Interview: Gary Goodman

Gary Goodman interview

We usually post these as interviews, but this one with illustrator Gary Goodman we’re just running as it came into us. There is something really special about the way it is written.



When I was a child it seemed natural for me to make pictures; one of my infant school teachers put a painting I did of a Scotsman in a kilt with bagpipes on the wall of the classroom, which made me feel good.

I eventually did a Foundation course and a Degree, where I kept a sketchbook because it was what was expected.

I don’t keep a sketchbook now. I make work – some more considered and resolved than others. All that I do is on separate pieces of paper. And I make larger paintings on canvas.

I fell in love with van Gogh quite early on and realised that it’s not necessary for my work to have any meaning, or have something ‘important’ to say apart from ‘this is me’, which is the most important thing I can think of.

A tutor at Uni introduced me to the CoBrA group and I felt vindicated and embraced by an approach and aesthetic that I could connect with. It worries me that lots of artists feel there is a hierarchy of art where conceptual and ideas-led art is kind of more important than ‘pictures of things’. I’m not an unthinking animal; I am a sophisticated, thoughtful and sensitive artist.

My daughter, who I care for on my own, is disabled; and I’m sure this experience feeds into my art.

I love animals and I love women, I don’t find men attractive. People have asked me whether the animals in my paintings are self-portraits; it’s not my place to say because I don’t know. It’s certainly not a conscious decision – I just like the way animals look, and feel it’s a privilege that they share their world with us.

There’s a lot of ego in the art world: showing off, using gimmicks, attempts at machismo or shock. I’m not interested. People say you should consider your audience. I think you should consider yourself, because as soon as you consider anything else you could be thought of as a fraud or a charlatan. I believe in honesty, integrity and authenticity, I can’t be anything else.

I like that as many people who love what I do, think it’s rubbish, childish and puerile. It makes me happy – I’ve worked hard for many years to get where I am, and I know I’m doing my best, attempting to avoid formula or habit. I’ve been told that my work hasn’t changed or developed in years, but I can’t see that as I try very hard to confound, confuse and challenge myself, to pull the rug out from under my own feet. It’s constantly evolving.

I am a poet also, and respond similarly to the world around me. I don’t need to make things up because it’s all there, as long as you have the ears and eyes to  witness it. The world is mad; beautiful and ugly, frustrating and liberating, funny and sad.

I find making art (painting or poetry) neither therapeutic or relaxing. If I wanted therapy I would call a therapist (actually, I wouldn’t; they don’t work – like anti-depressants; they only make you depressed), and it’s never relaxing trying to make something that is authentic – I think of relaxing as something like having a bath (which is relaxing) – making work or writing something that isn’t going well, is the most un-relaxing thing I can think of. However, I do feel a kind of relaxed pleasure when I make something that I am pleased with. Some of my students tell me that they are perfectionists; and by this they explain that their work is neat, detailed, highly-finished. I’m a perfectionist also; and I know exactly when something is ‘perfect’ – usually it takes a lot of editing, changing and re-working, sometimes it comes fully-formed. 

That’s it really.


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