Toby Mulligan sees both sides at Clarendon Fine Art

Toby Mulligan

Toby Mulligan - Credit: Stephen Pover

The ambidextrous artist doesn’t plan his paintings, he simply starts to draw with both hands

Expression of Time by Toby Mulligan

Expression of Time by Toby Mulligan - Credit: Archant

Ambidextrous artist Toby Mulligan says by painting with both hands he is accessing both sides of his brain.

His intuitive and rational sides 'talk' to each other, producing a deeply emotive response, and he works faster than he can think.

He says the right hand is more in control and the left "needs to be freer and gets the bigger picture."

"It's an ongoing juggle, there are some things I paint more with my left hand, but if I feel it's getting too wafty or nebulous I shift to the right. But nothing is fixed."

Mulligan grew up writing with his right hand, but found he could do many things just as well with his left.

Brought up on a farm pre-internet, the father-of-four was scarcely aware of art until his teens.

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"I didn't grow up in an art family and my childhood was quite isolated,but that's been really good for me in many ways. That freedom to imagine has been key for me." As soon as he started to draw figures he felt: "I can do this forever."

But his antipathy towards art institutions meant he failed to finish his Art Foundation or take up his place at The Slade.

"I found art school restrictive, they would ask about politics or subject matter and I was 'I have no idea I just want to do this.'

He ended up living and working as a builder in France. But after hooking up with Clarendon Art, who helped him "connect with the world" he has sold his landscapes, portraits, figurative and abstract oils to sports, film and rock stars like Mick Jagger and tennis ace Roger Federer.

"Back then I was anxious and feeling inadequate, not liking the art world, but having been so difficult for so many years with no support money or connections, they just got me. Now I think it's a massive bonus. I spent so much time isolated, I am not doing things to impress anyone, just doing what I feel. I have gained confidence, built houses from scratch and raised kids, I can do whatever I want in any style, any subject."

Never planning in advance what he's going to paint, the results are intuitive.

"We are so bent on trying to control things, but what you really have to do is listen and sharpen the tools that you have, go with the flow and be free.

"I need to do things by feel. Most of my work is instinctive and things can be revealed as you are doing them, it's coming from my subconscious. I try to understand how the mind works and be the fullest best version of myself, which means confronting all your failings, and focusing on growing."

Toby Mulligan exhibits at Clarendon Fine Art at 76 Hampstead High Street from July 6.