How Gustav and Gabrielle Led Me To The Brothel

I am a Gustav Klimt groupie. I love his imagery, his repeated patterns and his female forms. I find his female portraits powerful, strong and beautiful, and though sometimes vulgar, brilliant. I am also a fan of German artist Gabriele Münter. I admire how she used simple, clean lines and bold colour in her female portraits.

I decided to entwine them and combined the simplified form and vibrant colours of Gabriele's paintings with the composition of Gustav Klimt's 'The Black Feather Hat'. This was the first time I had used black paint to outline a portrait, and I felt that I actually ended up with an image reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Klimt & Münter Inspired Original Artwork

Klimt & Münter Inspired Original Artwork

I considered Lautrec's work tawdry and exploitative. Other than our shared liking for cocktails, (his was a mixture of absinthe and cognac, mine a more demure combination of gin and crème de mûre), we had no common ground.

Lautrec died in a sanitorium of alcoholism and syphilis before his 37th birthday, leaving behind a collection of suggestive and vibrant posters, paintings and lithographs.

At the time, male artists portrayed women as either a Madonna or a Salome, angel or temptress. I thought that Lautrec would be the same. However, having seen several of his earlier sketches, I now feel that his works were not a statement or judgement about women as sex workers, but rather an invitation to the viewer to really see the lives that these women were living. Apparently, sex workers enjoyed his company so much so that he used to stay for months in their establishments, giving him the opportunity to create intimate 'fly on the wall' sketches.

Toulouse-Lautrec Femme qui se lave. (Europeana.eu)

Toulouse-Lautrec Femme qui se lave. (Europeana.eu)

Maybe living with disabilities and feeling like an outsider made his work non-judgemental. Perhaps he loved the colour and energy of being surrounded by the lights, paints, drama and energy of Montmartre’s nightlife, and wanted to capture and share everything about it.

I would like to think that, being surrounded by bohemians where art and emotion, drama and passion were paramount, he felt accepted and alive.

I no longer think of his work as exploitative, and I thank Gustav and Gabrielle for giving me new inspiration outside of my comfort zone. I will definitely be using black paint to outline my portraits again.

Which artist is outside your comfort zone? Tell me on Instagram / Facebook

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience

Grace: A Story of Being Lost and Found

These are the only facts known about Grace. She was one of my earlier pieces, created in February 2016, acrylic on canvas, 50cm x 50cm. Sold, she has lived in Zürich and London and will be in Hamburg by the end of the year.

Grace

Grace

My inspiration for Grace was found in a vintage black and white bawdy photograph. I was captivated by the angle of the head and how the face was slightly in shadow. I wanted to focus on the angles of her torso and head, and I surrounded her in the blue of sadness and healing.

Looking at her now, I see distorted limbs and ill-proportioned features. But they were all intentional 'mistakes'.

I wanted to express the idea that our self-perception is often distorted.

Grace was a reflection of that self-misinterpretation; she had lost sight of who she was. There was no strong line that defined her, no constant that she could grasp to ground her. She became lost.

No one wants to be lost. It leads to a panicked search for something familiar to hold on to, so I gave Grace a tattoo to trace. A lotus flower; an Egyptian symbol of rebirth and a reminder that beautiful things can flower even when surrounded by mud.

I hope that Grace used that tattoo as an anchor to find herself again. And, to hold onto at least one thing that hardly changes about herself, that is positive, and also a fact.

Can’t Call Yourself an Artist?

If you're creating art but finding it difficult to call yourself an artist, don't worry, you're not the only one.

I felt the same way; I discovered my passion for painting late in life and had started painting as a hobby. I felt that I didn’t deserve to call myself an artist, and was so relieved to find out that I was not alone. Lisa Congdon (self-taught artist and illustrator) talks about ‘imposter syndrome’, where a person doubts their abilities and feels that at any moment they will be uncovered as a fraud. Artist or surgeon, male or female, qualified or not, anyone can feel this way. Learning this came as a great relief!

So how do you get to say 'I am an artist' and believe it?

The easy answer is that there are only two things you NEED to do to have the confidence to call yourself an artist: change your mindset, and make art. It's that simple.

However, it may not be that easy.

To change your mindset, you have to decide that you are an artist: it is who you are and what you do. Everything else, like questioning whether your art is genius or a disaster, or fearing that it's only your Aunt Maud and your cat who love your work, is irrelevant. You are making art, therefore you are an artist.

Got to sharpen these babies

Got to sharpen these babies

Maybe you feel that you can't call yourself an artist because you haven't created that one defining piece that came to you in a burst of golden, glorious inspiration, and you are waiting for that to happen. As long as while you wait you are creating and making art, then you are an artist.

I hope that you can see a pattern emerging; if you are creating, painting, drawing, doodling, mark-making etc., you are an artist.

Go to the mirror. Look into your eyes and say, ‘I'm an artist, dahhhliing!' Repeat until you feel the truth of it. Now go and make art.

Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.
— Andy Warhol