06:30 March 31, 2022

Every week I speak to an East Anglian who is impacting the arts in our county. This week, artist Alex Egan.

1. How would you best describe your role within the artistic community?

I spend most of my time working alone, so I can sometimes feel isolated.

I connect to the artistic community in part by being a member of a few artist groups, including The Arborealists. We are currently preparing a major exhibition at Norwich Cathedral, Hostry entitled ‘Trees and the Sacred’.

I get involved in community fundraising projects, especially with Break Charity. Recently I finished painting one of the huge steppe mammoths for their GoGo Discover22 course. The one I painted is sponsored by EDP as the design was won through a competition organized by EDP, by 16 year old Mae Sullivan. I was then asked to execute the design – it was a mammoth job indeed!

Artist Alex Egan in his studio.
– Credit: Brittany Woodman

2. What do you love so much about Norfolk’s art scene?

There is a wonderful variety of arts in the county. Small galleries such as The Fairhurst host exciting works and also venues like the Sainsbury Center with its incredible permanent collection, all while putting on world-class exhibitions.

There is an exciting and growing arts community in Great Yarmouth. I had a joint show at Skippings Gallery on King Street with George Browne called Entangled Life. We had a great response and caught up with Primeyarc, a proactive community artist collective.

There is also the wonderful Norfolk and Norwich Arts Festival which is a real highlight.

3. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a few areas within my practice at the same time.

While the trees are bare, I do commissions for remarkable tree portraits.

I have an ongoing commission at Somerleyton Estate. Each year we select a handful of veteran or old trees and I spend many days drawing them. I then spend many days working on these portraits in my studio.

I’m working on a large painting for the exhibition at the Cathedral. The painting is dominated by a beautiful oak tree which I can see from my studio window and which inspires me daily. I then layer the painting with other elements of nature and what’s on my mind, what’s on my mind and my dreams – magical realism perhaps?

Artwork by artist Alex Egan.

Artwork by artist Alex Egan.
– Credit: Alex Egan

To maintain my sanity during lockdown, I spent most of my time painting directly from nature, as being outdoors relieved my anxiety.

4. What advice would you give to budding creatives?

Don’t panic if your creative pursuits don’t fill all of your waking hours. Try to do a little each day and don’t get sucked into the black hole of comparison and despair!

Only use social media when you’re in the right frame of mind to share and inspire others and be inspired by others.
Working alone can be very difficult, you have to know that you can be disciplined and motivated.

If you’re not passionate about your work all the time, that’s okay. Creating is part of everyone and does not only apply to a creative practice.

5. What does an average weekday look like?

I am a converted early riser; start the day with a cold water dip in a pop-up pool in the garden. The cold water and hearing the birds chirping outside in any weather completely transforms my mood and wakes up my body instantly, I test this by doing a few handstands and cartwheels in the garden.

If I go to draw a tree and I’ll be outside all day, otherwise I go back to my studio at the end of the morning.

Artwork by artist Alex Egan.

Artwork by artist Alex Egan.
– Credit: Alex Egan

I first try to take care of the administrative and domestic tasks, walking the dogs, feeding the chickens, etc., so that I can clear my head to concentrate on work.

I recently started doing a daily ritual while walking the dogs and picking up things I notice that inspire me and creating instant artwork, a pattern with the found objects that I then photograph and post to my Instagram story (@alexmdegan).

If the weather is nice, I’ll work on a painting in the garden. I also teach yoga online, so I might need to take some time to schedule a class.

Since I start late in the morning, I usually work in my studio until about 8 p.m.

6. What is your favorite place in Norwich?

I walked through the cathedral by the river recently and in the spring sunshine it was so beautiful – a combination of beautiful architecture and gardens bursting with life.

I also love Magdalen Street and the Lanes of Norwich – wonderful independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Yard being a recent favorite with the most delicious pastas.

7. Can you name an East Anglian designer whose work you admire?

I’m a big fan of Mark Cator’s work. A renowned photographer based in Great Yarmouth.

We were part of a collective called Group Eight. Eight friends and artists who met every week to draw from nature and exhibit together every year.


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