Peter Moolan Feroze was classically trained in Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art, the Slade School of Art and The Royal Academy of Arts. Yet his creative techniques embrace the latest in digital technology, as seen in his figurative study Reflection, Lot 7 in The Christmas Auction.
We caught up with him to hear more about his work.
Peter, it is wonderful to hear more about the processes behind your work, thank you for taking the time to do so. So firstly, what is a digital drawing?
A digital drawing is made on my iPad in notes with editing options or drawing programmes like Procreate with an Apple Pencil or my finger. I draw on the screen and this enables me to send the image to my printer who can print the image small or large.
What led you to work with this medium?
An artist friend recommended that I explore drawing with my iPad because he knew drawing was at the heart of my artwork. I began experimenting and found that the spontaneity it encouraged resulted in freer and less self-conscious pictures.
My brother Jonathan Feroze saw some of the pictures and believed they had quality, he encouraged me to continue exploring the medium. If you love drawing it’s a wonderful tool, you can keep as many edits as you want which is not possible in a conventional drawing on paper. I often combine parts of different drawings to create the final image.
How does it affect your work – both the creative and the physical process?
When I draw with pencil on paper there is a physical sensation of pressing into the surface. For me with a screen its more about skating across the surface, particularly when I began as all my pictures were made with a finger.
At college (and after) my approach was slow and ponderous. At the Royal Academy of Arts I’d work on one painting of the nude or clothed figure for eight weeks or more. Now I draw people quickly, faces in the streets, in cafes with my iPad and then go home and develop them from memory.
I also make some images from imagination. The digital process has freed me up and expanded possibility and led me to unexpected forms of expression. Each work is an experiment rather than working with a favoured style or approach.
However all those years of looking at people, having a relationship with the model at the Slade School and the Royal Academy Schools gave me visual awareness and judgement and also time to interpret feelings and ideas. Those years, and a more traditional training, developed my sense of empathy for people, and I hope that shines through in the portraits I create.
Will you ever return to more traditional techniques?
Good question! Yes, I believe everything is connected in life and part of the purpose of my digital art is to enable me to return to painting with oils with renewed vision and expression. The American poet and writer T.S. Eliot wrote "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know that place for the first time".
For me he is referring to renewal which I believe all the great artists of the past were able to find. Regardless of what they had achieved they could step into the unknown space and reinvent, discover other ways of interpreting. I’m intrigued how digital art would influence me if I had a brush in my hand again! It’s on my list of things to do.
Can you talk us through your creative process, how do you approach the ‘blank canvas’?
When I started making drawings on a screen I worked quickly as I found the process very immediate. My finger would glide over the screen and most of the images were from imagination. I loved that I could keep edits of different stages and the process encouraged me to do daring things like draw a figure in a room and then change it to a figure outside or by the sea.
In one picture I started with a cat looking at the sea through a window and then put a figure in a red dress in front of the cat. The cat looking at the girl who is reflecting in front of the sea. The process is led by invention, ambiguity and the unpredictable.
For Reflection I drew the figures and then spontaneously added very striking red lines behind them, it worked really well. Drawing digitally has strengthened my confidence to explore. I’m trying to bring together traditional drawing values with a modern language of expression and experimentation.
How do you know when a work is finished?
That’s probably down to all those years learning about the nature of looking at college, in museums and in life. To me lines and marks in a picture are only answerable to themselves. There is no right or wrong in picture making, there are no rules, just a set of relations that seem to have relationship or not. It’s one of the reasons why art is difficult to teach.
Is it important to turn the digital artwork into a physical object (i.e. print on paper)?
When my printer printed the first A1 picture I nearly fell off the chair. I loved the way the marks were enhanced, animated and interpreted through the process. I see the printing as very much part of the creative process. I’ve also enjoyed having a relationship with a printer and I’ve become more aware of how the small image on my screen could look when enlarged.
It’s also interesting that some pictures work extremely well enlarged and others don't. Some loose their visual tension. Also areas of colour enlarged become more symbolic and help in the search for a more timeless, iconic image. I’ve been looking at Andy Warhol and appreciate much more why scale was so important in his work.
Where you do see the future of digital art?
Different periods of history provide different tools. A drawing in the sand can be as inspiring as an image made with pencil on paper or on an iPad. When charcoal was invented it was a form of magic. So for me the future of digital art exists in relation to traditional tools and new tools yet to be invented.
Do you think this is the end of traditional techniques - will the Apple store replace the art supply store?
Not at all. You can’t replace the feeling of brushing oil paint across a canvass. Many of the young artists I know draw on paper, canvass and they use digital processes too.
Also life in many ways is circular like fashion. We move onto new things and then we return to traditional things with renewed vision. People thought cinema was going to fade out with wide screen viewing at home but people still love the collective experience. The world becomes more technological but human beings remain much the same as they have always been.
I’m a Renaissance thinker, I believe everything is connected and that a solution to a problem can often be found outside our regular or current focus. An iPad drawing could result in a new and beautiful approach to drawing with pencil on paper
Do you have any other innovative techniques in your sights?
I mostly draw on my iPad from life, memory, imagination and photos. Most of my pictures are of single figures. I’m working towards large figure compositions that could be realised through screen printing.
I imagine them going across a large wall surface. I also like the idea of an exhibition of prints that is more holistic, sensorial maybe involving music. It’s significant that doctors are now encouraging people to go to galleries as preventative medicine addressing stress related problems.
Many of our readers are just about to embark on their first art buying journey – what top tip can you leave them with?
Take your time if you are choosing an art work, you will be living with it each day. Buy because you love rather than like. If there is a picture you think you love, spend time with other pictures in the show and see if you feel a magnet drawing you back to that artwork.
And finally, how can our readers keep hearing more of what you are up to?
They can visit my website that shows my gallery, business creativity workshops and news page. www.moolanferoze.com
Peter Moolan Feroze – thank you very much.
Peter Moolan Feroze is including Lot 7. Reflection in The Christmas Auction, 7 December 2019.