The Guardian Q&A – Jack Vettriano

Q&A for The Guardian – May 2008

Jack Vettriano, 56, was born Jack Hoggan, in Fife. The son of a miner, he left school at 16 to work in a colliery. He began to paint after receiving a set of watercolours for his 21st birthday and is self-taught. In 2004, his painting The Singing Butler sold for £744,000. He is Britain’s most popular artist, and reproductions of his images of beaches and butlers sell in their millions, but he has no work in any of our major galleries. He has homes in Scotland, London and Nice.

When were you happiest?

At the opening night of my first exhibition in Edinburgh.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing my looks.

What is your earliest memory?

Going to Sunday school in Methilhill with my brother, dressed in a Burberry raincoat and a maroon cap. He was dressed identically.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Letting friends down.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Bad behaviour in a social situation.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Being caught having a poo in the woods near Perth by a farmer, when I was about 12. He fired his shotgun to scare me – it worked.

Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

I briefly owned a BMW Z3 that had once belonged to Jay Kay; it was a left-hand drive and it scared the living daylights out of me.

What is your most treasured possession?

A collection of 50s Dunhill snakeskin table lighters.

What would your super power be?

X-ray vision.

What makes you depressed?

It may be easier to answer what makes me happy.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

James McAvoy as the junior Jack and Brian Cox as me now.

vWhat’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?

A cool guy dressed in black approached me at an art fair where I was exhibiting; he asked if I was Jack Vettriano and as he extended his hand to me he said, ‘My gran loves your work’ and then walked away.

What is your favourite smell?

Agent Provocateur.

What is your favourite word?


What is your favourite book?


What is your guiltiest pleasure?


To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?

She knows who she is, and why.

What was the best kiss of your life?

My first french kiss, aged 12.

Which living person do you most despise?

George Bush.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Orla Brady, Leonard Cohen, Billy Connolly, Ian Rankin, Dita Von Teese.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

‘Listen! When I was young…’

What’s the worst job you’ve done?

Trainee shoe shop manager. On my second day, I was asked to cover for the child specialist who was off sick – I may be responsible for crippling the feet of at least a dozen children.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

Not being nominated for the Turner prize.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

To the 50s, where the word androgyny was never used. You can go all day now without seeing a woman in a skirt.

When did you last cry, and why?

At the end of The Shawshank Redemption.

How often do you have sex?

From time to time.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

Less hedonism, more fibre.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Taking the art world from behind.

What keeps you awake at night?

Worrying or thinking about a painting I’m working on.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who gave a lot of pleasure, particularly to women.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?


Where would you most like to be right now?

Here, where I’m at.