Ali McNabney-Stevens is someone you can invite into your home, both literally and figuratively. With fun color palettes and aggressive stroke-work, she continuously creates fine art that is both sophisticated and heartwarming enough to hang in a posh living room. So far, McNabney-Stevens’ pieces have been featured in dozens of lifestyle magazines by interior designers who believe her work can tie a room together, and they aren’t the only ones to think so. McNabney-Stevens is now a full-time artist primarily working on private commissions for a living. And despite all this notoriety and success, she still manages to remain humble and approachable. Cliché talks to the Australian-based British artist about her creative evolution and how she’s able to keep up with high demands.
Cliché: After being featured in major lifestyle magazines, how does it feel knowing that interior designers choose your work to complete their own?
Ali McNabney-Stevens: Very flattered. I sometimes get asked, “Is it annoying to work within a specific limited colour palette, specific size of canvas, and in a tight time frame?” but I rather like it. It’s a challenge and hopefully sharpens my versatility.
After having studied art, would you say your education has helped mold you as an artist?
Yes, I would. My degree was a Design and History of Art Degree, and I have been guilty of moaning in the past about how I wished it had been a full Fine Arts Degree. I can now see, however, that nothing you ever do is wasted, and without the design side of my degree and my never-ending interest in History of Art, my thought process wouldn’t be the same when I am painting. My brain seems to be “design aware” when I am working on a painting, so, you see, it all seems to have dovetailed.
How would you say your style has evolved over the years?
My style has gone from lacking color to going bonkers with color, that’s the first thing. Secondly, my mind has definitely evolved to allow me to work the way I do. It seems to extend into imaginary places the more I paint. My hands aren’t doing anything different; it is my mind that has evolved.
What is the creative process like when you’re painting?
I have a number of canvases that I am working on at any one time and I think it’s a mood thing as to which canvas I work on first and what I do on it. The mood or influence can come from a book I am reading, a landscape I have seen, or a memory I am having. It all plays a part when I walk into my studio and start. Some days, I can start and I just begin to play, and other days, I can be far more considerate.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what do you listen to?
Sometimes music, but nearly always BBC Radio Four. Programs like Open Book with Mariella Frostrup, Coast and Country with Helen Mark, or Great Lives with Matthew Paris; I love them all. For some reason, I am transported away with their talking about things that they love to talk about, and I love to hear about like books, landscapes, country, and people.
What or who do you draw inspiration from?
Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Elizabeth Blackadder, Amber Wallis, Matisse, Rhys Lee… I could go on and on.
Now that you are a full-time artist, how do you keep motivated or excited?
By being as courageous and daring as I can within my artistic playtime. The muse only comes when you start creating and you start the art. There’s no point in being safe, and with this comes accidents, and they are often the turning point.
Is your work currently being featured in any galleries? If not, would you like to do shows in the future?
My work is predominantly private commissions at the moment. With regards to a show, Watch This Space, coming in May 2015!
To see more of Ali’s work, visit her website: alimcnabneystevens.com
The Ali McNabney-Stevens Interview originally appeared in Cliché Magazine’s June/July 2014 issue.
Images courtesy of Ali-McNabney-Stevens.