At home with Jack Vettriano

The painter has turned his west London home into a live-in studio – and it's ideal for watching a glamorous world go by
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The Independent Online

It wasn't until my wife and I separated, when I was 39, that I started painting full time. Before that, we were trapped in a rather difficult position, like a lot of people, struggling to pay the mortgage and also paying school fees for my wife's child. We could just afford to go out once a month if we were lucky. Once I was on my own, I began painting as a full-time career and within a year I was making three or four times what I had ever dreamed imaginable.

Soon I had several galleries keen to represent me, and the press were also starting to show interest. For a long time I didn't have a base of my own in London and I would travel from Scotland for interviews and meetings. Then one day about 10 years ago, after I had a show opening in Portland Square, I decided to look at apartments in central London. I came across this place and totally fell in love with it.

For an artist, it is near perfect. It is north facing, so the light doesn't change throughout the day. It's also perfectly located for Harrods and some of the finest restaurants are close to hand like Scalini's, Bibendum and San Lorenzo. It also has a great balcony, from where I love to sit in the summer time and watch a very glamourous world going by.

When I bought it, it was two rather poky bedrooms – so I changed it to one master bedroom – and a big front room, knowing full well that I would have to live and work in one room. I love it now and I have got used to the fact I don't need to put a coat or a hat on – I just take two steps across the room and I can start painting. It is a lot easier for me to live and work in the same place. I like living in London. It has more of a worldly feel to it, and you can do so many things and lead so many different lives at once. From growing up in a small mining village in Fife, where I shared not only a bedroom but a bed with my elder brother, it has all been quite a big change.

I changed a lot of the interior. Before, the walls were covered in a printed blue and yellow wallpaper and there were thick grey carpets. I have decorated in the style of Art Deco, which is one of my favourite epochs. I painted everything white and put in wooden oak floors. I found a fabulous apothecary's cabinet in an auction at Sotheby's which takes up one side of the front room. On the other is a huge clock that I bought from John Lewis, and some very elegant stage lights that I found in Susie Cooper Antiques in Church Street.

To cover up the boiler cupboard I painted directly over the door, and I now love the image. It was inspired by a love affair I had with a married woman some time ago, and I called it Suddenly Last Summer. I have a natural coal-effect fire and a small flat-screen TV. I don't watch a lot of television, but I love films. One of my favourites is The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by Peter Greenaway and I also love films by David Lynch and Abel Ferrara.

I am always listening to music when I am painting, and I was honoured to see one of my idols Leonard Cohen recently in concert. I also love Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I'm inspired a lot by my own circumstances for my work but also by music. I was very pleased to be included in a song by the Scottish indie band St Jude's Infirmary, who penned a song called "Goodbye Jack Vettriano". Apparently they were in a pub in Amsterdam and saw one of my paintings on the wall which reminded them of home.

I have bought quite a few pieces in my home from auction. I bought an Andy Warhol print recently which I have in the hallway. I once paid £30,000 for a painting at auction but then I sold it a few months later, it retained the price, I just didn't want to keep hold of it.

The one thing that is good about this area is that most people around here all have second homes, so it can be very quiet at times. When I'm not here I like to escape to my flat on the French Riviera, it is slightly bigger and overlooks the Baie des Anges in Nice. You can't beat the light there – it is very inspiring. Interview by Tessa Jo Williams 'Studio Life', with an introduction by Ian Rankin, is published by Pavilion £25. T he artist Jack Vettriano OBE, 57, lives in Knightsbridge, west London. Born in a mining village in Scotland, his work is collected by Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Jackie Stewart and Jack Nicholson. His painting 'The Singing Butler' sold for £745,000 in 2004. He has homes in Fife and the South of France.