Edmund Palao studied art at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art & Design and the University of Westminster. His work embodies a fascination for hidden and unassuming locations such as night time street views, backlands, dual carriageways and so on. Although he does use photographic images, a lot of his work is done en plein air. He says, "London has so many viewpoints and locations that I can discover and it is not difficult to find the familiar and the unfamiliar juxtaposed together e.g. The Shard or Canary Wharf skyscrapers - visible from long distances across the capital - seen 'propped up' by unassuming residential streets, shops and car service stations." He uses acrylic paints because they have a modern quality that helps him to capture the brittle and bright qualities of the urban spaces that he seeks out.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
For me it is the personal freedom and permission to do what I love best. When I paint outdoors I really enjoy it when I get passers commenting on my art work… that is one advantage of plein air painting… I get to make a personal appearance!
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
It was at art school that I developed my practice of painting from life. I grew up in a leafy Victorian area of North London so I suppose it was natural for me to look to the French Impressionists for inspiration, painters such as Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Ironically my favourite one was Edgar Degas… he worked predominantly in the studio, but I love how he coupled disciplined drawing with innovative approaches to everyday subject matter. I like 20th Century American painters such as Richard Diebenkorn, Edward Hopper and Wayne Thiebaud, with their expressive use of paint, colour and light to depict urban life. A contemporary painter I admire is Danny Markey, for his confident and simple approach in capturing mundane suburban landscapes.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
A few years ago an art director said to me that "it doesn’t matter how good you are, there are at least ten other artists who are better than you.”At the time it sounded like a rather disparaging comment but it did help me to overcome fear and be more open to ideas and inspiration from other artists… and to be motivated in improving my own practice. I joined a professional art network which allowed me to keep regular contact with the contemporary art scene, build up professional and peer relationships and help me to gain confidence as a professional practising artist.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
I take photographs for reference wherever I go so if I am stuck on an idea for a new project then I can browse through my collection of images to get ideas.I believe that creating art is a bit like a game of chess… there is often more contemplation than physical action involved. I am always looking at my paintings and placing them in different parts of the house to view them with fresh eyes!
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
A horseshoe!It is considered a symbol of good luck… I consider myself lucky to have an ability to create pictures and the opportunity to pursue an art career. A horseshoe is also a practical object, it is designed to go places, subject to work and effort.