William Oxer has painted for as long as he can remember. He spent his early career working in historic interiors, as assistant to Alec Cobbe at Hatchlands Park, and on projects at Harewood House, Goodwood and Buckingham Palace. He now draws his focus back to traditional artwork, undertaking portrait commissions and building a following of collectors as far afield as the USA and Dubai. William talks about his personal relationship with painting, his inspiration and his aspirations as an artist.
For my sixth birthday my parents bought me lots of beautiful coloured inks and a proper old-fashioned drawing pen. My family had a caravan at the bottom of the garden. There was a lovely old table in there, and I used to sit against these felt-filled cushion backs, happily on my own, drawing.
I’d been in various jobs that I hated, and I’d been through a divorce, and I remember thinking, ‘What is it that I’m actually good at?’ It all came back to painting. I feel it’s an innate thing that I’ve been given. It’s something that just comes through me. I find myself zoning out completely from the outside world when I’m painting.
In the last few years I’ve been focusing on classical portraiture and nudes. I like things with traditional beauty. As in architecture, which I love, my subjects represent form, design, colour and grace. What do they represent to me? Happiness. Peace of mind.
There have been so many who’ve inspired me at different stages. When I was 17 it was Augustus John, because of his painterly technique and drawing skill, but also his free spirit. There’s also Edvard Munch. As a youth I was quite a melancholy romanticist and I was fascinated by his life. I remember watching a fantastic three-and-a-half-hour Norwegian biopic that my brother recorded for me. It was amazing. I fell in love with the female lead.
No I don’t. I make the picture and its frame as much of a thing of beauty as it can be, so it stands alone, and any setting will hopefully benefit from it. I use ornate frames with filigree slips, or hand water-gilded, hand-painted frames, which are made by my friend and framer Sallyanne Horley at Southgate Gallery in Exeter.
Every painting I create invariably becomes my favourite, until the next one.
I recently completed a portrait commission of the current vice-president of Skype. That was a challenge given how many people will see it.
I suspect that every hour that isn’t spent painting is possibly wasted, though there needs to be a routine that includes things like walking my dog. I’d love to be like Picasso who just painted and drew every single day. His output was extraordinary.
It’s difficult for artists to feel that they have become a success simply because they have a recognised style. The whole importance of being an artist is that you can readily change and develop. Whilst your market can change, and the people who are following you may change, I think you can work in one style without having to stick to it. I’d like my work to be known not only for paintings of models and nudes, but other types of painting, landscapes and even abstracts. I just want to paint.
A featured in the recent Autumn issue. To find out more on William and his work, click here.