Category Archives: Art

Mark Hearld’s The Lumber Room, York Art Gallery

I mentioned in yesterday’s post how much I loved The Lumber Room exhibition at York Art Gallery. The exhibition is curated by one of my favourite artists, Mark Hearld, who lives in York with another favourite artist of mine, Emily Sutton. The Lumber Room was inspired by a short story Mark read by Saki when he was a teenager (you can read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do so; it’s a quick, but delightful, read).

“Since I heard Saki’s story I have always been intrigued by the idea of a locked room that contained treasures so wonderful they are beyond what your mind can imagine. In this exhibition I wanted to create the sense of excitement and wonder that you get when you discover the key to the room and see the “forbidden” objects for the first time.”  – Mark Hearld

Stepping into Mark Hearld’s exhibition is indeed like finding a wondrous room stuffed to the brim with intriguing and whimsical objects. The Lumber Room is filled with a wide range of artefacts: toys, ceramics, paintings, clothes and so much more, which perfectly capture the spirit of adventure and curiosity that permeate childhood. Everywhere you look something curious or beautiful catches your eye, encouraging you to stop and linger over every display. I took a childlike like pleasure in the vintage ice-cream stand, the old gloves and uniform jackets that made me want to play dress-up, and the wonderful lineup of rocking horses that were hard to resist stroking.

Mark apparently spent two years researching the objects and artwork included in the exhibition, and I thought his curation impeccable, offering a superb mix of the beautiful and the bizarre. This would be a fantastic exhibition for parents or teachers to take children, as it would be a brilliant stimulus for art and writing projects.

I’m a huge fan of Mark’s artwork, so I particularly enjoyed getting to see so many of his original paintings and ceramics as part of the exhibition, as well as many of the objects, colours, and styles that inspire his work. I’ve been to one of his and Emily’s studio tours in the past, which was also treasure trove of ceramics and paintings, and I remembered seeing some of his ceramic horses then too. Aren’t they exquisite?

After spending quite a bit of time in The Lumber Room, we made our way round the rest of York Art Gallery. I was so impressed by the large, comfy sofas and big desks throughout its rooms that visitors are allowed to use (the gallery does a great job at being interactive, which makes it an enjoyable place for children too).

As one entrance ticket allows you access to all exhibitions for the day, we also saw the current Albert Moore exhibition (on until October 2017). I thought it worth the cost of entrance fee just to see the glorious Midsummer painting. The incredible orange and green used in the picture can only be truly appreciated when seen in person, where the painting glows like a jewel amongst all the other works.

Midsummer, Albert Moore. Image via here.

It’s definitely worth taking time to explore York Art Gallery properly. There is a viewing balcony, from which you can look out over the gardens and surrounding buildings. We didn’t have time to pop into the cafe, but it’s run by the same people behind No.8 Bistro, where we enjoyed a fabulous brunch, so I’m sure it would be very good should you fancy a bite to eat or cup of tea.

The Lumber exhibition runs until 7th May, 2017; the Albert Moore exhibition is open until 1st October, 2017. At the time of writing, a standard adult entrance ticket to the Gallery is £6.81, and children under 16 go free with a paying adult. York Art Gallery is open everyday from 10am-5pm.

Are you a fan of Mark Hearld’s artwork too? Have you ever been to York Art Gallery?

P.S. – Look out for my York Travel Guide (Part 2), publishing in the next few days. You can read Part 1 here

A Chat With Brita Granström

A Chat With Brita GranstromPhotograph © Diana Pappas via  Brita Granström website

I’m thrilled to publish this interview with the fabulous artist, Brita Granström, whose work I discovered last year (and have been coveting ever since!). I went to Brita’s exhibition at the Tanner & Lawson gallery in Chelsea and was completely charmed by her gorgeous paintings featuring domestic interior scenes, as well as the beautiful landscapes of her native Sweden and Scotland. Brita’s next exhibition is taking place in Scotland at the Open Eye Gallery from 10th-27th March, and she has kindly allowed me to illustrate this post with the paintings that will be exhibited (and available for sale) at the exhibition. I so wish I could see it! If you’re in Edinburgh – please do go and report back!

But on to the interview…

A Chat With Brita GranstromMuscari and Sea View

MN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?

BG: I grew up on a farm in Sweden, by a lake, and I always wanted to be an artist and grew up drawing, painting and making all the time. After leaving school I did a 4 year postgraduate course in Illustration & Design at Konstfack in Stockholm. While still studying, I worked as an illustrator for the charity AMREF making step-by-step ‘how to do it’ illustrations for Kenyan and Ugandan bush surgeons, mostly repairing cleft-pallets – this meant a month in Africa and flying in tiny planes over the Serengeti not to mention drawing operations from life! A couple of years later in 1993 I came to Scotland, unexpectedly fell in love, and stayed here.

A Chat With Brita GranstromTulips and Scissors

At first I made illustrations for the Glasgow Herald and BBC Scotland as well as embarking on a career making children’s books. I have always painted on canvas too, but initially found it very hard to find a gallery to show my paintings. Then, one day, I met Mara-Helen Wood, an authority on Scandinavian art, and who was, at the time, the director of The University Gallery in Newcastle. She had enough faith in my work to give me shows in her galleries, first in Newcastle and later at the prestigious Kings Place in London. Since then I have been fortunate enough to show at various galleries, including the brilliant Thompsons Galleries of Aldeburgh and London who stock my paintings, as do Tanner & Lawson in Chelsea. My new exhibition, Dreaming Of Scotland, will be my second show at the wonderful Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBonnard’s Dog

MN: What first brought you to Scotland? What things do you miss most about Sweden, and what do you enjoy about life in the U.K.?

BG: Love kept me here. I fell in love in Scotland 24 years ago. I love the light and the wind and the beaches. I love the contrast between the chilly Scottish winters (nothing compared to freezing Swedish ones where it can drop to minus 30!) and the short, hot Swedish summers. We live in an old Georgian house in the borders with lots of character and a wonderful soft light which inspires many of my interior paintings. We have also built our own wooden house in Sweden near a lake. The vibe is different in both places – but I like them both equally.

MN: I love your interior scenes that often focus on the domestic, but your landscape paintings are equally beautiful. Do you have a preference for drawing outdoor or indoor scenes?

BG: My work follows my life. When I get really inspired by the light and subject it makes me want to paint it. At the moment I have immersed myself in painting interiors as well as tulips and muscari – but three weeks ago, I was painting on the windy beaches in the early spring sunshine. In the summer I painted watery Swedish summer night-scapes with swimmers. In August we were back in the UK and I had my canvasses on the rocks, dodging the tide and painting beautiful rock pools. Quite often someone walks into my picture and I paint them in. You can see lots of these paintings on my website and follow new works as they happen on my Instagram feed @britagranstrom. In my interior paintings I like to paint the beauty in everyday chores; the fleeting moment often ignored or missed. Chopping rhubarb or apples for a pie, a boy drinking tea or beating eggs, someone cutting the ends off tulips or carrying a birthday cake…

A Chat With Brita GranstromGirl Chopping Rhubarb

MN: What is your creative process like? Do you work from 9-5 most days, or are you generally more flexible?

BG: With my book illustration work it’s mostly 9 to 5. The painting is different. Often, after days of building up my ‘painting battery’, I paint and then it takes the time it takes… The light and the subject is all that matters not time.

MN: Your exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh opens on 10th March. What was your inspiration behind the artworks exhibited? Do you have a favourite amongst these paintings?

BG: The exhibition is named after one of my autobiographical paintings called ‘Dreaming of Scotland’. It seemed fitting for a show in Edinburgh. There are quite a few paintings of interiors as well as some big seascapes painted in the stunning all changing weather of the coast up here. You can view them here.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBeryl Teapot

MN: I love the children’s book you illustrated about the Bronte sisters. Do you have a favourite Bronte novel?

BG: Thank You. That was a great book to be working on – about admirably strong women! Wuthering Heights is my favourite with Jane Eyre as a close second.

MN: Which Scandinavian artists do you admire the most?

GB: Helene Schjerfbeck, Sigrid Hjertén and Edvard Munch.

MN: What advice would you have for young creatives starting out today?

BG: Be true to yourself, work hard, have fun and do not give up. I also love Bonnard’s quote: ‘Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly.’

A Chat With Brita GranstromParrot Tulips and Lapwing

MN: Through my blog and podcast, I like to celebrate successful, creative women. Which women do you particularly admire within the Arts industry?

BG: I think the artist/printmakers: Emily Sutton, Alice Pattullo and Angie Lewin are having fantastic and well-deserved success just now. I also admire the children’s books of Helen Stephens and Emily Mackenzie. Recently read Nellie Dean by Alison Case and thought it one of the best novels I have read; Emily Bronte would have approved.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBig Sand Dune

Thank you so much to Brita for taking the time to give me such fabulous answers to my questions. For more of her glorious artwork, check out Brita’s instagramwebsite and current exhibition. To purchase any of the paintings featured, contact the Open Eye Gallery.

Isn’t Brita’s artwork a feast for the eyes? Which painting do you like most?

London Culture | Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

Poppies | Georgia O'KeeffeOriental Poppies, Georgia O’Keeffe

‘I paint because colour is a significant language to me.’ – Georgia O’Keeffe

The other week, I met up with a Miranda’s Notebook reader (hi, Peter!) to see the new exhibition at Tate Modern, a retrospective of the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), celebrating 100 years of her work since her first exhibition in New York. The Tate Modern exhibition is huge – spanning several rooms – and encompasses work from the 1910s to the 1960s. Alongside O’Keeffe’s paintings are collections of her books – many inscribed by her friends – and numerous photographs taken by her husband Alfred Stieglitz. This exhibition, then, offers the viewer a well-rounded glimpse into the life and influences of a pioneering artist.

As a leader in American Modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the country’s most significant female artists, whose iconic landscapes and flower paintings are instantly recognisable. Having grown up in the US, I was already well acquainted with her work. As a child, my family had spent about 6 months living in New Mexico, where O’Keeffe lived for many years. O’Keeffe was fascinated by the desert landscape and she explored the distinctive colours and shapes of the land around her many times through her art. Looking at her paintings brought my memories of New Mexico rushing back to me, recalling the rusted reds and pinks of the cliffs and the vastness of the horizon.

black-mesa-landscape-new-mexico-out-back-of-mary-s-ii Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II, Georgia O’Keeffe

Black Place III Georgia O'KeeffeBlack Place II, Georgia O’Keeffe

From the Faraway, Nearby | Georgia O'KeefeFrom the Faraway, Nearby, Georgia O’Keeffe

It is O’Keeffe’s instinctive, extraordinary eye for colour that I find so exciting. Even in a seemingly monotonous landscape of desert, she identified a rich palette of colours, saying:

‘I wish you could see what I see out the windows – the earth pink and yellow cliffs to the north – the full pale moon about to go down in an early lavender sky behind a very beautiful tree-covered mesa to the west – pink and purple hills in front and the scrubby fine dull green cedars – and a feeling of much space – it is a very beautiful world.’

Her visceral delight in colour is joyously represented in her beautiful flower paintings, which of course were the ones I lingered over the most.

036N09229_3VTS8Jimson Weed / White Flower No.1, Georgia O’Keeffe

Single Calla Lily | Georgia O'KeeffeSingle Calla Lily, Georgia O’Keeffe

I rather wished there were more flowers on display, but I appreciated that the exhibition wanted to show the full scope of O’Keeffe’s work. My other real favourites were the New York Cityscapes, which so vividly capture the spirit and energy of the Big Apple, as well as its awe-inspiring architecture.

new-york-street-with-moon-1925-okeefe-1356381673_orgNew York Street With Moon, Georgia O’Keeffe

I so recommend getting to this exhibition as soon as you can, and I know I’ll be returning to it several times. There is so much to enjoy, and lovers of colour will definitely be in rapture!

In case you like reading around a subject, I had fun compiling a reading list for books that I feel accompany this exhibition rather well. I’d love to hear any ideas you may have too!

Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibition Reading Suggestions

1/ My Faraway One: Selected Letters

A fascinating, lyrical collection of letters between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.

2/ Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses

A beautiful book documenting the history of O’Keeffe’s two houses in New Mexico and their influence on her art.

3/ The Spell of New Mexico

Edited by Tony Hillerman, this is a brilliant collection of essays exploring the appeal New Mexico has held for many famous writers. Included are writings by D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin and Winfield Townley Scott, amongst many others.

4/ Georgia Rises

A richly inspiring children’s picture book by the acclaimed author Kathryn Lasky. A day in the life of Georgia O’Keeffe is imagined in this gorgeously colourful book.

5/ Ride the Pink Horse

One of my very favourite Persephone Books is an American thriller: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes. Hughes is a wonderful writer and wrote some novels set in New Mexico. Ride the Pink Horse is on my list to read, as is The Blackbirder.

6/ Death Comes For the Archbishop

Willa Cather’s classic novel masterfully captures the extraordinary landscape of the Southwestern desert.

7/ The Harvey Girls

An intriguing account of the history of New Mexico, told from the perspective of the women that helped shape the lives of early settlers along the Santa Fe Railroad.

8/ Cafe Pasqual’s Cookbook

You know I can never have too many cookbooks, and this one offers delicious recipes from one of the best-loved restaurants in Santa Fe.

Are you a fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work? Have you been to the Tate Modern exhibition yet?

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{Note: I am travelling to France for two weeks tomorrow and will have very limited internet access whilst I’m there, so I most likely won’t be publishing anything on the blog. I envision many posts telling you all about Provence on my return, though, and in the meantime you can follow my adventures on instagram.}

Monet to Matisse Exhibition (aka Mother’s Day, Sorted)

Monet to Matisse exhibitionRhododendron in Tuxen’s Garden, Laurits Tuxen

With Mother’s Day exactly a week away, it’s definitely time to start planning a lovely day out with your Mum if you haven’t done so already. I happen to have the most perfect suggestion! A few weeks ago, I took my Mum along to the Royal Academy’s latest exhibition, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse. It was absolutely glorious and felt just like walking through the most luscious of gardens, with bursts of pinks, purples, reds and yellows everywhere you looked. As lovers of flowers (although not exactly talented gardeners!!), my Mum and I were completely enthralled, and I had a deja vu feeling of being back in Paris, where I’d first seen and admired so many of Monet’s work, including his iconic water lilies.

Monet to Matisse exhibitionWater Lilies, Claude Monet

Monet to Matisse celebrates the important role gardens and flowers played in inspiring some of the world’s greatest Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde artists from the 1860s to the 1920s. The exhibition hosts an impressive 120+ paintings, featuring work by Sargent, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Kandinsky, Van Gough, Matisse, Klimt and many others.

Monet to Matisse exhibitionMurnau The Garden II, Wassily Kandinsky

It was truly special to see so many works from several of my favourite artists under one roof. I was thrilled to admire some glorious John Singer Sargent paintings I’d never seen before, and who could ever tire of Monet’s Japanese bridge?

Monet to Matisse exhibitionThe Pond with Water Lilies, Claude Monet

The exhibition was busy, but we took our time, patiently waiting our turn to stand in front of each painting and admire the finer details up close. There were few barriers in front of the paintings, so it was possible to move in very close – a real treat! I felt rather as if I’d walked through a wardrobe into another kind of Narnia: one in which it was always summer, with everlasting blooms. Glorious!

Monet to Matisse exhibitionChrysanthemums, Dennis Miller Bunker

Monet to Matisse exhibitionThe Artist’s Garden at Giverny, Claude Monet

Monet to Matisse exhibitionPoppies on the Isles of Shoals, Childe Hassam

There is a real treat at the end of the show: Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych, all three of which were specially reunited for this exhibition (and marks the first time they will be seen together in the UK). If you’re a Monet fan, I’d say it’s worth going only for that, but, honestly, there is treat after treat in store for you throughout the exhibition.

The exhibition is so vibrant and colourful, that it makes the perfect setting for a Mother / Daughter Day Out. The Royal Academy always puts on wonderful shows (remember my review of their former Ai Wei Wei exhibition?), and Membership would be a wonderful gift for any Mum who’s keen on culture, as it’ll save her any stress about booking tickets or having to plan ahead, as well as many other benefits.

Monet to Matisse exhibitionNasturtiums, Gustave Caillebotte

Monet to Matisse exhibitionThe Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil, Claude Monet

After seeing the exhibition, it’s easy to spoil your Mum even more as there are so many fantastic places in the area. You could have a suitably decadent afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, Sketch, The Wolseley or The Park Lane Hotel. If you don’t fancy tea, then how about a bite to eat at Le Caprice, which also happens to offering some excellent deals for those who have booked to see either the Monet to Matisse or Vogue 100 exhibitions. You could also enjoy a simple lunch at the Rose Bakery, or a scrumptious cocktail at the RA’s Shenkman Bar (note the bar closes at 6pm on a Sunday).

Have any of you been to see the Monet to Matisse exhibition yet, or do you have plans to go? Have you enjoyed any other cultural outings in London lately? I saw the Alexander Calder exhibition yesterday, which was fantastic, and I’ve now seen Vogue 100 twice, with plans to go a few more times!

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Stop What You’re Doing And See This

Kate Moss| Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryKate Moss by Corinne Day, 1993

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you’ve woken up to the prospect of pancakes and flowers this morning, whether single or not. Anyway, even if you hate Valentine’s Day, I’ve got some news to cheer you up. The Vogue 100 exhibition (on until May 22nd) at the National Portrait Gallery is INCREDIBLE. Honestly, you should just stop reading this post right now and go to the exhibition to see for yourself (you’ll thank me later).

Twiggy | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryTwiggy by Ronald Trager, 1967

Remember the other day I gave you suggestions for things to do on Valentine’s Day? Well, you can pretty much scrap those  – file them away for a rainy day instead – and head to the National Portrait Gallery. The show will likely be sold out, but it’s worth buying membership so you can skip all the queues (and you’ll probably want to go back several times anyway). I went yesterday and am half-seriously contemplating going back today (this time with comfy shoes – I made the mistake of wearing heels yesterday and suffered accordingly. But then I felt it was very Vogue-worthy to suffer for fashion, and the killer heels certainly made me more at home with all the Anya Hindmarch bag-toting fashionistas who are currently flocking to the exhibition.).

Gwyneth Paltrow | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryGwyneth Paltrow by Mario Testino, 2002

Vogue 100 is bold, exciting and sexy. It’s a must see for anyone who loves fashion, photography or super models. It’s the exhibition I’ve enjoyed the most since the Alexander McQueen one last year, and it has the same electric buzz to the air that made the McQueen show so special. The connection between Vogue and McQueen is highlighted in the exhibition too: this famous photograph of McQueen dominates one end of the show.

Alexander McQueen | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryAlexander McQueen by Tim Walker, 2009

I’d been looking forward to Vogue 100 ever since attending the exhibition’s shop launch at the NPG last week. The exhibition itself was very much kept under wraps, and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Also, even though I was excited to see it, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much (I’m still recovering from the rather disappointing Hepburn exhibit last year). All the more pleasurable, then, was my shock of surprise yesterday as I walked into the first room and was instantly blown away by collection of so many incredible, iconic images. Here are a few more highlights for you to scroll:

Lara Stone| Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryLara Stone by Alasdair McLellan, 2010Naomi Campbell | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryNaomi Campbell by Patrick Demarchelier, 1987Kate Moss | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryKate, 1998 by Nick Knight, 199870s Fashion | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryLouise Despointes and Donna Jordan by Sacha (von Dorssen), 1972Claudia Schiffer | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryClaudia Schiffer by Herb Ritts, 1989Christy Turlington | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryChristy Turlington by Patrick Demarchelier, 1987

Unlike the Hepburn exhibition, Vogue 100 is huge, comprising several rooms and a couple hallways, and there’s been fantastic attention to detail. The rooms are in chronological order, tracking the history of fashion and Vogue, with the decor often matching the period (the 20-30s rooms have lovely Art Deco finishes). Many of the images have been blown up to be plus size, which adds real drama to the exhibition and means you can truly appreciate the details.

Donna Mitchell | Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryDonna Mitchell by Bob Richardson, 1966 Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryLily, 2008 by Nick Knight, 2008

I loved this exhibition because I felt it truly celebrated style over fashion: it was as much about the personalities and iconic looks of the figures that have dominated the fashion world for the past 100 years, rather than simply the clothes they wore.

I found it too hard to decide which room was my favourite: I have to go back and see them all again! Have any of you been to the exhibition yet? What did you think of it? Did you have a favourite room?

If you haven’t seen it yet, my advice is to dress up in your most Vogue worthy clothes and head on over!

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A Chat With: Alice Pattullo

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.Bow-Wow Pie print, Alice Pattullo 

I’m so excited to bring you the latest ‘A Chat With’ instalment. This interview is with the outstandingly talented Alice Pattullo, an illustrator based in South East London. I’ve been collecting Alice’s prints for years, and I love her use of bright colours and references to British folklore and traditions that are prevalent in her work. Alice recently illustrated a new edition of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, which is absolutely stunning and a must buy for any Janeite!

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.Alice Pattullo’s illustrated Pride and Prejudice

One of the projects Alice has been pursuing over the past 2 years is her A-Z animal prints, which are currently exhibiting at Mascalls Gallery in Kent. You may remember from my visits last year to Mascalls to see the Ed Kluz exhibitions and School Prints series that I love this small, but charming gallery located in picturesque country fields, and I’m so looking forward to going again at the beginning of February to see Alice’s exhibition. If you’re in the Kent area (or fancy a day out from London), I definitely recommend going too (make a day of if by seeing the beautiful All Saints’ Church with its Marc Chagall windows and stopping by The Poet at Matfield for a fantastic pub lunch or supper).

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.Turtle print, Alice Pattullo

Alice very kindly agreed to answer some questions I posed her about her background and inspiration behind her A-Z prints. I found her answers fascinating, and I’m sure you will too! Go grab a nice cup of tea, make sure you’re settled somewhere cosy and have a read through her thoughtful answers.

***

MN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?

AP: I was brought up in the North East within a creative and encouraging family; my dad is an architect and my mum is a textile artist, so I guess it was fairly inevitable that I would follow suit ( although having said that my brother took a different path completely…). I don’t think I had particularly identified that I wanted to be an illustrator specifically, that early on, but I did know that I enjoyed drawing and designing from an early age.

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.Enchanted Forest print, Mandy Pattullo

MN: I know your Mum, Mandy Pattullo, is an artist too (I love her Etsy shop, and my own Mum owns several of Mandy’s works!) – does her work influence you at all? Do you discuss your work much together?

AP: My mum has definitely had a big influence on me. To the point that I chose not to go down a textiles route because I worried we would be competitive! Although I might not have shown it while growing up, I always appreciated her time, help, wealth of knowledge, and open access to both my parents’ books and materials. We used to discuss our work much more when I was younger; I think in some sense I pandered to my mum for praise, which she wouldn’t give undeservingly so our critiques often ended in arguments, although I usually took heed of her advice without verbally accepting it!

Now that I have established my own creative path I feel much more confident and capable in my own work so I don’t necessarily feel the need to discuss everything so much now. However, I do enjoy being able to discuss our work together more as peers now, without a feeling of parental hierarchy being in the way.

MN: What was the influence behind your ‘An Animal A-Z’ series, which is currently exhibiting at Mascalls Gallery in Kent? Do you have a favourite of those prints?

AP: I originally started the ABC thinking it would be a nice and fairly quick project to work on in the quiet period that tends to occur at the beginning of the year, but as work started coming in the ABC took a bit of a back burner; I would work on it as and when I could in between commissioned projects, so in the end it took me around a year and a half to complete all 26 animals!

When I began it I was using it as a personal project to just enjoy drawing, without being tied to a brief or introducing a narrative as I normally do in my work. I enjoyed being able to indulge in painting nice textures and patterns and not overthinking it too much. I went for less obvious animals for certain letters, I wanted to avoid owls and squirrels for example and instead went for an okapi and a sloth. I keep changing my favourites now I’ve got the perspective of seeing them altogether in the Mascalls gallery exhibition, but from the beginning my overall favourite has been the turtle.

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.Good Luck Guide, Alice Pattullo 

MN: Your work often references folklore and superstitions. What first sparked your interest in these topics?

AP: I’m not 100% sure! I’ve always enjoyed reading and particularly like little nuggets of information, which I guess could be why I’m drawn to folk rhymes and tales or dictionaries of superstitions – it’s an easy size of information to mentally digest and think about. Not being particularly superstitious, I find the lengths people go to/ went to particularly humorous which I think also helps engage my interest – some things seem to just be so obscure/ irrational!

I really started using folklore and superstitions as a recurring theme in my work when I was at university- in my final year I was working simultaneously in a project looking at the folklore of the sea and another looking at the history and superstitions surrounding the topic of hair!

MN: Which artists do you most admire?

AP:  A few of my favourites: Edward Bowden, Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman, John Piper, Michael Rothenstein, Enid Marx, Barbara Jones…. I could go on! I think I’m particularly drawn to the work of these mid- century artists as they all managed to successfully bridge the gap between ‘art’ and commercial ‘illustration.’  For example, they would be working simultaneously on paintings and murals as well as producing posters for Shell for example.  I think you could see both sides of their work feed into each other, which I find inspiring.

I think because of the printing processes of the time they all had a very good sense of colour and composition- having to work with a limited colour palette. I often adopt this method of working with a small colour palette and constantly pay homage to these artists by using colours, etc synonymous with design from that time. 

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.The Worshipful Company of Glovers, Alice Pattullo

MN: Can you tell me something about your work routine? Is there a particular process or routine to producing your artwork that you find helpful? Do you have a strict 9-5 schedule, or are you more flexible?

AP: I have always been pretty motivated to work a ‘working day’ but I do enjoy the flexibility of being freelance in terms of being able to take a holiday spontaneously (not that I actually do that much in reality), or have the afternoon off to go and see an exhibition or something. I do tend to go in to the studio from 9-6 Monday to Friday. Working at a studio away from home is refreshing in terms of establishing a line between life and work, which can sometimes be hard when you have made a career out of what is effectively your hobby. Being able to get distance and perspective from a project or input from studio mates when you’re stuck is really useful, rather than wallowing in a problem which is what I think I used to do a bit when I worked from home.

Most days are the same really; I cycle to the studio, make a coffee, check and send emails and then get down to drawing. I always draw in black and white into a sketchbook, using a combination of painted collages, textures, and painted lines. I then scan these drawings in to digitally colour and compose the finished illustration for a commission, or to put together the layers if making a screen print.

MN: What advice would you have for young creatives starting out today?

AP: Just to work hard and stay true to yourself! I think if you are really determined to make something happen, that will reflect in your work and will help you make it happen… It’s not just going to fall in your plate. Life’s not that easy…!

MN: Through my blog, I like to celebrate successful, creative women. Which women are your particular role models?

AP: As I mentioned before, artists like Barbara Jones and Enid Marx who were strong minded and successful within the illustration world at a time when it was much harder to be successful as a working woman. Louise Bourgeois was pretty fantastic. I’m always proud of my female friends and peers who are doing well in this industry… Of which I consider them all to be. My mum is a good role model as she is one of the most prolific people I know so puts everyone else to shame!

My interview with the fabulous illustrator Alice Pattullo, where we discuss her background as an artist and her current exhibition at Mascalls Gallery.London Snow Globes, Alice Pattullo

MN: Finally, what are your favourite London haunts? 

AP: I love Spitalfields Antique Market on a Thursday morning. I like being able to cycle through Hackney Marshes every day- it’s refreshing being in an open natural space when living in a big city. I love that the V &A and the British Museum are effectively on my doorstep. The second hand book shops on Charing Cross Road are still satisfyingly cheap/ good! I like the canals around East London in summer and looking into people’s houses. London pubs are great- in winter the old City pubs are terrific- places like the Princess Louise or Cittie of York in Holborn, or the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping in the summer. I love that London still has some great parks too whether little or large- there’s nothing better than a beer in the sun in the park after work in summer!

***

Thank you so much Alice for taking the time to provide such in-depth and interesting answers. I can’t wait to see your exhibition!

Alice’s exhibition at Mascalls Gallery runs until 20th February. Alice is giving a talk about her work at the Gallery on 30th January from 4pm. 

If you’d like to keep up with Alice’s news, you can follow her blog, as well as Twitter and Instagram.

++ View my other ‘A Chat With’ posts featuring Nicola Williams, Cressida Bell, Alice Stevenson, Priya Parmar, and Sophie Knight  ++

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Miranda Loves: Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards

Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards

You know how much I love Alice Stevenson’s beautiful illustrations, so I was thrilled to see her latest collection of Christmas cards. Apologies for mentioning the ‘C’ word before December, but as I like to get my Christmas cards out on the 1st of the month if possible, I thought it only fair to share some of my favourites in advance. I love of all of Alice’s lovely designs, which perfectly capture the season of goodwill and merriment.

Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards Alice Stevenson Christmas Cards

Which is your favourite card? I find it impossible to choose!

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A Chat With: Cressida Bell

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's NotebookWith Cressida Bell at her Open Studios last November

I was first lucky enough to meet the designer Cressida Bell (granddaughter of Vanessa Bell) last November, when I went along to her open studio day (you can read about the fun I had here). I’d become a huge admirer of her beautiful textile designs after buying one of her scarves on a visit to Charleston, and since then I’ve bought some other scarves as well as one of her beautiful lampshades, which has pride of place on my bedside table.

I find it completely fascinating to get a glimpse into an artist’s studio, and Cressida’s is a treasure trove of pattern and colour. I was absolutely thrilled, then, when she very kindly agreed to let me pop by the studio again last week to have an informal chat and question her a little as to her work and creative process. You may well imagine that sitting down for a talk with the great niece of Virginia Woolf would be rather intimidating, but Cressida is one of the most charming and down-to-earth people I’ve met and has the wonderful knack of putting anyone at ease. When I arrived at the studio, she and her assistant Minnie were busy at work, and I was lucky enough to be just in time to see two of the latest designs emerging from the steamer to be unrolled. 

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's NotebookCressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook

Aren’t they glorious? I’ve fallen head over heels for the Cityscape print – it seems the perfect pattern for any city girl (or indeed boy!).

But now for the interview! This was definitely one of the most fun ‘Miranda Chats’ interviews I’ve done so far, not least because I got to follow Cressida around as she worked in the studio, deftly trimming material for scarves and showing me some of the studio’s many hidden treasures, from her glorious collection of tiny baubles for her cake decorating classes to her beautiful sketch books. I recorded our conversation, and I have slightly paraphrased Cressida’s answers to my questions below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

***

MN: How did you decide you wanted to become an artist?

CB: I decided I wanted to do what I do now when I was about 13 – I actually decided I wanted to go to the Royal College of Art. I’d had friends who’d been, and my dad taught art history so I knew quite a lot of people in that world.

MN: What are the greatest inspirations for your artwork?

CB: That’s difficult. This print here [pointing to her newly unrolled Cityscape print] was inspired by some tiles done by Peggy Angus. She was a friend of our father’s, and lived quite near to us in Sussex. Peggy used to get us [children] to paint Sussex beach stones with Celtic symbols, and she would sell them in Shetland as being done by local artists! Just after she died, I went to a show of her work, and saw she’d done an installation of painted tiles – and they looked like a city. I remember I drew these little tiles on the back of my business card – this was probably about 15 years ago, but that’s how I started working on this and the print came about.

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook

MN: Have you always been drawn to patterns?

CB: Yes, very much. And so I often look at other patterns. I love ceramics – that influences me sometimes. But quite often it’s nothing in particular. I do always tend towards the slightly more formal, geometric designs.

MN: Is it always pattern that comes first, or is it sometimes colour?

CB: Sometimes it’s colour – I went to the opera once, and the production used a mauvey grey, which is still one of my favourite colours to use – but they used the mauvey gray with a lime green too, and I thought I had to use those colours together. You don’t always know the colours are going to work though, until the print comes out and is actually on fabric.

MN: Do you have a favourite colour?

CB: Red. You can tell from the outside of the studio [the door is painted a very cheery red!].

MN: Do you have a favourite design you’ve done?

CB: I really like Indian Stripe. I went to India, and didn’t much care for the textiles – everything I bought was stripy. When I came back, I wanted to do lots of stripes in different directions, because that’s what India did for me. It’s a design that looks good in almost any colour way too.

Cressida Bell Indian StripeCressida Bell’s Indian Stripe design, image via the Cressida Bell website

MN: What are your favourite things to create?

CB: I still love doing the scarves.

MN: Did you start with scarves?

CB: Yes. When I left the Royal College, I did a show of mainly scarves, because you want something to sell! I did some collections of clothing too – I studied fashion at St Martin’s, and then I specialised in textiles at the RCA.

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's NotebookAn assortment of scarves

MN: Who are your favourite artists, or favourite artworks?

CB: Piero della Francesca. Eric Ravilious, of course. Howard Hodgkin. I love the Elgin Marbles and Alesso Baldovinetti’s Portrait of a Lady in Yellow.

MN: Do you have many memories of Charleston from your childhood?

CB: Oh yes definitely. We went there for our holidays (I was brought up in Leeds), and when I was about 8 we moved to Sussex quite close to Charleston. My dad [Quentin Bell] had his pottery there so he would go over to Charleston every weekend, and quite often I would go with him. We would have lunch with Duncan [Grant], and bring him back to our place for dinner. Duncan didn’t die until I was 19, and he was really more like a grandfather to me. He was very much part of my growing up. I remember my grandfather Clive [Bell] a little bit, and I remember my grandmother [Vanessa Bell] not at all – I was only 1 when she died. As children, we weren’t allowed to go into the studio [at Charleston] much – that was adult preserve. I remember we use to hang around the kitchen with the cook, because that was the most fun.

Rolling Stones Let It BleedRolling Stones Let It Bleed Cover – a perfectly normal looking Christmas Cake in the Bell family!

MN: How did you get into cake design? What are the cake master classes like?

CB: Ah, well, that’s actually through my dad. He always did the Christmas cake, and he’d always be very extravagant with lots of cherries and stuff. You know the cover of Let it Bleed [by the Rolling Stones] – which was apparently done by Delia Smith – and it was meant to be a rather gross and over the top Christmas cake, but for me it was just normal. As my dad got older he passed the job onto me, so I’ve always done the Christmas cake for my sister’s family and for friends and so on.

The cake workshops are good fun. We tidy this table up [pointing to the work table that stretches almost the entire length of the studio] and cover it with white vinyl. Everyone gets a cake, and I demonstrate what people can do. They’re really not difficult to do though. You know the fashion for colouring in at the moment? It’s rather like that. You can sit and just fill in your designs. It isn’t actually very skillful – it’s really easy! It’s design led though, so it is a lot of fun. And people do such brilliant things – let me show you [gets out phone and shows me snaps of cakes created by former cake class attendees – they are all fabulous!].

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's NotebookSome of Cressida’s cake designs framed on the wall (my favourite is the peacock!)

MN: What is it like to be part of the Hackney Community of artists? Is there still a community left?

CB: I think where we are here [Clarence Mews] there is quite a community, and it’s really nice. When I was first [in Hackney] I was down by London Fields, and I was the only one [artist]. It was rather grim! I really like it round here though – it’s not like we live in each other’s pockets, but it’s a friendly crowd. We’re all going to have open studio together – I think there will probably be about 15 studios open [click here for dates and details]. There are people doing jewellery and leatherwork. And just up the road is an architect who turns out to be related to me! Her husband has a stall on Broadway Market too. Generally, there’s a lot of goodwill amongst us all.

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook

MN: What is your creative process like? Do you have any particular routine to your work?

CB: I’m afraid I’m very boring – I work 10-6 every day, and I don’t work at weekends. It depends what we’re doing at the moment. We’re not always printing – we may be designing or painting. Any of my designs start in my sketchbook – I’m very precious and have them all going back to the Royal College of Art [flicks open her current sketchbook and lets me have a browse through its gorgeous pages].

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's NotebookCressida’s sketchbook

MN: What advice would you give to up and coming artists or creatives these days?

CB: I would say do try to use paper and paint – rather than just doing everything on the computer, where it’s easy to over neaten your work. I think you can always tell a computer generated design. Don’t try to follow a trend – just do your thing. If you follow what’s fashionable, you will lose your way. It’s important not to look over your shoulder at what other people are doing. I would also say to anyone starting out – never undersell yourself.

MN: Finally, through my blog, I like to celebrate interesting, successful  and creative women. Which women have inspired you the most?

CB: Some of my teachers really inspired me. One in particular said to me: ‘look at the way you draw. Try being more free.’ That really helped me. I had to become more free, before I could be more controlled in my designs again. My mother [also inspires me], but I suppose that’s a bit of an obvious answer isn’t it. Sonia Delaunay – I love the fact that she had a car in her own design. That’s why I love having my ipad covers and iphone cases in my designs [my iphone case is a Cressida Bell design, and it’s constantly admired]!

***

Cressida Bell Interview | Miranda's Notebook

Thank you so much again to Cressida for providing such fabulous answers to my questions and for taking the time to show me around the studio. I absolutely recommend marking off a day in your diary (see below for dates) to make it to one of her open days this year – it’s an incredible chance to get a glimpse of a proper Hackney studio, as well as a terrific opportunity to stock up on Christmas gifts, as there’s a wide range of stock available, from cards to lampshades, wash-bags, ties and scarves (there’s generally also a selection of seconds available at a good discount too!). I’ll definitely be attending again this year, and I can’t wait to see some of the other neighbouring studios that will be open as well.

Cressida Bell Open Studio 2015

If you can’t make it to the open studio, but fancy spending the day with Cressida decorating your Christmas cake (and frankly, who wouldn’t want to do that?!), then do note that her cake decorating master classes  are coming up in December (11th & 12th December – click here for details). I think the classes sound rather marvellous!

You can also find out more about Cressida through her website, or follow along on instagram (I’m addicted to her colourful feed!), facebook and twitter.

++ For more in the ‘Miranda Chats’ series, read my interviews with Nicola Williams,  Alice Stevenson, Priya Parmar and Sophie Knight. ++

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Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy

aiweiwei_11

After our fantastic lunch at Rose Bakery, Mum and I went on to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. I’d heard amazing things about the exhibition so was dying to see it, and happily it did not disappoint.

I was first introduced to Ai Weiwei’s work by his highly memorable sunflower seed installation at Tate Modern in 2010.  Weiwei is a fascinating artist and is considered one of the most significant cultural figures to have emerged from China in the past few decades. Known for his use of recycling, the first installation that greets your eye in the Royal Academy courtyard is an impressive avenue of trees painstakingly pieced together from parts of dead trees collected on the mountains of Southern China. Inside the exhibition, a gorgeous chandelier made with old bicycle wheels is equally dramatic.

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy

Many of the installations speak of Weiwei’s personal struggles as a radical artist in China: in the entrance way of one room stands a lone wall, cobbled together from the detritus of the artist’s former Shanghai studio, which was bulldozed by the authorities. Ai Weiwei threw a lunch party of river crabs to commemorate both the completion and immediate demolition of the building. Apparently, the Chinese word for river crabs, He Xie, can also mean ‘harmonious,’ a word used widely within government propaganda, but which has started to be used as internet slang for censorship. Although Ai Weiwei was placed under house arrest and unable to attend the lunch, around 800 guests did go, and this event is remembered in another of the installations: hundreds of porcelain crabs tumbled in a heap, with one lone crab breaking free.

One of the most touching pieces is a room filled with the names of school children who were victims of a huge earthquake in south-western China, which caused twenty schools to collapse, killing more than 5,000 students. In China, government buildings are known for being badly and often cheaply built, and a wave of steel reinforcing bars Ai Weiwei collected from the aftermath of the earthquake and painstakingly straightened lies in silent but striking rebuke.

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy

I was absolutely mesmerised by this exhibition and can’t wait to go back again soon. I’ve repurchased my ‘friend’ membership at the RA just so I can go back as many times as I like without feeling guilty, and also because the Jean-Etienne Liotard exhibition that is also currently showing is fabulous too (although very different!) and well worth seeing more than once as well. By the way, if you haven’t yet tried the Shenkman Bar in the Keeper’s House basement at the RA, then you definitely must! We went along for a cocktail after our tour around the exhibitions, and I loved the bar and the brilliant cocktail list. The La Dolce Vita cocktail is amazing if you’re looking for a recommendation, and I have to say the cheese straws were decidedly more-ish too!

Have you been to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy? What did you think of it?

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Miranda Loves: Luke Martineau Prints

Luke Martineau

When I was at Skittle Alley Coffee and Pantry over the weekend, I admired the collection of beautiful prints by Luke Martineau that are displayed on the cafe’s walls. Martineau is a London artist, and I adore his alphabet series that somehow remind me of the Ladybird books I read as a child. The prints are described as celebrating ‘the simple pleasures and enduring themes of childhood,’ and they really are utterly charming.

++ View more Miranda Loves posts ++

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