Art & commercialism: dispelling the myth of the ‘starving artist’

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” John Wooden

Under normal circumstances, I would now be writing a mini report on my first Parallax art fair at Chelsea Town Hall and how much I enjoyed meeting the public and fellow artists. However, whilst at the fair I was confronted with the statement ‘an artist cannot make a living on his/her art’, which I felt compelled to address.

The statement came from a fellow artist (a retired gentleman who was also exhibiting) and I was stunned that he held this opinion, especially as I have been surrounded and encouraged by artists who make a very good living. It is also incredibly easy to find many successful artists simply by doing a google search. I myself sold my first original oil painting at the age of 15 to one of my teachers, and at the time I remember being delighted and surprised that someone liked my art enough to want to buy it. I mentioned this and he seemed surprised that his worldview was not wholly representative.

To be honest, I enjoy the challenge of breaking those perceptions and walls that enclose people’s minds to possibility. When I first sold a painting, I was a very academically minded student, who loved her studies and kept her passion for dance,  sport and art in her spare time. I had an almost insatiable desire for knowledge and wanted to pursue a ‘sensible’ career.  I had many interests but felt my love for English was the surest way to a ‘stable’ job, either through becoming a cultural journalist or similar, as it would encompass my love for writing, travel, science, nature etc in one. I had also convinced myself (to the disappointment of my art teachers), that if I studied Fine Art at Uni, I would lose my freedom and style. I decided to continue painting ‘on the side’ and instead pursued academic excellence and scholarships, earning myself a place at Royal Holloway, University of London, studying English Literature.

I continued to enjoy regular paid art commissions for clients since that first sale, selling original work and having exhibitions, but I had apparently been indoctrinated somewhere it ‘was not possible’ to paint and make a living. I was guilty of building my own walls and this was exacerbated by the 18th century (perhaps symbolically archaic) phrase ‘I don’t want you to be a starving artist’ sometimes quoted over the years from a few well-meaning friends and relatives.

Thankfully, my ‘art-career’ worldview transformed when I met hypperrealist artist and royal portrait painter, Darren Baker, in early 2015. Some say that life is full of coincidences, random meetings, serendipity or fate. I am in the ‘fate’ camp, or rather ‘divine intervention,’ due to my Christian faith. Everything happens for a reason and so it is always good to be spontaneous. I had discovered Darren’s work online and admired one of his works in particular, an oil painting of a race horse. I signed up to his mailing list (essential to any artist!), and was soon invited to a private view held at his newly opened gallery, on the perhaps symbolically named Charlotte Street, in London’s Fitzrovia. Darren was present at the event and towards the end of the evening I gathered the courage to speak to him about his work.

I quickly realised Darren was far more interested in my own art and asked to see some examples. He really liked my work and, to my utter astonishment and delight, offered to show my paintings alongside his. Realising he was being serious, I agreed and soon began working on my first seascape series, ready for exhibition in September 2015. I had the privilege of being introduced to internationally renowned established artists from that point on; exhibiting alongside Darren Baker, Chinese artist/activist and Royal Academy exhibitor Ai Wei Wei and microartist Graham Short. I have kept in contact with Graham since our group exhibition and am currently working on a portrait of him (soon to be revealed!). I then met Burmese artist Min Wae Aung at a private view in London in 2016 and have kept in contact, with an open invitation to exhibit either solo or in a group.

These artists (who happen to be male, although I have never seen this as a significant factor) played a huge role in encouraging me in my painting. They were already successful and could easily advise others. I was also not intimidated by their success, nor insecure in my own abilities. Since then I have discovered many artists online whom I admire and who enjoy success, painting because they love it and the earnings follow: these include Ran Ortner, Joel Rea and Andrew Tischler. They have become my gauge as to what is possible in this field, so I remain persevering and adamant in my work. The key is to surround yourself with positive, successful (this comes in many forms), secure people, those who will most importantly pull you up, not bring you down. Always be confident in your own work, be ready to learn, and to look at the successes of others as something to celebrate and encourage you, not to make you insecure. My own security lies in my faith and my family and friends, not my ability, material success or worldly validation.

Indeed, I have the absolute honour and privilege of being part of an incredibly supportive and loving family, who have given me amazing life lessons. Due to my parents’ jobs in luxury architecture and interior design, my sister and I were introduced from an early age to very ‘materially’ successful individuals and companies. Our parents taught us to remain humble no matter our success, to identify with those who have ‘material success’ and those who have little, and to stay close to family and friends. I have learnt how to be with people from different social stratospheres and hopefully can help enable conversations between both. I believe that anyone who has the right attitude is worth admiring. There is no point gaining the world, yet losing your soul.

After I left my marketing role three years ago to first take a ‘leap of faith’ into the art industry, I was quickly tempted by a large investment firm asking me to work for them for a very attractive salary (potentially earning up to six figures in just three years). The material rewards and financial ‘security’ were promising. However, on asking them how long I would have to focus on my art, they said I would probably need to forsake it as I wouldn’t realistically have time. The job offer still stands but I have not taken it. I have been converted from an academically minded person to a full believer that I can earn a living from my art, without losing my soul to materialism and commerce or myself becoming a product.

I did not study fine art, but I have heard that at Universities, it is not always encouraged to be ‘commercial’ or in other words, to sell your art. This is detrimental to artists; as Parallax have pointed out, artists have always been capable of earning. Historically, they earned on a commission basis (as I mostly did early on) and followed what the public wanted, which gave them ‘financial’ security.

For those concerned, being a successful artist has never been limited to men. There are many successful living female artists such as Marina Abramovic, Zaria Forman, Bridget Riley and Vija Celmins to name a few. Mary Beale was the first commercially successful female artist  – there was a fascinating BBC 4 documentary recently on her ‘lost masterpieces,’ presented by art historian Dr Brendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri. Some may argue that Mary’s gender disadvantaged her, being always compared to Peter Lely. However I am of the firm belief that she was successful in spite of such social ‘obstacles,’ indeed she was commercially successful which is incredible for the 1600s.

Both men and women have encouraged me to pursue art full time, although of course I have encountered insecure male and female artists who have become seemingly embittered and jealous of successful artists, perhaps as a result of not receiving encouragement/opportunities themselves and instead settling with unfulfilling jobs, or ones that are viewed by the world as ‘conventional.’ Many artists have had different careers before pursuing art full time later in life, but I know I would regret waiting.

I am a ‘glass half full’ person- the way you perceive a situation is usually dependent on your personality and experiences. Positivity (no matter the circumstances) conquers negativity every time – who can be creative or successful if they are negative? If you are not surrounded by positive, encouraging people, especially those closest to you, then seek them out. There lies the blessing of the internet – there are many ‘trolls’, but even more successful, generous hearted people who are excellent role models and do not care for the jealousy of others. A person’s opinion is always an extension of themselves – those who are embittered and jealous have most probably experienced negativity so be kind and encouraging at all times. Everybody needs it. If there was more love, kindness and encouragement in the world, a lot of its manmade problems wouldn’t exist, but that is for another blog and this one is already quite long.

I believe the view that it ‘isn’t possible to earn a living as an artist,’ is sadly shared by many artists who are simply not sure how to turn their painting into a business per se. The first and most important thing is to work hard, be honest and a team player. It says in the Bible that to refresh others is to refresh yourself. Be a blessing and be constructive, even if you disagree.

I am grateful to have always received admiration on my work by artists and non artists alike, however I have also at times felt a strange competitive and jealous spirit from both male and female artists in various exhibitions I have attended and exhibited at (not the ones I have mentioned of course!). Why? We are a community, we do the same discipline but in our own voice; we are not (hopefully) an echo of others. So how is there a comparison? There is a saying that there is a client for every piece of artwork, so artists should be less insecure or critical of others’ work.

John Wooden’s quote is pretty much my family’s mantra (thank you to Biljana , a lovely artist I met at Parallax, who retweeted it on Twitter the other day!). Let us deconstruct it, as I feel it is so timely and powerful

  1. ‘Talent is God-given. Be humble’ (as a person of faith, I agree with this), ‘gifts’ are often apparent early on in life and when nurtured properly, lead to success, hence protegees etc. People without a faith may not believe this, but a gift is certainly something that can be innate/possibly inherited at times, even a result of rare accidents which triggers something in the brain. Some artists are considered more gifted than others, but that is no reason to be proud.
  2. ‘Fame is manmade. Be grateful,’ as it could disappear the next day!
  3. ‘Conceit is self-given. Be careful.’ Many artists have succumbed to the temptation to self-glorify and have risked having their vanity remembered far more than any ‘talent.’ After meeting many artists over the last three years, I am not interested in conceited artists (or people for that matter), but those who are humble and have a healthy self-belief, no matter how talented or how successful they have become. Too many artists seem to be self-involved and competitive, veiling their insecurity in overcompensated arrogance.

Maybe this is my own artistic utopia that I am envisaging, but I want artists to be more generous and kind to others in their field and to know that to be humble is a very attractive thing to potential buyers and to the world in general. Art is a piece of your soul that you offer to the world on a sacrificial stone. It should be a process of love and an extension of your soul, and I hope it can be used more to give hope and joy to others. For someone who disliked social media with a passion and took years to even be persuaded to get a Facebook account, I know now how much art can inspire others and that encouragement is so needed both online and offline. I also want to assure other artists that they most certainly can make a very good living from doing what they love.

Environment Trust Secret Art Sale: 2017 Results

I’m delighted to share that the Environment Trust has held another fantastic Secret Art Sale. 234 artists anonymously donated a record making 375 A5 sized artworks to the sale; more than half were sold by lunchtime on the first day, with many visitors queuing for several hours before the doors opened.

Over £13,000 was made over two days on 21-22 September, which is a substantial increase from the first Secret Art Sale held by the Trust at the RACC last year. All proceeds benefit the charity’s work in local wildlife and environmental conservation across south west London, in particular supporting their work enabling wildlife corridors.

Results from last year are covered in my previous blog alongside a more in depth look at wildlife corridors and the themes covered in the Secret Art Sale so far.

I arrived at the event in Parkshot, Richmond, towards the end of the Private View on the first day and was thrilled to see that my own oil painting had already sold.

Donations were made by architects, artists, celebrities, students, jewelers and RA members. Wildlife photographer and the Trust’s patron, Gordon Buchanan donated an artwork, as well as another much admired patron, the Gruffalo artist, Axel Scheffler.

You can view all the revealed artists from the 2017 sale here, see if you can spot my contribution!

A close up of all the individual panels displaying the artworks are now available to view on Flikr.

I’m very pleased to have heard from the art collector who bought my painting and revealed they were excited to have it framed and displayed prominently in their home.

I look forward to donating another art work next year, I hope you can join us and support a great cause!

 

Parallax Art Fair: Chelsea Town Hall, Oct 21-22, 2017

I’m delighted to announce that I will be exhibiting several original oil paintings at the ’boutique-style’ Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea Old Town Hall on 21-22 October. Held at the beautiful Grade II listed Town Hall on the fashionable King’s Road, the event will gather over 200 international emerging and established artists to display and present their unique works of art directly to the public.

Originating in 2010, the fair sought to accomplish a new art exhibition experience within a gallery-style setting. The October event will be my inaugural exhibition at this popular fair and I’m looking forward particularly to meeting other artists and discovering new paintings, sculptures, textiles and crafts, as well as meeting art collectors.

The surroundings are another, not insignificant, reason I decided to exhibit there. The Town Hall’s magnificent late Victorian architecture and interior decoration provides a spectacular backdrop, and the Main Hall (where the artist led fair is held each year), boasts glorious decorated ceilings and furnishings.

For travel information, please see the event site, here.

To attend the private view on 20 October, please RSVP by emailing me at info@charlotteigguldenart.co.uk

I look forward to seeing you there!

Ps. This pencil drawing is my slightly exaggerated and romanticised version of the building: the stairs are not in fact this high, nor are the plants tumbling down the building’s walls. Nevertheless I think they are attractive additions 🙂

The World of Interiors Magazine – London Design Festival 2017

‘An interior is the natural projection of the soul.’ Coco Chanel

The World of Interiors magazine is considered by many to be the definitive guide to the most innovative trends and traditional designs for both professional interior designers and creative entrepreneurs alike. Every reader becomes a design pilgrim, seeking the next piece of antiquity or source of inspiration for their home or project. The October edition of the magazine is the main issue of the year as well as the biggest issue, not just in physical weight but also in its scope of interior spaces, fabrics, decor, furniture and art, all being showcased city wide as part of the prestigious London Design Festival. 

Now in its 15th year, The London Design Festival gathers the most innovative and dynamic designers, artists , architects and retailers from across the capital to exhibit their creative talent in many pop up London venues throughout 16-24 September 2017. Each exhibiting company will be launching their latest designs for the autumn season and into 2018,  alongside classic, timeless pieces. There is a plethora of events to choose from during the London Design Festival and throughout the autumn and winter season, including the French Design Trail, 100% Design at Olympia, The V&A design programme, Design Junction, The London Design Fair at the Old Truman Brewery, Focus /17 at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour and Decorex. Incidentally, luxury interiors online platform, Treniq, will have a stand at The London Design Fair and Decorex, exhibiting a selection of contemporary designs; my paintings are displayed on their online gallery, here.

I personally love finding pieces of art and design inspiration in the magazine and on my travels in general, but I also find that the people that populate the pages of WOI are just as interesting as the aesthetic principles they adhere to. There is a fascinating  interview with People of the Sun charity founder and previous architect, Maria Haralambidou, who has helped bring the designs of talented local Malawi artisans to a global audience and whose latest collaboration with Dutch designer Ineke Hans will be launched at LDF. Art director and stylist Sue Skeen has also given an insight into the New Craftsmen gallery- a quirky collaboration between a rush weaver, leatherworker, mosaicist, cabinet maker and painter. Then there is the home of architect Duncan McLeod and Lyndsay Milne McLeod, founders of Studio McLeod, whose seemingly ordinary West London Victorian terrace house belies an extraordinary inner labyrinth for their children to play, imagine and grow in, deservedly earning them an RIBA architectural award. For those who want to take a closer look at their designs, Studio McLeod will be participating in Open House London on 16 September. Other feature interviews include French designer Jacques Garcia and his incredible Mogul-style ‘pavilion of dreams’ in northern France, the Chateau du Champ de Bataille, with gardens echoing the Taj Mahal.

There are more cases of the unexpected at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire: we are offered a glimpse into the sumptuous William Kent interiors and former home of Nancy Lancaster, and the recent collaboration with charity ‘Fine Cell Work,’ where skilled embroiderers in prison have helped recreate one of the former chatelaine’s rooms. The front cover of WOI is also an homage to the eclectic London home of wallpaper designer Georgie Hopton and her husband, artist Gary Hume (part of the YBA and made famous after the 1988 ‘Freeze’ show).  The wallpaper design featured on the cover is typical of the floral designs that Georgie favours. The couple’s summer retreat in upstate New York is a refuge for both artists to freely experiment and paint, with its vegetable garden serving as a daily source of inspiration for Georgie’s latest designs, some of which can now be seen at the Baby Forest gallery. There is an undeniable underlying theme pervading the pages of the magazine, of designers, architects and homeowners restoring and enlivening beloved spaces to their former glory, reaping the rewards after much perseverance and unquestionably a huge amount of love.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s home is another highlight of the magazine, not least because he painted one of my family’s enduringly favourite paintings, The Coign of Vantage: as a previous student and ardent admirer of classical literature, this painting particularly reminds me of Homer’s The Odyssey. Tadema’s paintings have been used as a guide for many films, including Gladiator, where the clothes served as inspiration for the films costume designer. His ‘fastidiously researched images of antiquity’ in his paintings translated into his home, where each room immerses you in a ‘different aesthetic reality’, from ancient Rome to the C17th Netherlands. You can visit his exhibition, ‘Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity’ at Leighton House Museum until 29 October.

The magazine also showcases a selection of the best fabrics, furniture, books and decor that have recently been launched, including ‘Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North’ by Mary Miers, Max Eggers’ favourite wallpaper designs at Decorex and Focus, and Cecile Daladier’s ceramics in Provence, influenced by her love of music, botany and art history.

With such a colourful magazine brimming with trinkets of inspiration, I thought it would be appropriate to embody the spirit of the autumnal season and London Design Festival with my oil painting, ‘Autumn Colour,’ measuring 100cm x 50cm and painted on linen.

Why not look for your next piece of home inspiration in the World of Interiors magazine or at one of the many London Design Festival events!

 

*Information sourced from The World of Interiors magazine, October edition 2017.

Medieval Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral

‘God is in the details.’ Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

As the daughter of an architect and interior designer, attention to detail has been a bit of an obsession of mine throughout my life. I’m drawn intuitively to the forms of nature, buildings, textures; design is all pervasive in the natural and manmade world around us and is a constant source of inspiration to those who are receptive and observant. I love to capture interesting details that I find on my travels in pencil on paper, translating them onto canvas at a later date.

I recently visited Gloucester Cathedral and explored its famous hidden cloisters, marvelling at almost 1000 years of history and faith, alongside its magnificent medieval fan vaulting and intricate details. Architecture at its best becomes more than function, its form and design is so fluid it becomes an organic structure, imitating nature itself. The cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral are believed to be the earliest example of fan vaulting in England.

Aside from Baroque architecture, the Gothic form of architecture is one of my favourite styles. The elaborate fan vault is just one of its many interesting features; it is one of the last and most extravagant forms of medieval vaulting and is strongly asociated with England. They are so named because the vaulting ribs resemble an open fan, with ribs of equal length radiating out from a single point supported by a vaulting shaft or capital. Other well known examples are in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, the have of Sherborne Abbey in Dorset and the choir of Peterborough Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

Begun in the late 14th century and finished before 1412 by Abbot Froucester, the cloisters replaced an earlier Norman cloister. It was originally built to house the monks and provided a space for them to live, work and meditate. All domestic buildings would originally have branched off three of the cloister walks, according to the traditional Benedictine design. A row of twenty carrels (niche spaces) would have housed desks for the monks study.

Gloucester Cathedral has attracted visitors from all backgrounds and faiths and has gained the interest of various filmmakers, with the cloisters featuring in three Harry Potter films.

I will be producing more architectural and interior design drawings and studies, many of which will serve as preludes to paintings. I hope you enjoy their details as much as I do!

The Environment Trust: Secret Art Sale, 22-23 Sept 2017

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop

I’m delighted to have been asked to participate for the second year running in the Environment Trust’s Secret Art Sale. This is a two day art exhibition with a twist, where acclaimed artists, jewellers, photographers, architects, scientists and art students all contribute an A5 painting anonymously. Each painting is priced at £35.00, giving you the opportunity to purchase an original work of art by a renowned artist or celebrity at an affordable price. Only once the artwork has been purchased will the name of the artist be revealed! Most importantly, all proceeds benefit the charity’s conservation work in educating and encouraging communities to protect our natural environment and green spaces for posterity, particularly in urban areas. Submissions for 2017 can be viewed here. The artist biographies are also now on the website.

I posted my A5 oil painting at the local post office in the picturesque village, Bourton-On-The-Water, whilst holidaying in the Cotswolds. This is me beside the post office in Bourton’s exquisite model village, built in 1937 and an exact miniature replica of Bourton- a masterpiece by some very talented artists and craftsmen!

Each year, the Secret Art Sale has a unique theme to support the charity’s conservation work. With 24% of Greater London made up of private gardens, the 2016 exhibition was aimed at heightening the awareness of the importance of gardens as a vital resource and habitat for wildlife. The event saw contributions from the Environment Trusts patron, Gordon Buchanan, as well as Quentin Blake, Alan Titchmarsh, Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Paul Nurse, and Axel Scheffler- the Gruffalo artist and another patron of the charity. I’m happy to share that 90% of the paintings on display last year were sold and over £7000 was made, which has been a fantastic asset to their conservation work. The funds generated enabled them to work directly with school, local communities, and others to highlight the use of gardens and other green spaces in urbanised areas as habitat that will encourage the return of once common species such as the hedgehog. You can read more about last years event on their blog. You can also view the paintings and revealed artists from 2016 here. Continue reading “The Environment Trust: Secret Art Sale, 22-23 Sept 2017”

Art UpCLOSE – Monaco, Miami and New York

‘It doesn’t matter where you go, it’s who you travel with.’ Anonymous

I’m excited to announce that I have recently signed with New York based art agency, Art UpCLOSE! They are a pioneering art marketing company who will be showcasing my paintings digitally via flatscreen at events in Monaco, Miami and New York. Modern technology has revolutionised the art market and I’m looking forward to promoting my paintings and drawings in niche markets worldwide using their company strategy.

Our first destination will be the exclusive Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) for the ultra luxury market in Monte Carlo on 27-30 September 2017, under the high patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. MYS has been set in the iconic Port Hercules of the Principality of Monaco since 1991 and is the only place to admire and purchase around 125 extraordinary one-off yachts built by the world’s most respected shipyards. 580 companies and partners participate in MYS among the world’s leading brands, designers and luxury manufacturers. Art UpCLOSE have been selected as the only company representing art at this unique event and will be exhibiting my paintings and drawings, alongside other artists work, during daily private receptions held in the Artifact booth at the new Starboard Pavilion, next to Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Rolls Royce.

After the Monaco Yacht Show, there will be three more global art and design fairs in Miami and New York to look forward to in the coming months and into 2018, namely: Spectrum Miami on December 6-10, 2017, the Architectural Digest Design Show in Manhattan in March 2018, and Artexpo New York on April 19-22, 2018. I also have my art exhibited continuously alongside other artists, via flatscreen in Artifact’s Manhattan gallery in Orchard Street, New York. You can read more about Art UpCLOSE on their website, where my original oil paintings and drawings are now available to view.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming months and next year will bring and what God has in store. All glory goes to Him. I hope you can join me on this journey with Art UpCLOSE.

Next stop.. Monte Carlo!

Preserving Vanishing Cultures through Art

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow , to love. And then we return home.” Australian Aborigine Proverb

August 9, 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the rights of indigenous people around the world. It was a landmark decision to actively protect the 370 million people that make up the worlds population of indigenous cultures, including the Inuit of the High Arctic, the Eagle Hunters of Mongolia, the Dayak of Borneo, the Honey Hunters in Nepal, the Tuareg people of the Sahara desert, the Australian Aborigines, the Polynesian Maori of New Zealand, the First Nations of America, the Sami tribe in Scandinavia and the myriad of nomadic hunters and semi-nomadic pastoralists and hunter/gatherers around the world. This number may only total 5 per cent of the global population, but the unique contribution these people make to our world far exceeds that number in terms of cultural diversity, knowledge enrichment, sustainable development, enhancing scientific knowledge and tackling climate change.

Indeed, environmental conservation paired with the intellectual legacy of humanity has never been so crucial. With a myriad of challenges currently threatening the planet, including climate change and depleting global resources, this present time is a pivotal opportunity to actively protect indigenous peoples and learn from them. Not only will learning from them help to protect our environment, but recognizing their different histories, ways of life and traditions will help us to reject a generic modern culture, faced with the seemingly inexorable progression of technological advancement and globalisation. Alarmingly, out of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken on earth, one language becomes extinct every fourteen days. My project, ‘Vanishing Cultures’, for which I won the Surrey County Council Art Award, focused on my desire to highlight the gradual effacement of indigenous identities in the face of globalisation and consumerism. By raising awareness of the need for mutual understanding, I hoped to help preserve not just their legacy but also that of humanity, as we are all custodians of one fragile planet.

The project initially evolved as a result of my seeing some students at school getting tattoos depicting Japanese calligraphy without understanding its meaning, their only concern was that it was perceived as a mark of social status. After researching the significance of tattoos and other cultural emblems in certain societies, I realised that their meaning was lost when adopted by another society. I began exploring ‘vanishing cultures,’ a topic already of interest to me as a result of my subscription to the National Geographic magazine. I wanted to highlight the gradual effacement of a strong cultural identity and connection to history, retained most significantly by members of indigenous communities. My project aimed to resist a generic modern culture, whilst maintaining a dialogue between diverging communities and their personal histories.

I discovered a beautiful photo of a Filipino tribal girl in the National Geographic magazine and being of English and Filipino heritage (amongst others), I wanted to represent the closeness and distance of my knowledge with that of indigenous peoples. I  decided to paint the tribal girl’s tattoo on my sister’s arm; we frequently used each other as muses but this was especially significant as it was in a sense a self-portrait, but also an objective painting. The Tatak ng Alon tattoo (‘wave imprint’ in Filipino) is symbolic for the tribe and the wearer as each tattoo has a meaning and significance for the individual, consequently that meaning would be lost if adopted by another culture or inscribed on another person. The fact it is being washed away on my sister’s arm represents the gradual disappearance of that history when appropriated without an understanding of the said culture. 

Indigenous cultures only disappear when external forces, such as the deforestation of rainforests, engulf them. The final piece aimed to project a future without these cultures and the loss of their knowledge; it depicted a barren and drought devastated environment, akin to a photographic negative. Without the knowledge specific to a particular location, all significance is lost to the interpreter and that knowledge vanishes.

The final painting was on display at my school from 2005-2012 when I wanted to reclaim it for my portfolio. There is far more meaning that I included in the painting that there is not enough space to write here without being verbose, but now that I am working as an artist fulltime, I do feel a burgeoning desire to reinvigorate the project and continue exploring the theme of vanishing cultures. I would like to investigate more ways in which I can use my art to promote the beauty and importance of indigenous communities, and hopefully help preserve their heritage and knowledge for posterity.

There is always Hope – art and conservation in Polperro

‘The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.’ Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer

I have been interested in conservation from an early age, whether it be human or environmental, and have often been inspired to create artworks based on my research. Most artists are intrinsically fascinated with their environment and the sea is no exception: painters, poets, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians have each aspired to capture that elusive vitality of the ocean and our relation to it. In exploring our human connection to the sea, I wanted to capture some of the unique lifestyles of those around the English coastline whose livelihoods depend on the ocean.

It is now just over one year since I last visited the Cornish village of Polperro on holiday and explored its narrow cobbled streets once again. During that summer of 2016, I was invited by local artist Regina Farrell, a member of the British Association of Naive Artists, to exhibit my work in her pretty art gallery on the harbour. I have since been fortunate to have sold some of my favourite original oil paintings and limited edition prints to visiting holidaymakers.

Whilst visiting the area, the stories of local fishermen’s wives captured my interest, some of whom told me their husbands have turned to the tourist industry for a more stable income. Set in a beautiful 12th century harbour, the village’s source of revenue originally came from smuggling and fishing. For centuries, pilchard fishing was the predominant occupation, however shoals of pilchards diminished in the 1900s and it ceased to be the mainstay in the 1960s. Tourism became the main industry during the 20th century, forcing some families to abandon fishing and transform their boats into tourist vessels. At the time we visited, there were currently around a dozen fishing boats in operation, employing over 30 local fishermen. Although I enjoyed our boat trip, it seemed a shame that the fishermen couldn’t be out on the waves, working in a job which they loved and was a part of their heritage.

There is currently a real urgency for marine conservation and the work of artists are vital in helping to secure the protection of our heritage and environment, whilst ensuring the delicate balance between our human need and what resources are available. Artists are uniquely placed to capture people’s imaginations and raise awareness of endangered places and traditions. Fishing in vast quantities may not be sustainable for the planet, but it is important that this way of life continues sustainably for those whose livelihoods depend on an incredibly tough fishing industry and who live in accordance with the ocean. I love the name of this particular Polperro fishing boat, as I feel it is emblematic for the future livelihoods of those who depend on the fishing industry.

This painting is still a work in progress due to some exciting commissions which I will soon be revealing. However I’m looking forward to finishing the painting and adding to my series of Polperro artworks. You can see some of my (finished!) original oil paintings and limited edition prints in person at Gina’s Art Studio, Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall, UK …