heatherleys

‘I think life is about people and human connection’: Q & A with Sarah Jane Moon

With our first show, ‘Motherhood’, opening this week we take time to chat to New Zealand born Sarah Jane Moon, recipient of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ 2013 Bulldog Bursary, about life lived across continents, her transition from curatorial theory to portrait painting and several exciting upcoming projects.

Sarah Jane Moon working on a commission in Scotland

Sarah Jane Moon working on a commission in Scotland

How did you become a painter?

I often feel like the process of becoming a painter is a continuous one, but that stated, I first started painting as a child. I was always ‘good at art’ winning several local awards for drawing and was often accused of ‘copying’ by friends at primary school, which I took as a compliment. I distinctly remember the excitement of finger painting before then at kindergarten and also a peculiar fair ground entertainment that involved squeezing tubes of paint onto a spinning wheel with paper attached to produce a sort of kaleidoscopic pattern. I was always drawn to pattern and intricate detail, my most favourite colouring in books being those that had repetitive designs ad nauseam.

Teenage years saw my interest in art continue and I was very keen on New Zealand painters such as Toss Woollaston, Rita Angus and Colin McCahon. I had one particularly memorable teacher who was flamboyant and bohemian and used to refer to colours as ‘flavours’ and seemed to be viscerally affected by tone and line. She was fabulous and her enthusiasm infectious. However I was also fascinated by other subjects and a rather pragmatic upbringing encouraged me to choose Japanese language and English literature to study at university. Having to choose extra courses to fulfil points requirements I soon added Art History as a third major and looking back it was obvious that I had probably just wanted to paint.

On graduating university in New Zealand I then travelled for a decade or so, living and working in countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Australia and, by roundabout route, the UK. A break in my nascent career in Arts Management led me to take a short course in drawing at Central St Martins (after having not drawn a thing for 12 years) and that soon led, by chance to a late application and enrolment on Heatherley’s Portrait Diploma. I was very very amateur in the beginning but many of the tutors were kind enough to encourage me anyway and I soon gained some degree of competency in drawing. Since finishing the course in 2011 I have been painting and drawing professionally.

What drew you to portraiture in particular?

The week long course I took at Central Saint Martins was tutored by a fabulously enthusiastic young woman by the name of Alice White. At the end of the course she was astute enough to suggest that my inept scribbling, which she kindly referred to as ‘mark making’, would potentially suit portraiture. Being rather adrift in all other areas of my life at the time and searching for something to invest myself in, I was off to google ‘portrait courses london’ immediately and thus ended up at Heatherley’s.

Although I like to paint landscape and still life, I continue to be seduced by portraiture and find it a rich vehicle by which to contemplate intimacy and distance, presence and absence and the things that constitute the identities of our selves and others. I think life is about people and human connection and so feel fortunate to have my profession reflect that in some way.

'Tamson, Kilburn', 140 x 146 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2013

‘Tamson, Kilburn’, 140 x 146 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2013

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

There are so many. Some that come to mind immediately: Lucian Freud, Alice Neel, Henri Matisse, Paula Rego, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, David Hockney, Maggi Hambling, Frank Auerbach, John Bratby, Euan Uglow, Leon Kossoff, Colin McCahon, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Laura Knight, Francis Bacon, Tai-Shen Shierenberg, Hokusai Katsushika, Amedeo Modigliani and Georges-Pierre Seurat.

Also many of the tutors I have been fortunate enough to study with (Atul Vohora, Andy James, Linda Nugent, Khan Holly, Susan Engledow, Susan Wilson) and many poets and novelists too.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait? 

I think there are many definitions of a ‘good’ portrait, but when making work myself I like it to, as a given, have something of an accurate likeness, and then to further go beyond this and convey something of how a particular person IS in the world; to state something about their presence or demeanour or character. It must then function as a good and interesting picture formally, that is, to be harmonious in terms of composition, colour, detail, content. I like portraits of people to be set in environments that are particular to them and that tell part of the story of who they are.

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

I currently have a painting in the Lynn Painter Stainers exhibition at the Mall Galleries which runs until 22nd March, and I shall be exhibiting again in May with The Royal Society of Portrait Painters in their annual exhibition (8th- 23rd May) as recipient of the Bulldog Bursary.

There is a short article on my work in the current issue (2) of Muff magazine.

I am working on several commissions, one for Jesus College at Cambridge, and also have several personal projects ongoing. One that I’m particularly excited about involves two very large (250 x 200 cm) group portraits that will be set in a late 17th century house in Stepney Green.

My website is sarahjanemoon.com and I have a facebook page here.

Many thanks Sarah Jane! 

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

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Q & A with Mark Stevenson

Between helping install our next group exhibition, ‘Motherhood’, Mark Stevenson catches up with us to share a few words about painting, life and inspiration.

Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson       

How did you become a painter? 

It took a while! At school I went down the science route – even though I wanted to do art I couldn’t – and after university I spent 17 years in the oil industry, exploring for oil and gas.  Just after my 40th birthday I decided to take a break.  It started as a year out but I never turned back. I was inspired and encouraged to paint by my mother, a watercolourist, and by an elderly architect friend.  I joined his life class – pencil, charcoal, pastels – but soon realised I wanted to paint.

I studied first at Lavender Hill Studios, where they take a traditional approach to portrait painting, and then the diploma at Heatherleys where the project based course run by practising artists helps one find one’s own style – eventually.

In painting from life, whether a nude or portrait, it is such a challenge to compose and produce something worth looking at. So initially it was this challenge, and the thrill of composing and developing a painting, studying the landscape of the body or face and getting it on to paper or canvas.  Later it became more about what I get back from painting, expressing myself and getting lost in a painting.  It can be very fulfilling, and very frustrating.

Marta, oil on canvas, 24 x 30cm, 2011

Marta, oil on canvas, 24 x 30cm, 2011

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

I like painterly works, where there is movement and plasticity in the way paint is handled. I’m not keen on photo realism.  It’s no surprise then that I’m inspired by Van Gogh, Lovis Corinth and Freud. Freud is incredible, I like his challenging compositions, relatively limited, subdued palette and bold juxtaposition of colour temperature in his flesh tones. Corinth is just amazing in his virtuoso handling of paint.

What, to you, constitutes a good portrait? 

A likeness is only important to the sitter and people who know the sitter. Any portrait that moves you is a good portrait and far more important. A portrait that draws you in and says something about the inner life of the sitter is a successful work.

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

I don’t have any big projects or themes I’m working on. I have a few portrait commissions coming up and I’ll continue my urban landscape painting when it stops raining.

Many thanks Mark! We hope to see more of your work soon. 

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

‘It’s hard – try it!’: Hilary Puxley on life, painting and other artists

Hilary Puxley is next up on our list of members of the Lots Road Group to interview. Here she chats with us about juggling family life and a career as a shipping solicitor and entrepreneur, her love of making and collecting portraits and the many artists she looks to for inspiration, including Degas, Rembrandt and Jenny Saville.

Hilary Puxley in her studio

Hilary Puxley in her studio

How did you become a painter?

By the scenic route!  My mother was an art teacher and I spent much of my childhood drawing and painting.  I particularly drew portraits and, shamingly in retrospect, ran a cash-for-drawings enterprise at school.  That was the end of my artistic career for a long time though, as academic subjects took priority.  I managed evening classes at the Ruskin School of Art when at university but that was about it until I emerged from other careers – working for an African charity, being a shipping solicitor, helping to set up an internet business (www.justgiving.com) and not least being a wife and mother. All the time though, if someone had asked me what I really wanted to do, I would have answered “Paint portraits”.  So I was delighted to sidle onto the Portraiture Diploma at Heatherley’s, via part time courses.  I’ve now been painting commissioned and other portraits for a number of years and continue to feel very lucky to be doing what I most like to do as my profession.

Why portraiture?

I am so irritated by the glib idea, quite often expressed, that portraiture is an inferior art form.  It’s hard – try it!  I’m not sure why, except to state the obvious – that I like to observe the infinite variety of the human form and face.  I have always been gripped by portraiture and the portraits are the first thing I look at in art books or exhibitions.  I collect 20th century portraits in a very minor way – only from minor auctions, junk shops, even eBay, and I’ve had some interesting and successful searches for the identities of artists and sitters in unattributed (cheap!) works.

Which other artists inspire and why?

This is a moveable feast – enthusiasms come and go, but some artists I keep in mind when painting are as follows:

Manet, because his figures and faces are bold, quite simple and direct, and he can make the viewer’s eye do the work, for example in “Luncheon in the Studio” recently at the RA, he conveys the information that the boy’s jacket is velvet, though it is almost featureless black.  I looked very carefully.

Jenny Saville, paints flesh with extraordinary virtuosity, verve and generosity, using a delicious palette, even when the image is ostensibly challenging – so much better than Lucian Freud’s khakis. I wish.

Rembrandt, not for the psychological profundity – that comes of decades of thought and practice – but because despite his power, he also has extreme delicacy of touch.  A portrait I know well is that of his mother reading, at Wilton House, in which tiny flicks of paint convey exactly what he intends.  Be bold, but also be careful, subtle.

Degas – master of composition, often extremely unconventional (thank you Japanese printmakers).  A favourite is “The Dance Class”, which has the legs of the dancers coming downstairs in the top left.  A moment of casual movement is captured, but the geometry is there and the intellect is working hard.

I have recently been in Vienna and resumed my admiration for Klimt, Schiele and their contemporaries, after a lull of 20 years or so.

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

I’m working on what is turning out to be a series of portraits and drawings of Margo, a fitness instructor with a fantastic physique – and face.  On the drawing board (literally) is a group portrait of actors on stage in a period comedy performed by a young theatre company called “Let Them Call It Mischief”, who very kindly allow me to draw at their rehearsals.

My website is www.hilarypuxley.com

 

 

Below is one of Hilary’s portraits, entitled ‘Toby’. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on painting with us Hilary. 

'Toby', oil on canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2013.

‘Toby’, oil on canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2013.

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

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 www.allabroeksmit.com

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

‘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.