Behind the Easel – Jessica Ford

Behind the Easel – Jessica Ford

INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST JESSICA FORD

If you’re looking for a dose of colour for your interior then look no further! Abstract, bright and bold, Jessica’s work is testimony to her confident use of colour. This is art to make you smile, to bring colour into your home, and I can’t get enough of it. But whilst Jessica’s work will certainly make a statement on your wall it doesn’t dominate, there’s a subtlety, a texture and depth to her work; her pieces engage, bringing life to a space.

I connected with Jessica through Instagram, one of my favourite places for discovering artists and creatives. One thing I love about her account is that she shows her artwork in-situ. I think it helps so much to see art curated like this, showing how it contributes to the feel of a space.

Here’s my interview with Jessica, with lots of images of her work too!

PLEASE COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK FOR US..

I am a fine art abstract painter, who specialises in colour! I’m a colour obsessive: how shades work with one another, how they make you feel, how colours can change in intensity according to what shade they’re paired with.

I’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST.

I studied for a degree in illustration at Bath Spa, and spent my early 20’s working as an artist agent in London, whilst trying to get my illustration career off the ground. I have been a commercial illustrator for eighteen years but decided five years ago to try painting as a means of escaping the computer! I was longing to make art in a simpler way, getting back to physically making art and using my body, instead of being slumped over a computer all day! I still illustrate and have recently been lucky to find some real success with my children’s book range (‘ABC What Can She Be’ is an Amazon bestseller!). Having a bit of financial freedom has allowed me to spend more time in my painting studio which has been such a gift.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

Colour has always been a big part of my life and I’ve always had a very natural relationship with it. I wear a lot of colour, which I know some people find hard to do! I’m always on the hunt for interesting colour combinations and often save scraps of things I find and reference them later if I want to seek inspiration from them. Pinterest is also a go to place, and of course Instagram which is a serious addiction of mine!

WHICH ARTISTS ARE YOU INFLUENCED OR INSPIRED BY?

I love the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Patrick Heron and contemporary artists Liza Giles, Sophie Abbott and Becky Blair.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY FOR US?
I often paint in my studio in the morning and the first half of the afternoon, as the natural light is better then (my studio is east facing). By 2/3pm I’ve often peaked and head home to work on my illustration projects. It’s really nice to break up the day doing different types of work, as long stretches of painting can be tiring and quite intense! You have to concentrate very hard and make lots of micro decisions on each painting, so I find 6 hours in the studio is my maximum!
DO YOU EVER SUFFER FROM ‘CREATIVE BLOCK’ AND, IF SO, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT? 
Often! Some days it just flows really well and sometimes it really doesn’t!! I always work on a few paintings at a time, on rotation, so that if I’m stuck, I’ll just move onto the next painting. Often you just need a bit of time away from a painting to then come back with fresh eyes and immediately you’ll spot what needs doing.
IS THERE A PIECE THAT YOU’VE CREATED THAT YOU’RE PARTICULARLY FOND, OR PROUD, OF?
I recently did a painting for a family in East Dulwich in London and I think that one came out really well. It was a lovely large one and had lots of neons in it. The brief was to do something bright and bold and it was a real joy to work for a customer who had such a confident style.
IF YOU COULD CREATE A PIECE FOR ONE PERSON (CELEBRITY OR OTHERWISE) WHO WOULD IT BE?
Good question! Hmmm. Well it’s gotta be a colour lover, so perhaps the fashion designer Matthew Williamson? He’s always had a great confidence with colour and I think one of my paintings would look fab in his home!
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR PEOPLE CHOOSING ARTWORK FOR THEIR OWN HOME?
I would advise them to think about what kind of emotion they’d like to feel when they see the painting. Do they want something soothing, something invigorating, something dark and brooding? Each painting really does have a different feel to it and often the emotion of a room can be transformed by having a painting as the focal point.
WHERE CAN WE SEE, AND BUY, YOUR WORK FROM?
You can buy directly from me at www.jessicaford.co.uk and on Instagram at @jessica_ford_art. My studio is always open to those who would like to see the paintings in real life before they buy! I also sell my work in a lovely gallery called Artologie in Cuckfield, West Sussex.
AND FINALLY, WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I will be taking part in the Artwave festival in Lewes, for three weekends in September: 11-12th, 18-19th, 25-26th, at The Cowshed, Upper Wellingham Barn, Wellingham Lane, Lewes BN8 5SN. Do come and say Hi!
Behind the Easel – Emma Whitelock

Behind the Easel – Emma Whitelock

A CONVERSATION WITH ARTIST, EMMA WHITELOCK

I first discovered Emma’s work at a beautiful local gallery, Silson Contemporary. I found Emma’s work instantly captivating; it’s evocative and engaging. Her subtle use of colour and texture to create a feeling, to draw you in, is incredible. I could certainly sit and look at her work all day long! So, I was absolutely delighted when Emma agreed to feature as part of this blog series. It has been a joy getting to know more about her journey to becoming an artist, her influences and inspirations as well as understanding her art a little more too.

Here Emma tells us her story, and how she came to follow her creative dream after taking time out from her career to have her daughter. Do take a moment to get lost in her words and, of course, her art. It really is beautiful!

 

PLEASE COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK FOR US?

My paintings explore the emotional connection to land and sea in a semi-abstract style. I create expressive works, the landscape acting as a foil to human experience. Each contains a tiny abstracted female figure, capturing a charged moment filled with remembrances past or possibilities for the future. Starting with a sense of place and compositional balance, I work by building up layers. I paint primarily in acrylic, but combine this with a variety of mixed media, including texture mediums, inks and rich glazes. I gain inspiration from the expansive Yorkshire coast and wild moors, as well as annual trips to Cornwall with it’s stunning light. My works are not of specific places though, and evolve more from a feeling or memory as well as the spontaneity of the paint. 

I’D LOVE TO KNOW A LITTLE MORE ABOUR YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST, INCLUDING YOUR INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS…

My journey to becoming a full-time artist has been an extended one. My parents were both artists (though my father always had to juggle this alongside a traditional profession) and I grew up in houses that always had a studio, where art was both produced and collected, and interesting friends visited. These included the renowned sculptor and painter, John Wragg R.A, who was a highly talented but blunt Yorkshireman who would tell us stories of the upsets he would cause with his forthright opinions at the Royal Academy. I admired his lack of pretension and passion for conveying truthfulness in his work. From a young age my rather eccentric late mother would get me to skip school to accompany her on trips to Christie’s in London where I would diligently mark the sale prices in the catalogues of the modern art sales as she waited to bid. We would also tour the galleries and exhibitions so I was constantly seeing work in the flesh. I have made art for as long as I can remember, drawing, painting, collaging, even making models. My first artistic influences were the French painters of the early twentieth century. 

At University I studied Art alongside English Literature at York St John. I specialised in collagraph printmaking and have continued this love of texture and working by catching colours on relief surfaces in my painting. My tutor, accomplished printmaker Peter Wray, introduced me to the work of Antoni Tapies and I was immediately drawn to his interest in conveying the passage of time through the marks we leave behind. My English undergraduate thesis was on the portrayal of women by Thomas Hardy and I think you can still sense the feeling of ‘The Return of the Native’ in my landscapes. Graduating with a First Class Honours degree and the University’s Humanities Prize, I was awarded a British Academy Scholarship to undertake an interdisciplinary MA by Research in English with History of Art at the University of York. I have always enjoyed exploring both words and images. My work was on the Bloomsbury sisters, painter Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf, and how they both conveyed the same sense of hidden female emotions through their respective mediums. Again, this interest in literature very much feeds into the poetic nature of my work. I still feel the influence of writers like Woolf, Hardy and Yeats in the mood of my paintings – and another painter sibling, Jack Yeats. One of my all time favourite paintings is his ‘There is No Night’. It’s pure drama in paint. 

Even though I did well academically, I never thought it was realistic to earn a living as an artist. I begun a career in education marketing which lasted over ten years, though I always continued to create in my spare time, from printmaking evening classes just to have access to a press, to life drawing and photography, as well as writing. Then I had my daughter and after a break to stay home with her until school, I finally thought it was now or never to do what I really wanted in life. I gave myself six months to produce a portfolio and then took my work to two galleries. I remember feeling like I was on Dragon’s Den, but miraculously the first immediately accepted some work and the second gave me some pointers to come back in another six months. However, after just a few weeks they offered me a joint show with established printmaker Sally Clarke, who I had met through York Printmakers and greatly admire. This was at Pyramid Gallery in 2016 and though my work has evolved substantially from that time, the same mood is echoed. By the end of that year I had been contacted by an exciting new gallery in Harrogate, Silson Contemporary. I exhibited with them in early 2017 and was then offered representation as a Gallery Artist. From then I’ve been exhibited in numerous galleries with my work exhibited widely across the UK and overseas.

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY EXHIBIT & WHERE CAN WE SEE YOUR WORK?

I have remained with Silson Contemporary in Yorkshire and you can view a collection of my work there. It is a private house gallery where the owner beautifully curates modern art works alongside a keen eye for interior design. I am also represented by Eastwood Fine Art in Hampshire and The Linda Blackstone Gallery in London and overseas. I am normally a regular exhibitor at the popular York Open Studios and the Art & contemporary art fair but have taken a break from these during the pandemic. I am, however, happy to make individual appointments for visitors to my loft studio in York. You can, of course also see a selection of my work on my website at emmawhitelock.co.uk.

Perhaps the biggest development in the last couple of years for me has been social media. I am very lucky to have a substantial Instagram following and many clients from all over the world contact me through this platform. I have recently ventured into Reels, short videos which provide the viewer with a condensed view of my painting process. One of the first of these gained over 800,000 views and I have been amazed by the response from both collectors and other artists who find the insight into the methods so fascinating and at times hypnotic. 

WHAT ABOUT “CREATIVE BLOCK” – DO YOU EVER FEEL IT?

Painting for me is a combination of conveying emotion and enjoying the free flow of the medium, with all the surprises along the way. Sometimes these are happy accidents, loose marks that just glide, texture giving depth, a pop of colour in just the right place. Frequently there are many obstacles to overcome before you feel something is right – all artists will know this feeling well. I remember a visitor at open studios once saying to me how ‘relaxing’ it must be to paint all day and I informed her that sometimes it felt more like going into battle. Of course the rewards outweigh the struggle and if we weren’t striving to constantly do better then everything would be staid. I am always grateful that I can spend my time pursuing my interest and that others find joy and solace from it.

DO YOU HAVE ANY GUIDANCE FOR PEOPLE CHOOSING ARTWORK FOR THEIR OWN HOME?

If anyone is trying to decide on a painting, to me the overriding factor should be about which one they are drawn to instinctively. Some people will simply be attracted to certain colours or marks, or feel that it reminds them of a certain place and that’s fine. For me personally though, the most rewarding thing is when someone makes a connection – when the work reflects back at them with silent understanding, revealing something of their inner world beyond the everyday. Like my hidden figures and the words of Virginia Woolf, I would like them to feel “All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”

SOCIAL LINKS

Website: www.emmawhitelock.co.uk where you can view a selection of my work

Instagram: @emma.whitelock for my most regular presence, with the latest pieces and process videos

Building a Nest

Building a Nest

Five weeks ago, our bundle of joy, Baby Thomas, came into the world. A whole 7 weeks early. I won’t lie, it has been tough. Probably one of the toughest we’ve been through as a family. A month on NICU, breathing difficulties, infections. The list goes on. But this post isn’t about that. It’s all a little too raw too process right now, if I’m honest. And anyway, let’s face it, you’re here for the interior chat!

This post is about nesting. 

Not of the avian type, but the third trimester urge to create a nest for your new baby (or as it usually presents itself in my case, writing lots of lists, furiously sorting out cupboards and drawers and generally becoming a regular at the tip and charity shops after a massive declutter. All to the horror of my on-looking husband). 

Recently, I’ve noticed that my Instagram feed is full of beautiful mamas putting the finishing touches to their gorgeous nurseries. Poised with their 40 week bumps, and the glow of anticipated motherhood. The trouble with the Instagram algorithm is that it thinks it knows what you want to see. But when life goes off-piste, it seems that Instagram takes a while to catch up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for all these expectant mamas. Honestly. And I love looking at the beautiful rooms. But is there a little part of me that envies them? Absolutely. I didn’t get those last 7 weeks of pregnancy and I often feel really cross about it.

But, before you all think I’m being superficial or self-indulgent here, I know more than anyone that none of this matters. I’m lucky (in an end-result rather than process kind-of-way). I have a healthy, happy baby and I’m doing fine. It wasn’t the “Mother & Baby doing well” message I’d hoped to send following delivery, but we’re getting there now. Whether or not I have a nursery perfectly styled for Instagram makes not one jot of difference.

Yet on another level, the fact that I wasn’t ready, that my home wasn’t ready, has had a massive impact. I didn’t have a chance to nest. And it’s this process of preparing a space, a room, our home, that I’m talking about here. 

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past week since we brought Baby Thomas home. Apparently, so the theory goes, Nesting is a process which ties us to our ancestral past. It helps to ensure we provide a safe environment for our babies, and this helps to promote family bonding and attachment.

For me, not having the nursery done wasn’t about having missed the opportunity for an Instagram snap with bump. It was about feeling like I hadn’t prepared for my baby. It was so important for me that everything felt ready that I found it difficult when it all happened out of sequence. And when I did get to bring him home from hospital I just wanted him to have his own, safe corner of the house. For him to belong.

He clearly does belong. And his nursery is now more than a room full of boxes. It’s very nearly finished (blog post to follow), and I’m feeing much better about it all. Although it was one of those things that felt unimportant compared to everything else we’d been through, it bothered me. It shouldn’t matter, but it did.

Our homes are (or should be) our safe space. The process of spending time to create that family space, to nest, should never be underestimated. And, although I can’t show you a 40wk bump with pregnancy glow, I can show you a little squidge of a baby. I’ll spare you my exhausted face though. For now.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

I’ve never really had an issue naming things. I had my children’s names all ready for when they were born. Jotted down at the back of my diary just in case I forgot?! The cats, the dog. They were all named within minutes. 

But naming my business? Well, that’s a whole different story. Just ask my husband, children, sister and graphic designer. They all became implicated in what became a relatively painful process! The trouble was, because it didn’t come instinctively, the more I thought about it and the harder it became. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea, only to google it and find out someone else had got there before me.

When I first set out on my own I used my own name. Well, my first and middle name. My surname was just too long and awkward to do anything with. It kept it personal and, ultimately my business is me, so it made sense for it to take my name. 

Over the years, my business has grown, I’m growing a small and informal team around me and it feels time to up my game. I wanted to create space for development. And although I don’t hold anything against my parents, I just don’t really like my name. Or rather, I don’t like being called Caroline Ann which is what started to happen. Caroline I’m fine with, but not my middle name too. 

So I decided to find a new business name. How difficult can that be?! 

I wanted a studio name which was modern, authentic and expressed what I do. Ultimately (hopefully without sounding too pretentious) as an Interior Designer I create homes and spaces which tell the client’s story. Through my blog I tell people’s stories; whether that’s the story of design, the story of brands or small businesses or my story. The concept of storytelling seemed fitting. 

So I had the concept. But the exact name was a little trickier to pin down. Eventually, with a little help from my graphic designer (@lauracrompton) Storylines was born. In Laura’s beautifully succinct way, she described the heart of a story as the storyline, the narrative, and that is exactly what I replicate in designing the interior. I also like the architectural reference to lines. 

Although the studio no longer carries my name, I’m still there, behind the brand, articulating the stories. Storylines is just the next chapter, I do hope you’ll keep reading…

Design Edit: Guest Bedroom

Design Edit: Guest Bedroom

So you’ve done your Christmas shopping, ordered the turkey, and sent the Christmas cards. Of course you have! But have you sorted the guest bedroom for all the lovely family and friends you’ve got coming to stay over the festive season?!

As much as I love a full house, I’ve declared no room at the Inn for us this year (with the kids, the dog and the cat we already resemble a zoo)! There’ll be plenty of folk coming in and out for dinner and drinks, but we’re not hosting anyone to stay. However, if you are and your guest room needs a little refresh, then here’s a handy edit for you. All you need to create a welcoming room for those festive friends.

#1 My absolute favourite. Linen bedding does not get any better than this. And just look at this deep teal. £155 for a King Size duvet cover, from Piglet in Bed

#2 Of course you make your guests a cuppa in the morning, yeah?!! Well, if you’re feeling generous, this pot for two is just divine. Celine Tea for Two from Anthropologie

#3 Nothing beats listening to the radio in bed (although perhaps that just shows my age). Anyway, this Roberts Radio looks the part too, £100 from Urban Outfitters

#4 I first discovered Charlotte Rhys products when I was in South Africa and I use their Pillow Spray every night. Utterly gorgeous scents, now available to buy in the UK. £17 from Charlotte Rhys

#5 If you don’t have a chunky knit blanket you need to get on to it! Mizz Knits has the most fabulous range of colours to choose from and, although you may have missed the cut off for bespoke blankets, there’s time to get a couple of cushions to add a pop of colour to your guest room. Blanket prices vary but chunky knit cushions are £40 from Mizz Knits

# Nothing gives your guests the green light to relax and snooze-in like a pair of sloths. So cute! Sloth garden pot, £42 from Anthropologie

Design Edit: Bar Trolleys

Design Edit: Bar Trolleys

Is it really Christmas until the Bar Trolley is fully stocked?! The perfect entertaining companion, and a fabulous opportunity for a bit of festive styling, the Bar Trolley is your Christmas friend.

So, if you’re in search of the perfect bar trolley for the holiday season, then look no further. Below I share my top picks, all of which (at the time of writing) are still available for delivery before Christmas.

#1 Swoon worthy to say the least. Make a statement with this circular brass bar trolley, £375 from www.grahamandgreen.co.uk 

#2 No one said bar trolleys have to be shiny. Work the industrial look with this cool trolley from www.roseandgrey.co.uk (£155)

#3 But if you want glitz, then here it is. Just look at those curves. £375 from www.oliverbonas.com

#4 Stunning art deco style, with a gorgeous green marble top, £249 from www.swooneditions.com

#5 Now isn’t this fun?! A mix of ash wood, yellow leather and rust coloured metal. Yes please! £399 from www.made.com

#6 Or keep it elegant with this stunning gold drinks trolley from www.sweetpeaandwillow.com