My fascination with the human form started at school (St Antony’s Leweston in Dorset), many moons ago. Weekly life-drawing sessions were supplemented by lessons on anatomy and proportion on a Friday afternoon by the tiny but terrifyingly fierce Mrs Maltby. Whilst they may have seemed tiresome at the time, (and in fact I seem to recall that she used to storm out of the class at least once a lesson, throwing her arms up in despair) these lessons have, in fact, been the most valuable foundation imaginable.
Fast forward through a superb foundation course at Yeovil College and a slightly less inspiring degree in Art at Oxford Brookes, a few years travelling and 3 years in gainful employment at an Advertising Agency in London.
A chance new business venture of some friends of friends to open an Art Gallery in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge – and their desire to show some work of an unknown British female artist resulted in the sale of one of my female nudes before the Private View for a sum of money that made my eyes water (although 50% of that did go to the Gallery Owners).
“Aha!” thought I, with £ signs in my eyes. “Why don’t I just ‘run off’ a few more of those. Then I can rake it in!”
Reality proved that it wasn’t quite as easy as that. I hadn’t taken any classes for 5 or so years and I was quite definitely a little rusty. So I joined a local evening class in Life Drawing.
One thing led to another, and soon I was exhibiting in group shows at the Mall Galleries and loving learning again. But it was quite difficult to juggle what was becoming 2 careers. I finally came to the conclusion that it was time to change direction, throw caution to the wind and make use of my artistic talents.
Charles Cecil Studios in Florence in 1992 provided the scene of my metamorphosis into from city-suit-come-amateur-artist to professional portrait painter. Days spent in a freezing studio drawing from Greek and Roman plaster casts eventually gave way to the luxury of a slightly warmer studio upstairs where we translated out skills into painting real people. Whilst very traditional in approach, this Atelier was a superb bedrock on which to build and of all my training at various establishments. My year with Charles Cecil was far and away the most important. (You can read a bit about the techniques taught there on my post “Learning How to Draw – The Old Fashioned Way”)
On my return to the UK I spent 2 years at Byam Shaw School of Art and then Heatherley School of Art, both in London, where I further honed my skills and was able to take what I had learned in Florence and filter it to suit me.
While living in the big smoke, I exhibited regularly in London, including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition in the Mall Galleries. In 1995, I moved down to Somerset, built a studio in the garden, and continued to show my work locally and nationally.
Since 2002, however, when I exhibited my portraits of my then 4 year old daughter, the demand for portraits has been so huge that I have been fully booked since then, often with a waiting list of up to a year. With over 100 children’s portraits, and nearly 50 adult portraits, not to mention family groups and animals, produced in the past 15 years, combined with bringing up my 2 daughters (and 2 ridiculous jack russell terriers), my work has been cut out for me.
Find out more about what is involved in Commissioning a Portrait here
Read what others say here
See the list of Portrait Commissions here
See the list of Exhibitions here
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