Tag Archives: artist interviews

Take five with… Lyn Aylward, figurative portrait paintings

Lyn Aylward’s paintings are concerned with the human figure, portraying people from different backgrounds, in both figurative, narrative works and more traditional portraiture. Her distinctive, realist paintings also explore human relationships, family ties and recollections of childhood.

Family (from on high) oil on canvas ©Lyn Aylward

Take five with… is an ongoing series of informal interviews with Artworks artists. Without further ado, let’s ‘take five‘ with the figurative painter Lyn Aylward, who is a new member of Artworks.

Which person most encouraged you to first become an artist?
My mother first encouraged me. She studied to be an art and history teacher at Southampton during the 1960s and had (and still has) a wonderful sketchbook that she worked in that is filled with portraits and figurative studies of her room mates and friends during her time there. I have always wanted to have a sketchbook that was half as good as hers and I definitely haven’t managed it yet!

Which living artist do you most admire and why?
Chuck Close, whose work is beautiful and for bringing the portrait back into fashion when it was no longer considered to be a modern art form.  He is an inspirational artist who comes up with gems such as ‘problem solving is way too overrated‘. ‘Problem creation is much more interesting‘ and painting is ‘coloured dirt smeared on a flat surface, usually stretched around some wooden sticks‘.

Self Portrait, oil on canvas, 2000-2001 ©Chuck Close

Whereabouts in the world is (or has been) the most inspiring location for you as an artist?
I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2009 and I have to say that when I walked into the room that housed the Chuck Close, Andy Warhol and Alex Katz works I found myself in heaven.  I was on holiday with my cousins and they had to sit and wait for me for at least quarter of an hour whilst I stood in front of the Chuck Close ‘Lucas’ painting alone.  There are many fantastic works of art in the museum and I really would like to go back and spend a lot longer there.  My cousins presented me with a printed bag after the trip which includes a photograph on the front of me standing in front of the ‘Lucas’ painting.  I obviously stood there for what seemed like ages to them but nowhere near long enough for me!

Lucas, oil on canvas, 1987 ©Chuck Close

What do you listen to while creating – music, a radio station, or do you work in silence?
I am a huge fan of all types of music so often have music playing when painting.  The type of music depends on what I am working on at the time.  I mostly listen either to a classical film soundtrack or classical music as it is the only way to stop me singing along to songs and losing my concentration!  Or it has to be something sung in a different language to keep me from joining in or an audio book – usually Agatha Christie.  The golden rule for me is to NEVER put anything on that can be danced to as that just leads to some very dodgy dance moves and some shaky painting!

Dance Teachers, oil on canvas, ©Lyn Aylward

How do you generate or develop ideas for your art?
I tend to scribble ideas on bits of paper and I do have an ‘ideas’ book that I paste into any scribbles, photos or pictures that I think might inspire me at some point.  I am inspired by other artists, photographers, film, books and often the people around me so ideas can spring from anywhere.

Clare and Katie Leaping, oil on canvas ©Lyn Aylward

Could you describe your art studio set-up.
One room, no running water, no heating and the scariest steep staircase but it has wonderful big windows so excellent light.  Brilliant in the summer but freezing in the winter!

What time in the day are you at your most creative?
Definitely during the morning and the worst time is during the evening.

What is the purpose of drawing for you as an artist?
Drawing is incredibly important for me.  I always begin paintings with preparatory sketches.  I never go straight to the canvas.  Plus I think that even if my sketches are not brilliant, they have helped me to really look at my subject so that when I get to the stage of working on canvas I have already got a good feel for the subject/sitter.

Delusions, oil on canvas ©Lyn Aylward

Is there an art medium/technique you’d most like to try but haven’t yet?
I have never tried etching and I would love to try this as I like the idea of being able to have more freedom to draw than some of the other printing methods. I have only printed using lino, lithography and collagraph to date.

If you had to choose between using a pen or a pencil – which one and why?
I would always choose a pencil. The way that you can make different marks with a pencil is the reason why.  Plus you can start a sketch using very light marks so that you are able to correct any mistakes and I find that a pencil enables me to give more tone than ink.

Do you have a personal motto?
I heard Antony Gormley say this in a TV documentary and I have stolen it for my own motto! It is on the back of an envelope and pinned to the wall in my studio. It is ‘what is worth doing, do it completely and tell it like it is‘.

Waste Man, 2006 ©Antony Gormley

Thank you very much Lyn, for ‘taking time out‘ for the Artworks blog – we appreciate the insight into your creative world! Read more about Lyn Aylward‘s work on the Artworks website or view more of her paintings on her own website: www.lynaylward.co.uk

In addition to being a new artist with Artworks in 2011, Lyn Aylward is also an active member of the Norfolk Artists group Breckland Artists. She exhibits her work at a number of galleries throughout East Anglia and also accepts portrait commissions.

There will be another ‘take five‘ artist interview on the Artworks blog soon, so stay tuned…

Take five with… printmaker Janet French

This week, the Artworks blog has a ‘take five’ chat with artist printmaker Janet French. Janet’s artistic process & practice is concerned with nature and the environment:

‘My work explores the fragile symbiotic relationship between man and the natural environment. I work in tune with nature to create work that is testimony to my interaction with materials, conditions, seasons and weather.’

Janet French, Fagus Diptych – Part One, 62cm x 62cm

Nature, landscape and the environment seems to be a strong theme in much contemporary art. In your own work, you use natural materials such as beech leaves to create handmade paper which you then use to print on.

Are there any contemporary artists that you particularly admire?
Environmental artists like Chris Drury, Richard Long and David Nash most interest me because I share the desire to work with the available materials in the environment.

Chris Drury, Mushroom Circle, 1995 © Chris Drury

How do you generate or develop ideas for your own art?
My ideas often come from unexpected sources. A few years ago I joined a group of London artists in an exhibition in Bethnal Green. The common theme among the group was ‘earth’ and I decided to look at satellite images to see what earth could be seen in the area of the gallery. This sparked a continuing fascination with aerial views. Other ideas simmer away for years, occasionally rising to the surface but never quite resolving in to finished work.

Janet French,  Bethnal Green, 54cm x 56cm

Could you describe your art studio?
My studio space is a converted garage. It is full of bags and buckets of leaves and fibres in various stages of papermaking production. I have a small table top printing press which is good for small work and for working through ideas. For larger work I go to Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop which has a wonderful range of printing presses. I like to plan a piece of work and make the paper in my studio at home and then produce the finished print at Gainsborough’s House.

What do you listen to while working in your studio?
Turning the radio on to Radio 4 is part of the ritual I go through as soon as I enter my studio, along with lights, heater, overall etc. Whether or not it stays on depends on what I’m doing. If I’m preparing paper or clearing up ink I like to listen but as soon as I’m doing something creative I turn the radio off. In a typical day I never seem to hear a whole programme.

What time in the day are you at your most creative?  
I am always up early and most creative in the morning. If I get off to a good start early, I can keep going until about 5pm but I can never work in the evening.

What’s in your current sketchbook?  
My present sketchbook has become a great unwieldy heap of drawings, photos and notes on scraps of paper, all of which relate to my present obsession of light seen through trees.

If you had to choose between using a pen or a pencil to draw with – which one and why?  
I prefer pen to pencil and particularly like water soluble ink pens with watercolour paper. I like to draw quickly, add some water, and when it is dry work back into the drawing with pen.

What do you think is the role of an artist in contemporary society?
One of the by-products of creativity is the ability to see things in a different way and to present new ideas in a way that no one has seen before, as well as highlighting beauty and the expression of human emotions. In some cases, artists are in a position to reach multitudes of people by using their status to bring attention to a worthwhile cause or environmental issue. For example, Richard Long’s Africa Mud Maps, which Long has made for auctions and whose proceeds have contributed to aid for the developing world.

Richard Long, Africa Footprints 1986 © Richard long (collection TATE)

One of the most interesting things that artists can do is spur public conversation and in future I may find that I am able to draw attention to endangered species or threatened habitat through my own work. I am currently working on a collaborative print project with another printmaker Emma Buckmaster, and our aim is to produce a series of tree portrait etchings on related leaves.

Janet French, Into the Light, mixed media on beech leaves, 34cm x 32cm

Thank you Janet for sharing a little of your creative world with the Artworks blog!

Janet French has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Colchester School of Art. In addition to Artworks, Janet is currently Joint Chairperson of Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop, and is a member of the Essex Art Society and the collaborative artist group Nine Artists.

Originally from London, Janet French has lived in Essex for twenty five years. You can read more about Janet’s environmental artworks on her Artworks page or visit www.janetfrench.co.uk.

Take five with… Eleonora Knowland, abstract painter

The Artworks blog today ‘takes five’ with the painter Eleonora Knowland. Eleonora’s minimal, abstract paintings are much informed by the rural landscape where she lives, as she explains:

Time spent in contemplation reveals the subtle beauty of the Suffolk landscape which is reflected in my paintings. Muted colour expresses the tranquillity, harmony and immensity of the horizon that is around my Suffolk home. The Suffolk landscape is full of moments of excitement, colour and light, and I am interested in trying to understand what I am experiencing when I see them.

© Eleonora Knowland, 04.16 summer, oil on canvas

I have developed a technique of stretching a manipulated canvas over a curving stretcher, which echoes the soft rolling undulations of the landscape but also creates an interaction with the viewer. Moving around the painting, diverse aspects become dominant, the light catches it differently down a slope, the eye is attracted by a row of stitching, interesting shadows are thrown onto the wall. The stitched lines in the structure of the canvas allude to agricultural and habitation practices that have shaped the landscape we see.

The perception of colour in your paintings is very subtle, understated, minimal, layered – do you have a favourite colour (in life or your art)?
Blue, it is the colour I understand most and I find the easiest to paint in, which could be considered a handicap for a landscape painter. My recent paintings in green have given me more confidence with the colour.

© Eleonora Knowland, 11.58 summer, oil on canvas

The titles for your paintings are very intriguing too, also quite minimal. How do come about or decide on what you will call them?
A trick one this. For a few years I have been calling them times of day and the season. For example ‘8.11 Winter‘ but my current work will have some reference to light, the preliminary work will refer to the final piece.

Eleonora Knowland, 8.11 winter, oil on canvas

How would you summarise your art in just a few words for someone completely new to your work?
It would be calm, followed by full of colour, enigmatic, abstract, and layered.

What are you working on at the moment?
My current work has been building towards a single painting from an initial photograph I took a few years ago. I developed ideas in a sketch book, then sketches in oil on watercolour paper, then oil on oil-ready paper, two studies on canvas and now I am beginning the final piece. This will of course not actually be final as I expect this subject will bug me for many years to come.

Could you give us a picture of your studio space/set-up?
I work in a converted 1950’s grain store beside my home. My industrial sewing machine is in one corner ready for me to stitch on the canvas for some of my paintings. There are my unsold paintings and drawings of nudes on the wall. More paintings lean against the shelving, they stack really badly because of the curved canvasses.

Do you have any music playing while you are painting in your studio?
I listen to a variety of classic and solo artists on my ipod. What’s a typical working day for you as an artist: Up early, a few household chores, painting or stretching canvas etc. As I paint in layers of oil paint and I only work on a couple of paintings at a time I have usually done what I can by lunch. Occasionally I will return in the afternoon if I am stretching and priming a new canvas. Dig the vegetable garden etc, walk the dog etc do “stuff” cook, eat sleep start again.

And what time in the day are you at your most creative?
In the morning. I paint after breakfast then garden or do whatever after that.

© Eleonora Knowland, 12.15 Treshnish Isles, oil on canvas

Is there a contemporary artist whose work you particularly admire?
The Irish painter Felim Egan. His abstract landscapes have a clarity and spatial understanding that I find very uplifting.

What have you discovered from looking at the work of other artists, such as Egan?
That thin unseen layers of paint lift a painting from the ordinary to the extra ordinary.

Felim Egan, Tideline g, watercolour on paper, 2005

Can you remember the first work of art you ever saw for real?
I remember a Bridget Riley Op Art painting during the 1960’s. Her paintings were very exciting. What’s your first memory of creating art and what was it? I remember painting a wave on a sheet of 4ft x 8 ft hardboard with a friend when I was about 15. I went to a very “arty” school form the age of 10/11 so I have many memories of creating everything from copper pots through books to dresses and paintings.

That’s very interesting, that you should recall painting a wave, with reference to your own curved canvases and the paintings of Bridget Riley.

Bridget Riley, Late Morning, 1967-8, (collection TATE)

If you could select one famous artist to invite to dinner (dead or living, it’s not a problem) who would it be and what question/s would like to ask them?
Turner. I would ask about how he saw the world and why he painted in such a colourful abstract way.

JMW Turner, Norham Castle, Sunrise  c.1845 (collection TATE)

Is there a famous artwork or painting you would really like to own, assuming money & space is not a problem? 
I would happily house anyone of the more enigmatic Turner’s, a Rothko or a Felim Egan.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, oil on canvas,  c.1950-2 (collection TATE)

We all have opinions about art. Is there one work of art (contemporary or historical) that you don’t like – and if so, why?  
Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory‘. I find it really interesting but the paint is too smooth and it feels slick to me.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory, oil on canvas, 1931 (collection MOMA)

Drawing is talked about a lot as a fundamental aspect of creating art, what is the purpose of drawing for you as an artist?
Drawing reminds me to look, to see really carefully. Photographs are helpful but to really understand, a few minutes with pencil or crayon in hand makes all the difference.

What single piece of advice would you give to a budding, aspiring artist?
Draw/sketch every day.

So, what’s in your current sketchbook?
It is full of studies on one photo of light seen through trees.

Is there an art medium/technique you’d like to try but haven’t yet?
I would like to do some more work with print. I did some printmaking during my degree but would like to develop it more.

© Eleonora Knowland, Atmosphere IV, oil on canvas

The East Anglian landscape is clearly very inspiring to you as a painter, but the ‘Atmosphere’ series of paintings suggest a different direction. Is there a place in the world that you’d really like to visit, as a new source of inspiration?  
I would like to visit the Antarctic.

If you were stranded on a desert island (or Antarctica!) without any art materials or equipment what would you most miss using?  

Lastly, lots of people like to ask this simple question of artists – why do you make art?
I have to.  

And what do you think is the role of an artist in contemporary society?  
It’s impossible to say as I think they fill many roles. My role as an artist may be to make people look about them and see the beauty in everyday surroundings.

Many thanks Eleonora!

You can see more of Eleonora’s distinctive paintings on her Artworks profile page, or visit her own website, eleonoraknowland.co.uk

Eleonora Knowland had a successful career in interior design and fashion before studying Fine Art at Colchester School of Art and Design, where she graduated in 2006 with a First Class Honours degree. Married to a Suffolk farmer, she has lived in East Anglia for over 30 years and much of her creative inspiration is derived from the subtle beauty of the open Suffolk landscape. She has exhibited in both East Anglia and London.