Category Archives: Art

T&T 59 | Johanna Basford Discusses the Mindful Art of Colouring

Johanna Basford Interview

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

Happy Tuesday! In today’s Tea & Tattle episode, I’m so delighted to be in conversation with the fabulous illustrator, Johanna Basford.

Johanna took the world by storm when her first adult colouring book, Secret Garden, was published in 2013. The book sold a million copies within the first year of publication, and since then, Johanna has gone from strength to strength, producing many more bestselling colouring books and being awarded an OBE in 2016.

Johanna Basford InterviewJohanna Basford in her studio in Scotland, photographed by Hayley Fraser

I love Johanna’s distinctive, hand-drawn ink illustrations, and I’ve collected several of her colouring books over the years.

In our chat together, I ask Johanna how she stays grounded when experiencing such tremendous success, and how she balances her busy working schedule with her family life. Johanna also gives some great tips on what pencils and techniques she likes to use for colouring in, and she shares the inspiration behind her latest book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, which charmingly combines storytelling with drawing.

‘Ivy and the Inky Butterfly’ by Johanna Basford. Stylist: Clare Nicolson. Photographer: Yeshen Venema. 

This is a brilliant episode for anyone who loves illustration and the mindful art of colouring, as well as being a truly inspiring success story showing how hard-work and passion really do pay off.

Listen to learn more about Johanna’s journey to success, as well as her latest book and colouring tips.

Christopher Brown’s London Pop Up

The other week, I popped along to Christopher Brown‘s pop-up shop, which is running until the end of November and is next to the fabulous Pentreath and Hall. I’ve long been an admirer of Christopher’s distinctive artwork, and his book, An Alphabet of Londonis a must for any fan of the city.

If you’re in need of some Christmas shopping inspiration, I definitely recommend visiting the pop-up. I picked up an adorable tea-towel (the one with the tipsy robins), and there were plenty of prints, ceramics, scarves, lamp shades, books, cushions and tote bags that would make excellent gifts as well. Afterwards, you could always drop by Persephone Books (just around the corner) for a few presents for any bibliophiles in your life too. And if you fancy a pick-me-up after all that shopping, I’d suggest a glass of wine at Noble Rot or the newly opened branch of La Fromagerie.

I was so pleased that Christopher kindly agreed to answer some questions about the inspiration behind the pop-up shop and his career. It was so fascinating to learn more about his friendship with Edward Bawden, as well as his creative inspiration and favourite London haunts.


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

CB: I would encourage people to read about my childhood in An Alphabet of London.
Every child loves to draw to make pictures, and I was no exception. My father would sit me on his knee with a large sheet of paper on the table and draw the most intricate scenes. I would suggest a subject – usually a medieval battle scene!

My real ambition as a child was to be a History don at Oxford. Then I wanted to be an archeologist, and then a marine biologist. At school, my two best subjects were Art and History. I applied to both art school and university and was accepted to read History but went for Art – a choice I have never regretted. At art school, boys did graphics and girls did fashion and textiles. I spent time in the fashion and textile department, and, unknown to me, was offered a transfer, but was never told about it! Again, I don’t regret it; as a designer/illustrator, I can still apply myself to other forms of design.

MN: I know that you were an assistant to Edward Bawden. How much did he influence you as an artist?

CB: Greatly – from my first meeting with him in 1979 we got on well. He opened my eyes to not only working methods but books, art and drawing en plein air. We also shared a similar sense of humour, which, for me, is vital in friendship.

MN: What do you find particularly appealing about creating linocuts?

CB: The process – the planning, the cutting and because you’re working in reverse the end result is always a surprise. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, but it is still pleasurable, even if I moan sometimes. The sense of craft is also important. Though I would never describe myself as a great printmaker, the inking up and rolling under the press is still as enjoyable as when I first started.

MN: Who are some of your favourite artists?

CB: So many and many anonymous – Egyptian Art, Medieval illuminations and vernacular and folk art. Mr. Hockney has always been a favourite as has Jean Cocteau. Others include Morandi, Ben Shahn, Matisse, Fra Angelico, Herge, Giotto, Chardin, David Jones, Edward Burra, Edward Gorey…really the list is endless. Mr. Bawden is in there to of course!
There are also so many of my fellow illustrators I admire: Chris Corr, Jeff Fisher, Angela Barrett, Jonny Hannah, Paul Slater, Mick Brownfield, Pierre le Tan, Ian Beck….

MN: I love your pop-up shop in Bloomsbury. Would you tell be a bit about the concept behind it?

CB: It was Diana Parkin who had the idea. After over thirty years of chipping away on bits of lino I have so much work! The idea was to apply it to other materials to reimagine it. Working as an illustrator, too often one produces work that is so ephemeral
(apart from books), in that it’s been for magazines or periodicals that people generally don’t keep.

MN: Which are some of your favourite pieces in the shop?

CB: I suppose “Shadow Bunny” which was a little print I did for myself. My partner David Ivie  copied it on a plate for one of my Christmas presents. So really the little chap started the whole idea of my work on ceramics. My wallpaper “Albion” for St Jude’s has to have a mention as it was Simon and Angie Lewin who encouraged me to think big again.

MN: I love your book, An Alphabet of London. Which are some of your favourite London haunts?

CB: Anywhere by the river and my place of birth – Putney – rate highly. I love the Petrie Collection, the V&A and Ham House. Walking around my home city still inspires and surprises me.

MN: Would you tell me a little about the menswear course you teach at Central Saint Martins?

CB: I teach all years, and it is so inspiring. I have the greatest respect for fashion students and designers – gosh do they work hard! It is not illustration or drawing I teach – it’s about research, presentation, colour and proportion. Hopefully I can inspire then to think beyond the obvious.

MN: What advice would you give to young creatives starting out today?

CB: Don’t give up. Don’t force a style. Draw everyday. Read as much as possible. Look up when walking along a street. Be brave –  try something new. Be passionate about your work. Take advice; sometimes you won’t like what people say, but if you respect them, listen.

MN: Finally, what’s next for you? Are there any future projects or events coming up that you’re able to share?

CB: I am just about to start on designs for a scarf for a wonderful shop on Capri – Laboratorio. My book on England is still something I want to complete, and I have an idea for a book about my travels and friendship with Edward Bawden. It was good to see my Christmas packaging for Gail’s Bakery in their shops. Sometime soon my work will be seen in the Museum of London Docklands, which is exciting! All I hope is that I keep getting asked to do nice projects, make work for myself and have fun doing both.


Visit Christopher Brown’s pop-up shop at:
17a Rugby Street, WC1N 3QT
Open for the whole of November, Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm.

T&T 51 | Susan Owens and the Cultural History of Ghosts

Tea & Tattle Podcast, Episode 51 | Susan Owens and the Cultural History of Ghosts

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle podcast, I’m hosting a special episode that’s perfect for Halloween and is bound to get you in the mood for any spooky happenings tonight. The art historian Susan Owens has joined me for a fantastic conversation about Susan’s latest book, The Ghost: A Cultural History, which examines the significance of ghosts in British art, literature, film and folklore.

Tea & Tattle Podcast, Episode 51 | Susan Owens and the Cultural History of Ghosts

In today’s episode, Susan explains how moving to a Medieval house prompted her research into ghosts, and how people’s stories and artwork featuring ghosts offer an intriguing insight into the wider culture and politics of the times.

Tea & Tattle Podcast, Episode 51 | Susan Owens and the Cultural History of GhostsSusan Owens, photographed by Stephen Calloway

I questioned Susan about what she considers to be the earliest ghost stories, which famous literary ghost best represents its era, why seances became so popular in Victorian society, and so much more.

Listen to learn more about the cultural history of ghosts in Britain. 

P.S. don’t forget to subscribe to the Tea & Tattle newsletter for the latest episodes and exclusive news and recommendations from Sophie and me every week.

Creative Crush | Georgianna Lane Discusses Paris in Bloom

Georgianna Lane is one of the photographers I admire the most. I always eagerly anticipate her dreamy images of Paris and beautiful florals on my Instagram feed, and I find Georgianna’s use of light and visual story-telling extremely inspiring.

Georgianna’s work has been widely published in magazines, books, stationery and home decor products, and she’s the author of Paris in BloomAlthough originally from America, Georgianna has spent a great deal of time in Paris, and her photography shows how much creative inspiration she draws from the City of Light.

Miranda’s Notebook readers obviously know me rather well, as I received Paris in Bloom as a gift from the lovely Marion, a regular reader of the blog. It was the most perfect present, and I lingered over each exquisite page of the book as I read it (thanks again, Marion!)Not only does Paris in Bloom feature the most breath-taking photography of Paris and the show-stopping blooms Georgianna finds in the city, it’s also full of useful tips on flower styling and Parisian destinations.

Georgianna Lane

I was delighted when Georgianna agreed to answer some questions for an interview on Miranda’s Notebook. I asked her all about her favourite floral destinations in Paris, tips for photographing flowers, how she runs her own business and so much more. As I’m sure you’ll agree, Georgianna gives lots of fantastic advice in her answers, and now has me yearning for a trip to Paris next spring! I think it’s time to start planning….


MN: What first sparked your love for Paris and floral photography?

GL: My passion for both has been part of me for a long time. I’ve been traveling to Paris since I was a teenager and taking photographs well before that so it was a natural progression, given the beauty and romance of both subjects.

MN: How did your career as a photographer begin? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?

GL: Art and creativity were always present in our household when I was growing up. My mother was a musician, singer and painter and both my parents were avid photographers. We were encouraged to read, create and dream. I began writing and taking photographs at a very young age and have continued to do so always.

When I left corporate marketing as an Art Director at a literary agency over ten years ago, I decided to focus on my photography business which now includes my books, specialist stock image library, online shops, licensing and assignment work for major gardening and lifestyle magazines.

Floral photography is endlessly fascinating and always popular. However, it’s a crowded field so I dedicated myself to excelling technically and artistically.

I feel very thankful that I make a living in a creative field and am grateful that my upbringing celebrated beauty and art, as well as the practical aspects of life.

MN: What inspired you to photograph and write Paris in Bloom?

GL: I’ve been visiting Paris since I was a teenager and spending more and more time there over the last six years. My first visit at age fourteen with my Mom introduced me to the city’s parks and gardens and museums, especially those with the Impressionist painters. I loved that the city itself seemed very feminine and that flowers are such a strong influence on the design and architecture. I started working on the concepts for Paris in Bloom about four or five years ago and developed it from there.

MN: Where are your three favourite places to go in Paris to experience its best florals?

GL: I love the Jardin du Palais Royal, which has bright pink blooming magnolias in March and abundant roses throughout the summer, all set against elegant, formal architecture. Flower shops on the walking streets of Rue Cler and Rue Montorgueil always have colorful displays. And nothing surpasses the beautiful cherry blossoms at Notre Dame and around the Eiffel Tower in April.

MN: In Paris in Bloom, you mention how much you admire the Impressionist painters, and your gorgeous photos remind me of their dreamy, floral aesthetic. Is there a particular artist that inspires your work?

GL: I’ve always been very inspired by the Impressionists and the Pre-Raphaelite painters, as well as the great artists and designers of the Arts and Crafts movement, such as William Morris and Sir Edward Burne Jones. Naturally, Monet has been very influential. The romance and beauty of these artists evokes a sense of otherworldly beauty, places that exist on the edge of the imagination that just might be real.

I love romantic and beautiful works in any field and inspiration can be found in poetry, music and nature, too. The peacefulness and serenity of the natural world influences the creation of many of my images. I approach my photographs as if they were paintings, leaving out elements that are modern or distracting to create a scene that allows the viewer to visualize themselves in that location. I strive to create timeless, light-filled, dreamy images with a bit of a magical atmosphere and hope to transport the viewer to a tranquil and beautiful realm.

MN: Do you have a favourite flower to photograph?

GL: Roses are always a favorite, as well as peonies, dahlias, hellebores and narcissus. I also love hydrangea and grow many varieties myself. In spring I have tulips, daffodils, Lily of the Valley, lilacs, bleeding heart and many more beautiful blooms to photograph. In summer, it’s roses, hydrangea, clematis, lilies and poppies.

MN: Would you share some of your tips for photographing blooms?

GL: Absolutely! You can instantly improve much outdoor flower photography by avoiding shooting in harsh sunshine. The high contrast light creates dark shadows on the subject and burns out highlights so you lose the detail in a flower. A slightly overcast day is perfect, with soft, even light, that will illuminate the beauty of the flower and allow all its features to be seen.

If you can’t avoid the sun, you can block it with an umbrella or diffuser to soften the light. And you can always choose to shoot in early morning or early evening when the sun is low. Backlighting can be lovely and give flowers a glowing radiance but again, you have to ensure you don’t lose detail by overexposure. And I always recommend using a macro lens so that you can get very close to the flower and explore its structure and form.

Becoming good friends with your tripod will open up a world of possibilities for flower photography. Even if a photograph has a shallow depth of field for a dreamy quality, having one area of sharp focus, usually on the center of the flower, will give the viewer a focal point and entrance point to the image. To ensure tack sharpness, a tripod is vital.

MN: I know you split your time between Seattle, London and Paris. What are the qualities you appreciate most about these cities in terms of capturing them through photography?

GL: I’ve lived in all three cities and know them well. In London and Paris, I adore wandering and exploring the layers of architecture and history that present themselves. It’s a joy with always something new to discover and learn. As the US base for my business, in Seattle I tend to concentrate my work on our own large wooded property and garden and the flowers I’ve planted there over the years, many of which feature in my images.

I also collaborate with a number of the local flower farms on book and magazine projects so its a seasonal concentration during spring and summer, although I also spend some months during that time in Paris and in London as well. I travel extensively back and forth over the pond from February through June.

MN: As well as a renowned floral photographer, you’re a very successful business woman, running two online shops and founding a horticultural stock photography website. Which quality of your personality would you say has helped you most to succeed in business? Do you ever find it difficult to juggle the creative side of what you do alongside the business?

GL: Thanks so much! I’m very determined and once I set a goal for myself, I don’t quit easily. I think my persistence is a key trait. I truly believe that giving up on a dream is the only reason for failure. But you have to do the work. Dreaming doesn’t get it done. One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” I’ve never been good at downtime and usually have many projects going at once.

It is challenging juggling both the creative and business side of my company. More and more my time is spent on marketing, social media, websites, etc. Fortunately, my husband is also full time on our business. In addition to being a marvelous photographer himself with his own successful career, he handles all the finances and travel logistics, which is a lifesaver. You cannot effectively do it alone and expect to expand.

MN: Finally, what’s next? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re able to share at the moment?

GL: I can definitely tell you that more books are coming, beginning in Spring 2018! I’m expanding product lines to include more stationery items, wall art and wearable art. And hope to launch workshops and online training next year. Thank you so much, Miranda!


Find Georgianna on Instagram as @georgiannalane and @aparisianmoment, Twitter, Etsy and Facebook. You can also see more of Georgianna’s products and photographs on her website. Paris in Bloom is available to purchase here. You can watch the trailer for the book, which is a visual treat and wonderfully soothing to the soul:

Don’t you think Georgianna’s photography is stunning? Thanks so much again to her for a wonderful interview and for her photographs that add a little more beauty to my days.

Note: all images in this post courtesy Georgianna Lane.

T&T | Exploring Great Britain With Alice Stevenson

Tea and Tattle Podcast | Exploring Great Britain With Alice Stevenson

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m in conversation with the London-based illustrator and author, Alice Stevenson. Alice has been a friend of mine ever since I first interviewed her a few years ago, but I’ve been an admirer of her work for much longer than that. Alice is an admirably prolific artist, producing numerous illustrations for book designs, special commissions, prints and cards. Alice is also the author of two books: Ways to Walk in London and the newly published Ways to See Great Britain.

In Ways to See Great Britain, Alice writes about her adventures travelling the UK, covering an impressive variety of places from the Orkney Islands to Plymouth. Her musings on the strange, the beautiful and the prosaic that she discovers are delightfully enhanced by Alice’s signature abstract sketches. With an impressive eye for detail, Alice shows you how to bring more intention to your wanderings; always seeking out the hidden treasures that are the rewards of the curious and observant explorer.

Tea and Tattle Podcast | Exploring Great Britain With Alice Stevenson

In our conversation, I asked Alice for her tips and recommendations for exploring the UK, as well as ways to look at your surroundings with a more creative eye. Alice also shared some of the highlights and disappointments from her trips, other books about the UK that inspire her and how her perspective on what it means to be British changed as she got to know her home country better.

Listen to hear great tips on exploring the UK and how to bring more creativity to your travels.  

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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