From the Studio of…Alexandra Gallagher, Surreal Showdown Runner-up

What is your medium?
I love using digital media to create and often use it to sketch out ideas before I use a more traditional medium such as paint. I’ve found it to be really useful and something I’ve grown into. Although I don’t like to limit myself to a particular medium; it depends on what I am trying to achieve.

How many years as an artist?
I’m not really sure. I still struggle with calling myself an artist. I think I’m constantly learning when it comes to creating art, so I never feel I am at that point where I can call myself an artist. Although, I’d say I have been focused on my work consistently for about six years now.

Sketchbook? Do you use one? What type?
Yes, I sometimes use a sketchbook to plan out a piece. Although I mainly use one to jot ideas down and make lists of words that come to mind with a concept. I am quite bad for just jumping into a painting and the digital work I do is never planned. It grows organically. I can never predict the direction the final composition will take; the process is intuitive, visceral and inherently natural to me.


Piece that won 2nd place in Surreal Showdown "Owl" is available for sale for $700.00

Most important tool you use?
The Internet. It’s a fantastic tool for research, viewing the work of, and talking to, other creative people. I also find it a really useful for the modern artist to share their works with others.

Where is your studio?
I use my back room at home. It doubles up as my office, studio and dining room. I’m a very messy person so it takes a lot of tidying up when we have guests over for dinner!

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
That it’s not easy and you have to work hard. Learn about everything and read as much as you can. To practice, practice, practice!

Art school or self-taught?
A bit of both. My father paints, so I was brought up in a creative environment. I did a BTEC National Diploma at college and now I am studying towards a Degree in painting. I have learnt a lot through trial and error. For me, it’s important to constantly learn, to constantly absorb new things, to adopt new modes of thinking. I like to think that I will be learning for the rest of my life.

I have two. One I had done by a friend when I was 17 and one done by myself.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I work to music. I love music of nearly every genre and I can’t stand silence when working. I like to be taken off and lost in my own world.

iTunes, spotify, records?
I like to listen to music through lots of different platforms. I sometimes go retro and get my cassette tapes out from when I was 15 and listen to those.

Succulents or cigarettes?
Cigarettes… and every week I say I’m giving them up!

Favorite sound?
People playing tennis and football on the TV. I actually hate watching tennis and football, but the sound of it on the television makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It reminds me of being a child.

Who are your favorite writers?
At the moment I am finding Melissa Lee Houghton’s poetry really inspiring. Houghton’s recent publication “A Body Made of You” is a collection of written portraits of writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. I find it really interesting for her use of written portraits rather than the more conventional and traditional paint or photography.

Would you rather see your art on a t-shirt or on a billboard?
I wouldn’t mind, I would be excited about both! Having my work anywhere is an honor and a privilege.

Favorite contemporary artist?
There are a number who’s work I love at the moment: Catherine Brooks, Zhou Fan, Michael Hlousek-Nagle, but I’m really into the beautiful but disturbing work of Monica Cooks right now.

Oil or acrylic
I use oil paint. I find oil paint more vibrant, more alive and easier to manipulate.

Photo references?
I mainly use photo references. I find photographs a really useful tool when painting. They can capture more than a sketch.

Is painting dead?
No not at all, and I don’t think it ever will be. Since the beginning of time have people have loved to make a mark. There are millions of people out there that like to paint and so many more that appreciate looking at paintings, so how can it be dead?

What do you wear while you paint?
My pajamas mostly! I get up, sort my kids out, grab a coffee and get working – my husband is always commenting on the fact that my pajamas have paint on them and that I should have more ‘painting clothes’.

"Resurrection" is available for sale for $700.00

Painting Inside or Outside?
I paint inside. When I am out I take loads of photographs to use as reference rather than sketching or painting outside.

Monet or Manet?
Monet. I love the way he tried to capture the light. When I was younger my father taught me how Monet painted, his techniques. That taught me a lot about the use of colour and how to build up a painting in layers – how to build texture and form.

Favorite editing software (if any)?
I nearly always use Photoshop, although I am addicted to the new trend of vintage and toy camera apps you can get for iPhones and the iPad.

Camera type?
I use a Sony DSC-HX21 digital camera. I take it everywhere with me.

Film or digital?
Digital. I find it so much easier and more rapidly accessible for the way I work. I use photographs as the base of my digital collage work or paintings, so the digital format is so much quicker and works better for me.





  1. Jess cross Davis says:

    I absolutely love “Owl” And am glad to see this article.

  2. Well deserved runners up prize to Alexandira Gallagher! Notice the Apple G4 in the background, handy piece of kit for the busy artist.. Good luck!! Tony Scrivener

  3. Little girl in the corner a moving, evocative piece !

  4. Shiam Wilcox says:

    Love the work, very well deserved! So nice to see how other Artists work and think! Really interesting article x

  5. I’m art broker


    My website

  6. Tahala says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s studio doubles as an office and a dining room – and clearly not the messiest girl on the planet, as I thought – hehee! Congrats! Loved the interview.

  7. colin devine says:

    An good insight into what its like to be a modern artist and great work too. i was told at uni that if i carried on painting i wouldnt get a good degree. painting was dead didactic and uninteresting. I didnt beleave that then and still downt.

  8. Wendi says:

    Am thrilled to get more info on this artist. Her stuff is amazing.

  9. So Alexandra you served as a model for Boy George, right :P:P:P ?

  10. pat kramek says:

    Interesting. Enjoyed your interview, your work and your way of thinking.
    Well done.

  11. nadia says:

    Congratulations !

    I really love your paintings on the wall…..
    I like your way of using different media also, curiosity is our best friend….
    and digital work is less messy for sure.


  12. SOM says:


  13. Love some of the more unconventional questions – makes the article more interesting and lively to read. I will take a cue from this for my own articles and artists interviews :-)

  14. Amanda Rackowe says:

    Dear Alexandra

    Lovely to hear about your ‘normal’ artistic life….lack of proper studio, kids, coffee, cigs and paint ridden pyjamas! Digi camera instead of sketchbook…no pretensions, just modern artist juggling life.

    All sounds so familiar…Been painting 40 years and still cant quite call myself an artist. I love the work ‘owl’ has a touch of the Andrew Wyeth about it too…well deserved to get so far in the showdown. Best of luck with all you do. Amanda x

  15. LUKE MCKEOWN says:

    Art for Dummies:

    Little girl lost in a corner, with little giraffe and scorpion, and nice owl for company, oooh, it’s so creepy and surreal, gives me the shivers, and the technique is like a photograph, so it must be real?

    But the strange thing is, why are so many people painting little lost Alice in Wonderland’s?

    Answer: Maybe it’s because these people are little children who still wet the bed at nights because they have nightmares of crawly bugs climbing under their nighties and biting them. . . .

    Surrealism set out to shock by using everyday objects, juxtaposed in a way so as to reveal the strange and disturbing subconscious. Artists today appear to juxtapose everyday cliches, which do not provoke, nor shock the senses, but leave a dry yawn.

    Too many artists. NOT ENOUGH ART.

    • Paul McKee says:


      Man. You should really see someone about your issues. And maybe do some reading about surrealism while you’re at it.

      • Hermit says:

        I’m inclined to agree with you there, Paul. The comment was a little out of order, and considering that she was voted up by her peers and was chosen as the runner-up in the showdown contest, the comment is misguided as well.


Leave a Comment