I have been reflecting on my life’s work and looking back remembering the diversity that has kept me working as an artist. When I left school I knew that I had to work as an artist, despite it being commonly frowned upon as a means of earning a living.
I was fortunate having the opportunity of continued education at art school but whilst grateful, I felt this was not right for me and after a short trial period turned down a place. That has meant my route was possibly much harder than it could have otherwise been, but oh what riches doing it the hard way has brought me.
Firstly I spent 10 years studying the work of great classical painters whilst also working with established restorers in the study, restoration and conservation of paintings, 18th century decorative furniture and Chinoiserie. I explored the classics on canvas and experimented with my own classical ideals.
I opened a small art gallery in Norfolk, showing my own and other artist's work. Never said no to any work as long as I felt the commission came under the ‘umbrella of art’, and even if I didn’t know how to do something I would say yes and fearlessly learn as I worked. During this time I sculpted large fire surrounds with classical figures, swags and the astrological signs of the clients. I created backdrops for a classic car museum working on 17 ft scaffolding. 1930’s bathing beauties and period motoring figures accompanied Bugatti’s, Bristol’s and Gull Wing Mercedes amongst many others. Back drops for community events and advertising.
I painted large canvases with classical content for a stately home with some very interesting stories attached , designed hand finished picture frames and painted the ceiling of a home cinema room.
Gradually my own style emerged as I explored movement, dynamism and drama in large charcoal drawings. I successfully exhibited my drawings and paintings of bulls with the Pastel Society , The Royal Institute of painters in Watercolour, several venues around Norfolk and galleries in London.
Soon local people were approaching me to teach their children so I gave after school lessons and also evening lessons to adults and soon built a loyal following. Demonstrations at schools and for Art for All. Discipline was not difficult as I was and am compelled to work, constantly looking, thinking, creating. Churning out idea after idea. I still and will ever paint with that same passion, being thrilled that soon something new will exist that will bring pleasure and joy to someone’s world and perhaps even the world.
I am always looking for new ideas for my personal Christmas cards.
Linocuts offer the solution nine times out of ten, and family and friends are always thrilled to receive and collect them.
This year I am going back to an idea I had a few years ago, printing a tiny Linocut on to teabags.
I have a box of washed, dried and pressed teabags just waiting for something a little special to happen to them.
They do take time to open, clean and tear apart, but after washing ,drying them between tissue, and placing them under the press…I have a little stack of tiny printing paper that is well worth the effort.
The paper is a perfect recipient for the ink, and the colour is gorgeous. So time for another cup of tea…
This Summer and Autumn has shown a wonderful, growing trend, on an old theme, where cattle are concerned.
Driving through the Norfolk and Suffolk countryside I have been delighted to see a few herds of bulls, cows and calves, unusually all turned out together, such a happy scene compared to isolated bulls, and calves taken from their mothers after only a few days.
The calves staying longer with their mothers is a joy and, we always stop the car, and watch them graze in gentle sunshine,for as long as we can.
My 'sometimes annoying' habit of being early for every appointment facilitates this, and I am glad of it.
One example of a leading light in this field is http://www.the-calf-at-foot-dairy.co.uk/
Al presented himself early one evening, whilst Kit and I were sitting on the terrace of our newly renovated house in Portugal. The house had taken us three years to complete, and had began it's life as a goat shed.
It was a terrifically romantic setting, overlooking a beautiful valley filled with vineyards, olive trees, tiny shepherd’s huts, and smatterings of white houses whose gardens swelled with ripe fruits of all kinds. The valley was surrounded by the vast and majestic mountain range, The Serra da Estrela, off which the sun was reflected, turning the day’s colours of azure and pale turquoise, to bright, gilded copper… a gift to any artist.
One evening, after the still of the hot afternoon, the whole valley as usual had started to come to life, with the movement of people and animals scurrying about in the more ambient temperature.
Little lights lit up, twinkling here and there all over the valley. It was whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the evening that something caught my eye…. a rather portly little Gecko appeared cautiously on the wall of the house opposite.
The ancient street lamp shone on him, and we could see him clearly. He sat absolutely motionless, until suddenly a moth landed on the white wall, and faster than you could see it happen, he had caught and devoured it. He smacked his lips for a while, and I was not entirely sure he had enjoyed it, and thought he looked a little bored.
We sat as still as we possibly could as we didn’t want to frighten him, and had a wonderful time watching his antics.
Every evening after that we would look out for him, even if we returned late, waiting and watching for some sign. Sometimes his visits were very quick and fleeting, and sometimes he would entertain us for hours. We soon found we were making up names, voices and stories about him. We called him Al.
I thought of him smacking his lips after eating the moth, and how bored he seemed with the contents. So…what else did geckos eat I wondered. Well they love grapes apparently.
There were other geckos, different colours, some faster, some smaller, but it was Al who captured my imagination. Then I saw, because of his special Gecko feet, he could walk over shiny glass windows with no trouble at all. What would Al see when he looked through our windows, and what would he think? Lots of paintings would be the first thing surely.
Now, could a little Gecko paint pictures? Of course he could.
Al the Gecko had ambitions to be an artist, he related to human artists etc, so it may seem strange to say that I didn’t want to overly anthropomorphise his character, but whilst I gave him an Acorn hat and an understanding of paintings, I never wanted him to have paint brushes or tubes of paint. Al had to make do with fruit and materials readily available to him naturally, and apply the colours with his feet, and tail… I don’t think this held him back at all.
Oh yes, a little help from Mr. Filbert, the art collector, didn’t go amiss either. So that's how 'Al's Biggest Brightest Painting of All' began.
Do keep a look out for this, and the many more adventures waiting for Al !
The blue and white theme transcends seasons, the natural fabric mixes pleasantly with different textures and colours.
I love my home, it is very important to me and I spend a lot of time there, so I am always changing things around, different colours for Spring, Summer and Winter; soft furnishings, are the simplest way to do this.
I love going to those things I put away last season, and rediscovering them. The blue and white theme transcends seasons, can appear at any time and the natural fabric mixes happily with different textures and colours.
Time has sped by and yet it has been a process over many months, and years of work before that, to finally get a collection launched.
Presentation is fun, choosing labels, wooden heart gift tags, string, natural colours, and then seeing them neatly stacked in willow trugs, waiting to go.
Enjoy your beautiful home.
Warm wishes, Gloria
Chinoiserie was introduced to Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.
With a blend of Eastern and Western style features, furniture, interiors, tapestries and objet d’art carried fantastic motifs portraying idealised oriental scenery with exotic birds, dragons, flowers, figures, pagodas and the most intricate lattice work. The fascination and fantasies grew rapidly as the far Eastern trade expanded.
Chinoiserie was introduced to me at a much later date, when one day a friend brought a small painted cabinet to my studio. She was going to throw it away but thought it was something I might be interested in. Underneath 5 or 6 layers of thick pink gloss paint there was the slightest suggestion of raised patterns. Several rough attempts had been made to discover what laid beneath resulting in much damage.
If I wanted it, it was mine to do with it whatever I could.
Weeks of work and research followed (Chinoiserie is incredibly time consuming) as I carefully lifted the crude, gloss surface, gradually exposing the most exquisite gilt flora and fauna relief’s, raised against dramatic, painted mountain scenes. With much care I was able to keep any further damage to the absolute minimum and almost all the original skillfully laid gold leaf was saved.
That was the beginning of an ongoing and fascinating journey. Working on such a beautiful object had aroused my curiosity.
More and more research went into the finishes, subjects and techniques that make up the basis of these highly decorative pieces, until I was able to reproduce them accurately leading to the design of new work and textiles, and the restoration of valuable items, including museum pieces, from lacquered long case clocks to ornamented mirror frames oriental cabinets and small items such as tea caddies and jewellery boxes.
A fascinating art, a fascinating journey.
Above is a restored 18th c clock door, and below are more examples of my Chinoiserie work.. Click here to go to my Chinoiserie page on the website, where you can discover more about restoration of antique items up to museum standard, or commissioning new designs for the modern home or product.
Delightful and highly amusing in places, is one of my favourite books…
Chinoiserie by Dawn Jacobson which is published by Phaidon.
New Years Eve, I can never stay up, and I always take down the tree on New Year’s Day.
It is not bah humbug! It is certainly not that I don’t love to see the tree, I do. I love it, I love the welcoming glow, the warmth of the colours, the memories, the beautifully wrapped gifts, I am always excited and can’t wait to decorate when it comes to December, and Kit and I do put the tree up a few days early.
But, for me, they have to be gone before beginning a new year, carefully wrapped and stored, or I find they impede fresh inspiration, and leftover decorations that move into the New Year seem slightly dingy and out of place. A clean palette I suppose.
I have so many ideas racing around my head as I go into my studio (tidied before Christmas), the clean surfaces beckoning for some kind of greatness. The jugs and jars neatly stacked, brushes cleaned, paper tidy.
Of course the normal run of ‘Calls for entries’ dictate to a degree, and have to be planned, but what else will I create before the tree goes up again? I’m excited!
Have a Happy, Healthy, Inspirational and Creative New Year!!
Yours warmly, Gloria.
Breathing a sigh of relief , I stand back to assess the row of drying prints .... the result of a morning running at maximum power, but I am pleased with the results of the new limited edition of classical Iberian horsemen. They threw up a few testing problems, as I wanted to keep the image clear and iconic (a busier subject can often be, surprisingly, more straightforward) and was so happy to be working with my old cast iron press which gave me a denser ink surface. I used Zerkall rag paper rather than my often favoured Tosa Washi or Shoji paper which works so well with the bamboo baren.
In these designs I wanted to capture the beauty and romance that I saw in these riders, to encapsulate the dedication and quietude of being totally in touch with oneself and ones horse. I wanted to prevent them becoming esoteric, and to be simply pleasing to the eye for anyone who looked at them, and whilst having that quality of early drawings of classical horsemanship, I wanted to give them a modern feel, making them relevant to today.
I have a special love of Classical riding since being introduced to it in the early 80's when I bought my first wonderful Lusitano horse from Lord and Lady Loch at their beautiful Stoke by Clare School in Suffolk.
I was fortunate to be able to visit often and ride at their school for the next few years, and went on to keep my own Lusitanos.. a stallion, a gelding and 2 lovely mares. Thrilled that one or two of the foals I bred are still out there.
Warm wishes, Gloria.
The Iberian horse for me has been a passion, a much overused term now perhaps, but nonetheless it has, and I can think of no other.
The history and theatre afforded these legendary horses is a gift to the artist.
No need for fantasy, or false embellishments, they have a natural flamboyance that is almost mythical. The large, dark, deep set eyes speak of centuries ... of an ancient world, of courage, knowledge and loyalty.
I have been lucky to know them as my friends, my mounts, my companions ,and my models.
Not wishing to portray such nobility in a mawkish way that insults or diminishes , I have attempted to capture a sense of classicism , at others the ephemeral qualities , or the quietude , but always wishing to achieve gravitas.
I am taking time to reflect my work of the past, and feel privileged to have been commissioned to paint for interiors where there is a demand for large scale works, and was able to fulfil my desire to paint epic pieces often on 8ft to 17 ft canvases etc. Now I am planning to do more large scale, allegorical work..... time to return with a new perspective.
Today I revisited the home of the Welborne herd of English Longhorn cattle belonging to Lt Col and Mrs Hodges, delivering 'a well overdue' drawing to say thank you for their generosity in allowing me to sit in their fields for long hours at a time.
It was a moving and somewhat cathartic experience. It was some 10 years since I was last there, and amongst the lovely herd of 10, I think only one cow....Delia.... remained of those I had sat with, drawn and grew so fond of.
This new herd consists of sons and daughters of my old favourites who have appeared many times in my work over the years, dear Challenger the bull... teddy bear like, soft and gentle, my favourite model. Archie, the huge, sweet natured ox, Garbo, with amazing and instantly recognisable horns, Coco the beautiful young bull who had been vigilantly nursed back to health after breaking a horn, Delia with her small calf, and Lancelot the youngster who interfered constantly, ate my pencils, paints and tipped everything over.
It was so wonderful to be there again, amongst this primeval breed, whose energy is very different from the domesticated bulls that I grew up with. I feel close to nature, peaceful and untroubled when in their presence.....but for now, this marks a lull in my Bull era.