Mandy Payne, John Moores 2014 shortlisted artist - guest blog

In the final instalment of the John Moores Painting Prize guest blogs, shortlisted artist, Mandy Payne discusses her unlikely move from dentistry to paint! Her prizewinning work, 'Brutal' is painted directly onto concrete and comes from a long interest in the Park Hill estate in Sheffield.

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What made you enter the John Moores?

I graduated from art school last summer and I remembered one of my tutors talking about the John Moores during our last term there. He encouraged any painters within our group to have a go. I had visited the exhibition in previous years but would never seriously thought about entering it myself without his active encouragement. I found out when the next entry date would be and also purchased a few old exhibition catalogues to see what sort of work generally got selected.

How does it feel to be a shortlisted John Moores artist?

To be honest I still can’t quite believe it! I was astounded and of course thrilled to be shortlisted - to even have work selected for such a prestigious exhibition, especially as a recent graduate seemed unbelievable. It was particularly important for me as I recently gave up a long career in the NHS to paint full time and it validated that difficult decision.

Do you have a favourite John Moores winner?

Can I pick two?!  One of my favourites is to Peter Doig’s painting ‘Blotter’ (1993). There is something about it that just draws you in and makes you feel immersed in the landscape. I love the way he seems to combine both figuration with abstraction and also the slight sense of unease that his works seem to generate. However I also really like Dan Hays 'Harmony in Green' (1997) which depicts an oversized empty guinea pig cage. I was fortunate enough to attend an artists’ talk that Dan Hays gave earlier this year and found the process of how he works (meticulously using grids and manipulating digital images to explore colour separation) fascinating.

Are art prizes important?

For me, being actually shortlisted is more important than the prize money – although the cash will certainly come in handy! I would like to use the money for something special if at all possible; to re-invest it in my art ideally.  I am thinking of applying for some residency posts in the near future and if I was successful would need some funding to help pay for travel costs and other expenses and it would be good to put some of the money towards something like that.

Why paint?

I have always loved painting. When I was working in the NHS I found it a great way of relieving stress – to escape and switch off. I find when I paint (or draw for that matter)  I can become so completely absorbed in the process that I forget about any worries that might have been previously troubling me.

Tell us about your studio

I work from home. I have converted my garage (which is quite long) into 2 studio spaces. The back end is my painting space, the front I’ve made into a printmaking area. I have a small press there and as well as painting also do a bit of etching and lino cutting. The painting section is well lit with lots of natural light but the printing bit is a bit gloomy so the majority of my time is spent in the painting area! I am afraid I am a very messy worker and tend to work on lots of pieces at one time. I will start on one painting and then get so far with it, perhaps needing the paint to dry and then move on to another. It’s a bit chaotic really but then I will get to the point where it is all such a mess that I can’t find anything so have to have a good tidy up which is always quite cathartic and seems to help my work!

Do you have a routine when you paint?

I don’t really have a set routine but ideally I like to know that I’ve got a good window of time in which to work without being disturbed. I like to make the most of the natural light and so like to get cracking quite early if possible. I might work all day but don’t tend to paint in the evenings.

Do you listen to anything when you paint?

It depends, I often like to have Radio 4 or 5 on as I work or occasionally some upbeat music, other times I am happy with just my thoughts and quietness.