I am an artist who finds working with drawing and painting exciting. I use a combination of the imagined and the observed to create images that take me by surprise. Memory is a powerful source of imagery; I like to alter and intensify it to arrive at something dreamlike and theatrical. Making things up as I go along is something I have done since childhood.

Pattern, colour and gesture also drive me and play as much a part as ideas and narrative; the dynamics of the picture- making process itself throwing up choices and nudging me to take risks. This approach, which mixes fantasy with reality, reflects how I feel about the psychological issues of place, identity and autobiography.

I use oil paint, charcoal and collage. I am also fascinated by ancient techniques and their contemporary relevance. Egg tempera (where I grind pigments into egg yolk and apply them to a home- made gesso ground) and, more recently, fresco (where I paint with pigment and water onto a damp lime plaster) have become passions that have opened up a range of exhilarating opportunities and possibilities. The balance between working on my own in the studio and working on site with others is energising. With fresco, I have to be organised and this contrast between the need to plan and my love of spontaneity is a challenge I am currently investigating.

Olivia irvine in her studio