Month: February 2014

A Chat With Alla Broeksmit

We catch up with the Lots Road Group member Alla Broeksmit below:

Alla Broeksmit

How did you become a painter? 

I am a London based figurative artist, specialising in portraits. My studio is just off the New Kings Road. Four years ago I began a journey, mid-life, that has allowed me to build on my extensive experience supporting fine art, to become an artist myself. My association with art institutions, coupled with my background in interior design, have allowed me to develop an artistic eye. Design work helped develop my sense of composition and colour. From that grew a desire to construct my own art forms and explore my instinct to create.

What drew you to portraiture in particular? 

Ukrainian born, and steeped in the vibrant contemporary art scene of New York, I studied art in the British figurative tradition at The Heatherley School of Fine Art and at the Prince’s Drawing School. Studying portraiture at Heatherley’s, I became interested in painting portraits that are not a direct reflection of reality but communicate my painterly observations and style. My technical training in figurative art allows me to be produce compositions that are present, immediate and impactful.

‘David’ by Alla Broeksmit (oil on canvas)

I experiment with the texture of oil paint in capturing the fleshiness of faces and nudes, since paint is, quite literally, the canvas’ new skin. I focus on capturing human figures to communicate layers of experience – both my own relating to my history and my artistic education – and that of my sitter. My studies have firmed up my belief that drawing is essential to map out one’s work.

Which other artists or painters do you look to for inspiration and why?

A hybrid of three cultures, my art aims to fuse their influences – from the religious iconography found inside Russian and Ukrainian churches, modern constructivism and social realism to American contemporary and UK figurative art.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait? 

Tutored by members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, I express myself through the language of art, seeking a dialogue with the viewer through my gaze to the sitter, and then to the viewer.

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about (exhibitions, articles, websites, commissions, personal projects)? 

Currently I’m taking the figurative aspects of my work and inserting them into more abstract forms. I am also fascinated by the immigrant experience and am exploring how to incorporate my life experience and family photographs into my art. My website is

Many thanks Alla! 

(all images and text copyright thelotsroadgroup 2014, please ask permission before use)

Katherine Firth on Painting


Another Heatherley graduate, Katherine Firth, who has a previous career as a Picture Editor, answers our questions about portraiture and painting below.

Katherine Firth

Katherine Firth


A Chat With Katherine: 

How did you become a painter?

I have painted most of my life, but studied History of Art at University and had a career in publishing as a Picture Editor before I had my children.  Once they were born, I made a concerted effort to take classes when I could, culminating recently in my studying for the Portrait Diploma at Heatherley’s.

What drew you to portraiture? 

I have always been compelled to capture likenesses, from my schooldays when I used to illustrate my exercise books with caricatures of my teachers, and it’s a fascination which I never seem to tire of.

Which other artists or painters do you look to for inspiration and why? 

Sargent for his drawing skills, genius at catching light effects and his virtuoso brushstrokes, Degas for his sense of drama and mystery, Rembrandt for his apparently effortless drawing and wonderful ability to capture character, Andrew James for his honesty, colour and vigorous brushwork.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait? 

A good portrait is one which of course captures a likeness, but one in which one can sense the personality of the sitter.  It should ideally say something about the moment in which it is painted, which is possible if painted from life, but rarely achieved if done from photographs.  I want also to be interested in the surface of the painting and in the composition; both of which need to be complex enough to keep my attention over a long time.


‘Lisa’, 2013, 10″ x 12″, oil on board

The painting above was painted as part of an ongoing project I’ve set myself; to do a number (I’ve done about 12 so far) of quick sketches in oil, mostly taking about 2-4 hours.  I was particularly interested in capturing the moment with this young girl (18) as she talked about what her plans were for her future, but also to make a painting about the surface; keeping brushstrokes lively and immediate.

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about (exhibitions, articles, websites, commissions, personal projects)?

I don’t have a website.  My father and I will be holding a joint exhibition in Cambridge in the Spring (date t.b.c.)

Many thanks Katherine! We look forward to seeing more of your work soon. 

Private View: Parallax Art Fair

You are invited to the private view of the Parallax International Art Fair at Chelsea Town Hall this Thursday, 20 February from 7.30-9.30pm, where two of our members, Christine Klein and Stella Tooth, will be exhibiting portraits.

Representing The Heatherley School of Fine Art, Christine is just putting the finishing touches to her artwork whereas Stella’s was completed at the end of last year.

Hod carrier from mud city of Djenne near Timbuktu 2013

Hod carrier from mud city of Djenne near Timbuktu 2013

Stella Tooth’s painting shows ‘The Hod Carrier’ – a young man from the mud city of Djenne in land-locked Mali in the Sahara who dreams of a sea he will never actually see.

We hope you will be able to come and share his imaginary journey at the private view at Chelsea Town Hall on Thursday 20th February from 7.30-9.30pm. To be put on the guest list, please email by today (Tuesday) noon.

If you can’t make Thursday, the fair opens its doors to the public from 1-8pm on Friday 21st and 11-5pm on Saturday 22nd February. Entry is free.


The organisers, BFA, have ensured an international flavour, with artists of all media attending from all around the world, including the USA, Canada, Japan, Georgia, Costa Rica, South Korea and across Europe.

The Parallax Art Fair is not your typical art fair. It allows both new and established artists to exhibit on equal footing, without judgment or qualification by the organisers. A firm exponent of the “art is the viewer” perspective, Parallax is keen to attract a broad audience, both art lovers and casual browsers, to allow more people to become involved in art without pretension or expectation.

Dr Chris Barlow, the original founder, says “We just want people to come and see our huge range of international art. It might just chase away the winter blues, present the opportunity for investment or a gift for a loved one, or just inspire new thoughts or ideas. Art is for an audience to enjoy, to make of it what they want. Our artists exhibit over a vast range of media, so we truly have something to appeal to every taste and budget.”

Many of the artists have fascinating stories to tell which often inspire their creations: Keith Sheppard for example, a UK sculptor who uses glass and metal in his work, was inspired by a life-threatening accident which almost left him paralysed. An operation fusing two of his vertebrae with metal allowed him to walk again. He says, “My work explores the possibilities of fusing the improbable to create objects which are remarkable, unusual, and life-affirming.”

The international line-up includes award-winning artists from many fields, as well as the new and undiscovered. From a sculptor (Patrick Warren) whose work in steel now adorns the outside wall of the Harlow Theatre, to a painter (Sonia Villiers) whose work was chosen by the City of London as its official Christmas card, the art fair showcases an astonishing range of styles and media.

With 225 artists in February’s line-up, the variety will be impressive. As well as paintings and sculpture in all conceivable materials, the fair will include paintings, photography, x-rays, light-displays, textiles, pottery, jewellery, ceramics, natural materials, embroidery and far more to create an experiential, visual, tactile exhibition that explores the possibilities of art and form to the full. Many artists are unique in their chosen fields: US artist Paula Fontaine for example uses x-ray technology combined with “floating” frames for a highly original and striking end result, while UK-based Zara Linington uses nail varnishes to create unusual, abstract works which are a fun, ironic and feminist take on Jackson Pollack’s work.

For a flavour of the ParallaxAF experience, geometric abstract artist Dorothea Schilling, who exhibited at October’s art fair, has created a short film showcasing her work and the exhibition as a whole. It is available to view here:

For further information:

On Portraiture, Travel and Inspiration: A Chat With Martin Burrough

Our next member profile features an interview with Martin Burrough, an alumni of The Heatherley School of Fine Art who has a background in Reinsurance.

Martin Burrough in his studio
Martin Burrough in his studio


A Chat With Martin:

How did you become a painter?

The best looking girls at Uni were those doing a fine arts degree. Hanging around the studios seemed like a good idea at the time. This was at an American University in the mid 60s and some of the excitement of the New York art scene rubbed off on me. Acrylic paint was an exciting new medium for many hard edge pop art painters. So I had a go and loved it. The head of the Fine Art faculty was wonderfully encouraging and I was determined to develop into a professional artist. Reality intervened and parental pressure pushed me back to London and into a job in the City. As it happened, a stimulating career in Reinsurance introduced me to many areas of the world, particularly in Asia Pacific, and, more to the point, to many different art scenes.

Obviously life got a bit busy, raising a family and earning a living, but I always managed to keep my eye in by joining life drawing workshops, visiting countless museums and throwing oils and acrylic around in the odd painting class.
On retirement I leapt at the chance to do the Portraiture Diploma at Heatherleys with Susan Engledow, looking for a fast track toward attempting a second career as an artist. Portraiture wasn’t initially my main interest but I did recognise that the course would provide discipline and a considered, traditional development of skills. The environment was perfect, classmates were really good fun and the tutors and models were outstanding. The flame was lit and portraiture became a passion.

Do you still focus on portraiture?

Yes. I now have a studio in West London with a huge window facing North and work on commissioned and non-commissioned oil portraits. However, I have learned that it’s a great release to get out of the studio and paint in plein air as well as trying all the different mediums. Lots of life drawing helps too and it’s very energising to have a crack at still life studies, iPad paintings and printing. But I’m always drawn back to the exhilarating challenge of portraiture.

P050 - MBurrough portrait of Enzo
Enzo, Martin Burrough, 2012, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm

Which other artists or painters do you look to for inspiration and why?

Part of the fun of my artistic venture is building up some knowledge of art history (from a very poor base), studying the masters and trying to keep up with contemporary work. My favourites seem to change week by week but I do get very influenced by what I see. The Impressionists provide such a wealth of ideas. So does Picasso, Richter, Diebenkorn, Tai Shan Schirenberg, Jemmy Saville, Lucian Freud. And look at the stimulus one can get form Velasquez, Caravaggio and countless others. To roam a museum is like filling your soul with inspiration.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait?

Obviously a good likeness is key. So a pose that is natural for the sitter is important. It is vital to take serious time and trouble with setting-up and lighting the subject. With natural light if possible. Hard work at this stage makes the actual painting so much more of a pleasure. It’s like a roller coaster – a hard grind to get to the top and then, woosh you’re off, on a wild ride. If the end result shows something of the personality or quirks of the subject, so much the better. Some kind of real engagement with the sitter during the whole process helps. I want to see strong contrasting light, bold colours, good modelling of the head and, finally, a picture that I would like to hang on my own wall. However it is awfully hard to know when you’re finished and, then, to be satisfied with your own work.

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about (exhibitions, articles, websites, commissions, personal projects)?

I’m just about to leave for a 16 day trip to Ethiopia and, watercolours nervously in hand , want to come back with a sketchbook full of images that I can develop. Otherwise I continue to build up a body of work for exhibition. The first step being to finish off the 16 or so current paintings that I have on the go. Far too many! My website is

Many thanks Martin and we look forward to seeing your work post Ethiopia!

(all images and text copyright thelotsroadgroup 2014, please ask permission before use)

From The Newsroom To The Studio: A Chat With Stella Tooth

Over the next month or so we will be blogging about individual members of the lots road group. To start with we have the fabulous journalist turned painter Stella Tooth pictured below:

Stella Tooth painting John Humphrys

A Chat With Stella:

After more than 20 years as a London based journalist and broadcast news pr, you decided to change your blackberry for a paintbrush. Why did you decide to reinvent yourself as a figurative artist mid-life?

Although always artistic, I opted to pursue art as a hobby, after leaving college and university, and made my living, instead, first as a journalist and then as a broadcast news PR. My interest in art was fed by taking evening classes in life drawing and painting. Around 2007 I found that was not enough. A friend introduced me to Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea – a school which specialises in figurative art, where Walter Sickert and Michael Ayrton trained. I was heading up publicity for Sky News at the time and I shifted my hours to undertake a portfolio course. My art began to take off, my confidence grew and I was soon hooked! About a year before I left Sky I discovered my portfolio had won me a place on the school’s two year Portraiture Diploma. I talked it over with my husband, Nigel, and we decided I should go for it. I completed the Post Diploma in July 2013 and have been taking portrait commissions throughout. I am now a tutor myself for Sketchout, which provides dynamic drawing classes at the V & A , The Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery and The Courtauld.

Which other artists or painters do you look to for inspiration and why?

Figurative art was out of fashion for some time – since Picasso. But there is a renewed interest in it in the UK and, as a British painter, painting in the context of British art, I’m delighted to have the pioneering work of Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Rego, Spencer and more recently Jenny Saville and Ian Drury to look to. I also love the photographic portraits of David Bailey.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait?

I see a portrait as a collaboration between the sitter and the artist who, like a broadcast journalist, provides a filter for the viewer. Those who sit for me surrender their faces to be painted as I see them not, as in a photograph, at a moment in time, but at this point in their life. So I seek to not just record body language and expression, but to provide an insight into the sitter’s character and life experience.

What has been your most interesting experience as a figurative artist so far?

In 2013 I was among 50 international artists selected to take part in the first Egypt art biennale in Sharm el Sheikh, along with three other artists. The biennale was run under the auspices of three Egyptian ministries: tourism, culture and foreign, with the aim of supporting tourism in the region. During our 10 day stay, we were asked to paint in public – in the town square, inspired by spectacular ‘whirling dervish’ and fire eating performances, in the desert nightclub housed inside a cave ‘La Dolce Vita’ and in the bustling Naama Bay shopping area.

In the grounds of the Sonesta Beach Hotel, where we stayed, we were visited by a stream of ministers as we each painted two 70x80cms pictures for the competition. The pictures were judged at the end of our stay by a panel of international judges, with prizes awarded at a televised gala evening attended by European and Middle Eastern art critics in the landscaped grounds of Le Royal Hotel Resort. Selected pictures then went on show at the hotel until Christmas. The closing night reception, with performances by Egypt’s best known singers and dancers, was attended by the Admiral Governor of South Sinai (whose portrait I was asked to paint). Pierangelo Arbosti was the overall biennale winner and my fellow London artists Rohan Samuel and Annalisa Colombara came 2nd and 5th respectively with Annamaria Dzendrowskyj receiving a biennale plaque. Italian artist Archille Quadrini and I won the Judges’ prizes.

I have to say it was an absolutely exhausting, yet exhilarating, experience to paint alongside other artists from Europe and the Middle East – specialists in watercolour, in oils, in figurative, landscape or abstract art. We had the chance to exchange ideas, to learn new techniques, from the showy display of burning gold leaf onto canvas to the texturising of paint by mixing sand into it. We realised quite quickly that all of us were products of our own, distinct cultural traditions. And, of course, the experience of being part of a shared endeavour gave rise to a camraderie that has produced a lasting legacy of being part of a supportive community of artist friends.

The Hod Carrier, Stella Tooth, oil on canvas, 80x70cms

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about (exhibitions, articles, websites, commissions, personal projects)?


As an ex journalist & news PR, I have begun exploring the on and off air personas of news broadcasters, as a way of uniting my past and present careers. At the BBC and Sky News, I spent a fair amount of my working life looking after the public image of some of the UK’s best known news journalists. I’ve been working on a series of more personal images of them, using the limited amount of time they can give me in their high-pressured working lives to paint colour studies and take reference photos of them in their workplace or in their home studies. So far I have painted BBC Radio 4 Today Presenter John Humphrys at work in Today studio – a first for the show, as they had never had an artist painting live on air! I also painted then ITV News at 10 Presenter Julie Etchingham, who I met at Sky, in the home study where she prepped for the Royal Wedding and caught former BBC Chief Correspondent Kate Adie, who now presents BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent, at the BBC, in between her commitments to promote her new book The Legacy of Women in World War One. Sky News’ former Political Editor Adam Boulton sat for me at his home, just before he moved to a new flat and to a new job as presenter of the channel’s new flagship evening programme. And George Alagiah, who presents BBC Six O’Clock News and GMT on BBC World Service, has sat for me at New Broadcasting House.

What did they think of the experience? Humphrys said: “It’s rather odd having someone do your portrait while you’re working. They say the camera never lies..sadly, neither does the artist. I rather hoped she might iron out the wrinkles!” Etchingham said: “Being scrutinised by an artist’s eye is a world away from sitting in front of a news camera – a far more personal and exposed experience – but the fact I know how gentle and endearing Stella is made it an altogether easier time than I’d imagined.” And Boulton said: “Because we are looking out from ourselves most of us don’t know what we really look like let alone what impression we make – a portrait is the best way to find out and Stella has an artist’s eye and professional insight when it comes to people from the media world like me.”
When I have completed the project if the National Portrait Gallery, set up to record eminent Victorians, happened to come a callin’ I certainly wouldn’t have any problems with that!


My other art stems from curiosity about those with whom we share this global village, particularly the melting pot that is London.  With a lifetime’s passion for reportage, I tell the stories of the buskers, musicians and dancers that inspire my art, exploring themes of separation and connection. Fascinated in the interplay between illustration and fine art, I seek to blur their boundaries.

Many thanks Stella!

You can see more of Stella’s fabulously bold and engaging work via her website  and her  Brighton-based dealer Kellie Miller Arts.

(all images and text copyright thelotsroadgroup 2014, please ask permission before use)