Sunday, Apr 10, 2016
by Josie McCoy
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WonderStreet Interview with Josie McCoy

This week we spoke to artist Josie McCoy, who talked about her work and shared her experience as an artist spreading time between London and Valencia.

You mainly paint portraits of film and television characters. When did you decide you wanted to focus on this type of portraiture?

I’ve always loved painting faces. For me, it’s endlessly interesting to paint eyes and mouths as the shapes are so beautiful! I paint film and television characters because I’m interested in how the paintings mean different things to different people depending on how they engage with the character I’ve painted. My first paintings from film stills were done in 1997 while I was doing my degree at Solihull College in the West Midlands. They depicted Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman in perfect ‘close up’ moments.

You live in Valencia and London. Since when have you spread your time between these 2 beautiful cities?

I moved to Valencia ten years ago, but for the first five years or so I was dividing my time equally between Valencia and London. For the last five years I’ve been more based in Valencia and I like it a lot more for spending more time in the city. It doesn’t have the same wonderful buzz of London, but has a lot of other positive aspects.

How is life as an artist in Valencia?

My studio is an ex boxing gym and it’s a brilliant place to work. I share it with 8 people but we all have our individual spaces, so we benefit from being a small community, but still have our own area to work in. There’s also a gallery and a performance space, so there is often something going on. I like the balance of the bustle and quiet that I get there. There isn’t the same art culture in Spain as in the UK, but one really good event which happens biennially is coming up soon in Valencia. It’s called Russafart, and all of the art spaces in the area where my studio is, open their doors to the public for a weekend in May. We have thousands of visitors to the studio and it’s a really positive event.

On your website you also mention that you graduated from Central Saint Martin in 1999. Could you share a bit of your experience with regards to that course?

Doing the MA Fine Art course at CSM was definitely one of the best decisions of my life. I met such brilliant people on the course, and learnt so much. It also set me up for the first years of my career as a professional artist. After the MA final show, I was asked to do lots of other shows and I met some of the people that I still work with now. It was a really great experience!

How do you know when a work is finished?

I get a sense of peace when I look at it, and I stop finding fault.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

I think my brushes are the most important tools I have. I use each one for a specific way of painting and I don’t think I’d be able to work without them, but I also really love my paints.

Do you have a favorite artist? What draws you to that person’s work?

My favourite artist is Gerhard Richter. For me, his work is beautiful and knowing at the same time.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

Yes, I have a website and also regularly update Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with work in progress images. My Facebook page is Josie McCoy Art, Instagram is josiemccoyart and twitter is @josiemccoy

Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

My next exhibition is a solo show at Sporting Club Russafa, Calle Sevilla 5 bajo, Valencia, 46006. It opens at 7pm on 8th April and will include all of my new paintings.

Could you share a few of your favourite WonderStreet users with us? What do you like about their work?

Three of my favourite WonderStreet artists are Annabel Dover, Greg Rook and John Devane. I think I'm especially drawn to them because their work is really diverse, which interests me.

And finally, could you please share a few images and tell us a little about each?

This painting depicts ‘Cristina’, Scarlett Johansson’s character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. In this moment she’s in a gallery. I like the idea of us looking at her looking at another painting. It’s not quite finished yet. I’ve had an amazing time painting her hair and plan to do two more hair paintings for my exhibition in April. This painting is of ‘Moon’ a character in ‘Hero’ played by Ziyi Zhang. I love how her expression seems ambiguous and allows us as viewers to ponder what she’s thinking. This is a painting of one of my favourite subjects, 'Leeloo', Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element. I've painted her fifteen times, ten from the same second of film - I'm still fascinated by the idea of using a painstakingly slow process to represent a split second in time. The biggest Leeloo’s were 124 x 220cm and were painted to show in the Windows gallery of Central Saint Martins, when it was on Charing Cross Road. This version has references to 3D films (I did a series of 3D works, by making anaglyph images by photographing the tv from the same angle on both sides, and overlaying the two images, then painting the results). You can see more of the Leeloo series on the Time Series section of my website: And the 3D works here:

Thank you Josie for offering your interesting and inspiring views!

More examples of Josie's work can also be found on her WonderSreet profile:

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