bit of vicarious living. Although not a classical painter, my observations of the nude are set in the nude as a tangible quantity to be used as a visual tool. With added political and or narratives. This is separate from the depictions of individual subjects. This becomes more about the person. I have been told that I have the ability to look beneath into the soul. My empathy is a natural attachment to my aesthetic production. My series 'Special People' is a body of portraits showing creatives. From the areas of art, feminist performance art, music, burlesque. Capturing a glimpse of that essential essence that makes them set apart as individuals. People that create and give something that no other can give to the world. This is like magic inherent to each.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
The concept is the subject. Maybe an idea or two concerning additional symbolism may be obvious or occur. Personally I feel that years of research has led to this feeling natural. That the painting grows organically.
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 tend to work on around three paintings at the same time. Partly due to my rapid evolving of ideas. Excited by the initial stimuli a subject gives me I will jump straight in to enquire whether they are willing. So, I either leave other paintings to begin the new one, or have subjects as it were in a mental queue.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
I find that when you view your paintings retrospectively they are more impressive. There is a little 'OH, did I do that'. I am particularly proud of my newer Special People series. There is an involvement of both my technical skills and the way I approach a subject. My favourites are the portraits of the burlesque drag artist Jeff Van Phil. Also the portrait of Nicola Hunter.
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
The artistic period that was a time of growth and skill would have to be the Renaissance. My love of symbolism and how to construct the visual plane came from researching this era during my Master of Arts Degree studies. I came up with the concept of the Female Worthies within my feminist nudes. Inspired in a way by Artemisia Gentileschi. Using narratives taken from Biblical, Mythological and Literary sources I constructed strong confrontational nudes. Just as the painters would have done in the Renaissance. Rather than the passive male dictated objectified forms found in art historic imagery. The nude looked out to confront the viewer.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Expect hard work. There is no easy access to artistic success.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
I have always enjoyed expressionist work. I have always felt the need to have a level of perfection in my work. And that eliminates the instant emotional content. So figurative work with a flourish of colour and rapid energetic brush strokes.
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?
As stated above I cannot say a painting is finished until that level of colour, linear and aesthetic perfection has been reached. This usually takes around four layers of paint. So I could not let it go until this point. This is peculiar to the individual artist.
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?
Both. I definitely perceive myself as a story teller. Narrative content is very important to me. I feel that the intellect should be simulated as much as the eye. But, this is an extension of the creativity. My work has been seen as feminist in the past. But, I do not set out to be overtly political for the sake of it. It is political because I address the nude from the eye of a female artist. Some artists utilise art to open up an issue. I have paintings dealing with domestic abuse. There is certainly a valid reason to produce an art work if the creator has strong beliefs to tell their story. Now in the portraits of creative subjects I am retelling their narrative.
What are you working on at the moment?
Going back to an earlier comments, I have four paintings unfinished. They may be put down for a while until the immediacy of a new idea has been completed. I have a male nude approximately six feet. He shall carry a fig leaf and the title idea is Adam Unashamed. The idea will be to produce an equal female nude. This is rather more impulsive in the colours used and the brush work than my usual paintings. Down to a strong use of green in the flesh.I am also working on a small scale naked portrait of a friend. He has a condition that may reduce his physical health in the future. Bravely he wanted me to paint this portrait of his current physicality. There are also two portraits begun for my creative mothers series. Originally the idea was for Goddess Mothers. But, this was to rigid as I wanted the subjects to choose who they related to in their current or past life experiences. Giving for inspiration a Medusa and a phoenix rising.