Beauty is subjective but in my work clarity and harmony are the key to creating beauty.


Owen Normand is a Scottish figurative painter who trained at Edinburgh College of Art and is definitely a name to watch. He won the prestigious BP Portrait Award Young Artist Prize in 2013 and his painting ‘Das Berliner Zimmer’ was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The following year he was named as one of only 15 new emerging artists of great promise from around the world by Rebecca Wilson, Saatchi Art’s Chief Curator. We recently caught up with Owen and asked him about his passions, processes and philosophy – and other things not necessarily beginning with the letter ‘p’.

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All Towers Fall II (detail)

To begin at the beginning. Was there a damascene moment when you decided – or knew you had to be an artist?

When I was 15 I entered a pastel drawing into an open exhibition in Inverness and I later found out that the Scottish painter John Byrne had bought it. I have always been a huge fan of his work so it was a massive boost to my confidence to know that someone I admired had seen something in my work.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making your work, we love process.

I like to work from life when I can but I don’t mind working from sketches and photos too. When I have an idea for a painting I always do several thumbnail pencil sketches to try out different compositions. Once I have settled on the composition I start my painting with a burnt umber underpainting, to give a good impression of the tonal values in the work. Once I have laid the foundations for the painting I can start with colour.

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Is there a piece you’ve created that you’d like to be remembered for, for all time, or even longer?

My painting ‘Das Berliner Zimmer’, which I won the Young Artist Award for at the BP Portrait Awards in 2013. I think the strength of light and colour in it make it one of my most successful paintings.

Das Berliner Zimmer


If you could work within one past art movement, which would it be. And why?

I love the idea of working in Paris in the 1920s. There were so many different and exciting art movements happening at that time and in that place.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less. N.B. There is no correct answer.

Beauty is subjective but in my work clarity and harmony are the key to creating beauty.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting which has been your inspiration?

My favourite painting at the moment is Frantisek Kupka’s ‘The Yellow Scale’. It was the inspiration for a recent self-portrait.

How does the culture of where you live or work impact on your work?

I usually paint people I know, so the culture of where I live inevitably has an impact on my work. Until recently I Iived in Berlin, so I met people from all around the world. After seven years I am now back in Scotland and reconnecting with old faces.

Rain in Milan

Tell us about your colour palette.

I have been experimenting with new colours. I can’t live without ultramarine and burnt umber though.

Which artist or artists would you most like to meet? And do you think you’d get on?

Velazquez and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. I hope so!

Do you interact with technology in your work?

Not very much.

What do you wish every child was taught in school, at home, in life?

To hold on to their creativity and not lose it with age.

Have you ever held your head in your hands and questioned your career entirely?

Once – fairly recently actually. Being a painter is a very isolated career mostly and very self involved. I had a breakdown of confidence about the worth of what I do. But after working through some experiments that went badly, I am back on track and I have had some great responses to my work recently.

Do you love what you do? And does it love you?

Yes. When it is going well it is I am living my dream and there is nothing in the world I would rather do. When I get really enthusiastic and heartfelt responses to my work it feels like it loves me back too.

The Hump of Saturn

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