About/how long have you been a practicing artist: Hi I'm Neal, 47 years old, 5ft 9, blond hair, beard going grey, sad eyes, I live on a boat, single, no pets. After a long time out of college and away from FINE ART I got a bit serious again about 10 years ago. I don't practice, I'm bad all the time (BSOH). Blackpool.
Smiley face: It started as a pathetic symbol for many other living moving forms, since I can't paint them: birds, frogs, wind, noises, insects, smells. Now it's a symbol of me being unable to paint anything much. I suppose I'm an abstract painter really but just can't bear the idea of a space without something stupidly alive in there.
Humour: Yes, I don't want to impress people with my skill, my naturally ripped abs or my bling. I'd rather they laugh or even condemn first and then perhaps relax. The first impressionists can fuck off. Underneath the stupid front are hopefully some quite subtle colours, textures, narratives and serious ideas about environmentalism and inclusivity. I think all images are ridiculous, but the worst are inflated, pompous and sour.
Routine, studio, swing a cat: I used to paint in a plastic greenhouse and if I swung a cat in it I would bang my hand, now I have a bigger shed on a boatyard in Norwich and me and the cats can have a vigorous spin. I used to go to an allotment daily but here I go to my shed in the evening after working on the boats here. I realized today this plan isn't working so I'm on the day shift again. Up early, fiddle about, walkabout, fiddle more, eat a bit, get depressed, try again, give up. Try again next day.
Process: I just try to keep painting, often just a colour change or mark/anything, then something comes into my head and I try it out, it fails, I try something else, it fails. Somehow I get interested in one or two things, just by persevering. Then I edit them, to try and make them better, this can take up to a year, though the initial image could be a 2 minute blast. Sometimes they are layers of failure and a 2 minute blast at the end is as good as it gets. The final image must certainly be as alive and interesting as the first, ideally more.
Influences: Too many. All paintings and things that are made as evocations of life, none that are evocative of status, power, concept, journalism or sensationalism. I am a bit of an art hater these days and cant say I've looked at anything arty for a few years. I've always liked Van Gogh, Malevitch, Lowry, Goya, Picasso, Ucello, Giovanni di Paolo, Guston, Giotto. I have a soft spot for Arte Povera and modernist simplicities.
Titles: Often just quick, frank descriptions of what I think they are, sometimes I need to explain more. As with my work, my favourites are both throw-away ridiculous and suicide serious.
Future/shows: Sort of, but shows make me feel sick so what's more exciting is a maggot trapped in a web and a kind of salmon pink and cadmium yellow combo, I've made a big 7ft lamp-nice colours.
Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16