Alicia France, who won the Portrait/Figure Category Award in the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2018, is a British artist living and working in Newcastle upon Tyne. She explores a variety of mediums across her figurative studies, from pencil sketches and etchings to oil paintings on aluminium. Working on a small scale, she draws the viewer in to her everyday observation and subtle celebration of the traditional nude portrait. We caught up with Alicia to find out about her muses, her process and her influences.
Clare: Tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education.
Alicia: I’ve always been fascinated by people from a young age. As a child I used to study people’s faces all the time, examining the contours, features and proportions. Since then, I have studied art all through my education with a great passion for portraiture. I studied art through my GCSE’S (from which my love of Vermeer began), A Levels and eventually my BA hons degree. I was always encouraged to showcase my work so entered local exhibitions in my hometown of Rochdale. Inspired by the masters, I’ve always had an element of tradition in my paintings which I combine with the subject matter of modern working class life. This traditional quality to my work, however, was mostly discouraged throughout my Fine Art degree and I often received poor grades. I found it very difficult in university, as did many of my colleagues and friends. The art world can be very brutal and I did consider leaving in my second year but with some miracle persisted and achieved a first.
I also feel it would be an injustice not to mention my family whilst answering this question. I’m not sure what kind of artist I would be without them. My parents met in art college so there has always been creative foundations within the household. My mother would encourage me to paint, even as a baby, from collecting leaves in the pram for collages to spreading paper across the kitchen floor and handing me the brushes and paint. At Halloween we would rip up bin liners and spread them across the walls of the house and paint murals of witches and graveyards.
Anticipation, 2016 Alicia France Oil on aluminium, 48 x 41.5 cm
Clare: How would you describe your practice?
Alicia: My practice focuses on conveying the extraordinary within the ordinary and the idea that the simplest and most ordinary of things, moments and people can make the most beautiful and interesting art. In the last few years I have incorporated this concept with the beauty of naked flesh. Whether the subject is in the middle of their weekly routine of bodily grooming or enjoying the view from their tourer-caravan; these solitary and mostly private moments are something I am passionate to communicate through my paintings. The portrait, to me, is one of the most fascinating forms of art and I aim to revitalise it with inspiration from art history and the realities of modern life. I usually work quite small, even miniature, as it forces the viewer to get up close and personal with the painting and its subject. However, I intend to embark on a new series of large paintings on aluminium in the near future.
Midday Brew, 2018 Alicia France Oil on Aluminium, 8 x 11 cm
Clare: Who are the subjects in your figurative paintings?
Alicia: I always like to paint people who I have a relationship with, whether it be a relative or a friend. I want to be able to capture their personality or their feelings in that moment which is far more achievable when you know the person. My main models/muses are my mother and my close friend Jan. I have been painting them both for years and there is still so much about them I have yet to convey. I definitely feel strongly about the importance of my models. They do half the work in my eyes; their personality, their expressions, their body language; it all fascinates me and fascinates others and that is why I love doing what I do.
My mother is so passionate about my art and was the first person to offer to model. The first time she modelled for me was on a caravan holiday. It was an unusual and unique setting for a nude painting but was an environment that gave a glimpse into her world, her life – a woman of simple pleasures and one that will sacrifice her time on holiday for art! What makes her such a good model is how expressive she is through her facial and bodily expressions, like an open book.
My second model, Jan, is a very close friend of mine that I first met as a young child but actually became good friends with in college whilst studying art. From the moment we started talking properly, I knew that she had to model for me. She is so interesting. ’One on her own’; a combination of mature and childish, old-fashioned and modern, serious and hilarious. She is so full of confidence and comfortable within her own skin. Plus, the fact that I think she is a reincarnation of the Mona Lisa! The facial likeness between her and the Da Vinci masterpiece is uncanny and has always fascinated me.
Medication, 2017 Alicia France Oil on Aluminium, 16.5 x 13.5 cm
Clare: You mention on your website that you reference Titian and Vermeer in your work. How do you do this and why do you choose to paint nudes?
Alicia: Nudes, or naked portraits, interest me so much because they are simply the truest representation of the human form. They have so much to offer artistically. I love painting flesh. There are so many colours to pick out and highlight which I thoroughly enjoy every time I paint. It is also interesting to see the different aspects of someone’s personality and emotion when they are nude; confident, vulnerable or relaxed. What I’ve noticed most, is that people feel empowered which I find most gratifying.
I think many would agree that Titian was the creator of the quintessential Nude. The classic poses and physical dispositions of the female figure derive from his characters such as Venus and Andromeda. The whole character of Venus and her archetypal pose interested me most and especially correlates with Nude in Caravan. My mother’s pose, though very Venus-like, was her instinctual behaviour; to recline into the position most comfortable and natural to her, which also happened to be that of the typical form of the Renaissance Nude. It fascinates me how the modern woman automatically mirrors that of centuries ago.
I have always been a great admirer of Vermeer and his subject matter, exquisite delicacy and thoughtfulness in his representation of female subjects. I could look at them forever. It actually makes me feel happy when I look at them. I particularly love the simple activities that his subjects are engaged in. Simple activities that often involve the mind wondering into deep thought – sewing, reading a letter, praying etc. It is very grounding to the soul. These are beautiful moments that I aim to capture in the modern world, a world that is sometimes too busy and hectic to notice them.
Clare: You have a great way of capturing the essence of a subject’s character in a specific moment; empowered, nonchalant, disinterested, joyful or even an in-between moment. Can you talk about what interests you about painting these moments?
Alicia: Thank you! It means a lot to me to be able to capture the essence of someone’s character. It’s what portraiture is all about! These moments really make you wonder what they’re thinking. Art should make you think. An interesting portrait should make you wonder, make you ask questions such as ‘What is this person thinking?’ and ‘Why do they look such a way?’ I think people do enjoy art which has this quality.
Contemplation, 2017 Alicia France Oil on Aluminium, 40 x 33 cm
Clare: What are the different challenges working with a circular frame compared to a traditional rectangular frame?
Alicia: I think drawing out the composition of a painting is quite different on a circular frame. I only choose particular portraits and compositions for circular frames as sometimes it seems far simpler working on a rectangular canvas or plate. For example, the positioning of the main figure/subject on a circle can feel quite tricky as the space is compromised compared to a rectangle. Hence, why I choose specific artistic arrangements.
Woman with Towel, 2016 Alicia France Oil on aluminium, 30 x 30 cm Image from Alicia’s solo exhibition, SUITS, at 5th Base Gallery London, 2016
Clare: In addition to your oils, you paint miniatures, make etchings and paint in watercolour. Your subject matter is distinctive across all the mediums you work in. But in your etchings, you have a series of party photos. Can you tell me about these?
Alicia: Contrary to my nude pieces, I’m intrigued by social scenes and drunken gatherings. The way we let go of our inhibitions and how we behave when socialising or inebriated fascinates me and makes really interesting art. This series of etchings captures these moments. As references, I used photographs of my friends (including myself) socialising on various occasions. Most of the photographs are actually taken by my sister who enjoys taking candid shots when we get together with friends.
Simon, 2016 Alicia France Oil on paper, 6 x 6 cm
Clare: Do you have any favourite paints, mediums, brushes or surfaces? After white, which colour do you have to replace most often? What do you like about working with oil on aluminium?
Alicia: Even though I predominantly class myself as an oil-painter, I thoroughly enjoy working with other mediums such as ink, pen, pencil and charcoal and currently intend to explore them more. I’ve been drawing a lot recently, challenging myself with the extent of detail. The nicest part about pencil drawing is how you can really put your heart into it without thinking about colour and changing/washing brushes.
I would definitely still classify aluminium as my favourite surface to paint on at the moment. What I love about aluminium is the way it makes the painting feel more like a luxurious physical possession rather than simply a canvas. I also like the way my brush sits on the surface and how it glides when applying paint. I also like the contradiction between the painting of soft flesh on something so harsh and cold like metal.
When painting, I use mostly titanium white, raw umber, yellow ochre, ultramarine and cadmium red. After white, I use up raw umber most often, being the colour I use most to create tone.
Father and Daughter, 2018 Alicia France Pencil on paper, 42 x 59 cm
Clare: What is a good day in the studio for you?
Alicia: I feel myself progressing when I feel I’ve done something better than I did it the previous time. Whether this is how well I have conveyed something, a feeling, an emotion or simply the technique. It’s a good sign when I’m excited to continue work the next day as, like many artists, I can be very self-critical.
Woman Grooming I and Woman Grooming II, 2017 Alicia France Oil on aluminium, 9 x 10 cm
Clare: Who are your art influences? Who are your favourite contemporary artists?
Alicia: The artists who influence me alternate depending on my mood or my work at the time. I’m very passionate about honest representation so artists such as Jenny Saville, Egon Schiele and Lucien Freud have been a huge influence. The brutal and truthful way they present the human form fascinates me and has inspired a good deal of my work throughout the last 7 years.
Alicia France in her Studio
Clare: In the studio – music, audiobook, Radio 4 or silence?
Alicia: When I’m in the studio I always have to have something on in the background. Most of the time I play light sitcoms on repeat like Big Bang theory, IT crowd, Benidorm, The Office, Black Adder etc. It’s basically a comfort blanket for when I’m working. I can get quite tense and anxious when working, mentally and physically. I always put pressure on myself that the current piece I’m working on has to have a certain quality that the previous piece didn’t. I also have to take breaks in-between painting due to my hypermobility syndrome which gets very painful in my hands so it’s nice to have some entertainment during those rests! When I’m accompanied by my sister in the studio, we always play Disney music – you can’t go wrong with that! Occasionally I will choose something a bit more ‘sophisticated’ – I absolutely love Chopin and I’m a total history geek so historical and art documentaries are up there in the list too.
The Jackson’s Open Painting Prize was established to recognise and appreciate original, 2-dimensional fine art works in any painting or drawing media. Photographs, computer-generated or manipulated artwork and 3D sculptural works are not eligible for selection. The annual competition offers an on-line showcase and impressive prizes for contemporary and traditional visual artists, both emerging and established. We welcome entries from artists in any country and of any age.
A DVD can help you improve your painting and drawing technique at your own pace and around your own schedule. Learn from great teachers in a wide variety of styles. At Jackson’s our Art Instruction DVDs Department has over 240 titles from Townhouse Films, APV and North Light covering a huge variety of art topics with well-known teachers. We have divided them into categories for easy browsing – simply tick the filters on the left to see just the ones you want – by medium, author or publisher. We also have a good selection of specialist decorating DVDs. New titles are regularly added to our selection.
An art instruction DVD makes a great gift – they are so full of potential! It is like giving someone a class they can take at their convenience. A DVD can be presented on its own or together with some art materials. To help you choose from our enormous selection of teaching DVDs from the top painting teachers we have made a list of the 25 best-selling DVDs at Jackson’s this year.
Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers in the Art Instruction DVDs section on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.
Many artists have questions about solvent safety. Solvents are used to thin oil paints for creating a wash if you wish to tone a canvas, for a thin underpainting or drawing layer or to break down stiff brands of paint. Solvents are also used as part of many oil painting mediums and to clean brushes used for oil or enamel painting. There are a few types to choose from, including those intended to be kinder to the environment and you. There are three main groups of solvents: white spirit (both the fast evaporating, strong smelling kind and the slow evaporating, low-odour kind), turpentine, and citrus and other plant derived solvents. Below is a description of how they differ and the variants found within each group. Our Solvent Safety Table shown below is a simple reference guide to help clarify the differences between the solvents that we sell but it always pays to employ a little common sense when working with any solvent.
Some artists have a physical reaction (heachache, naseua, etc) to one solvent but not another. If you are having trouble with one you might wish to try another. I get headaches from regular Mineral Spirits and even have to take care to keep my odourless mineral spirits covered. Other artists are sensitive to the smell of turpentine, but I am fine with genuine turps. I also like Oil of Spike Lavender (it is a strong solvent that only takes a small amount to paint with) and I don’t find it smells very strong but visitors to my studio vary in sensitivity to it – some say it is strong but like it, some don’t notice it much but others find it overpowering. So maybe don’t use it if you are expecting a visit from a curator. If you are bothered by all solvents you can still paint with oils without using any solvents by using Solvent-Free mediums or a drying oil and washing your brushes with first safflower oil and then soap. Or you could switch to Water-mixable oils or slow-drying acrylics which act more like oils than regular acrylics.
Here are descriptions of the major solvents used in oil painting:
White spirit is a petroleum distillate. It is most commonly known as mineral spirits in the US/Canada, and mineral turpentine in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes it is also called turpentine substitute, petroleum spirits or paint thinner. If you come across a solvent that has the word ‘mineral’ in its name, it is most likely to be a petroleum distillate, as opposed to a genuine turpentine (which is a distillate from a tree resin). Artist white spirit can be used in painting mediums and to clean brushes. All forms of artist white spirit, including low-odour solvents, are more pleasant to use than the cheaper household white spirit that is found in your local DIY store. This is because they don’t smell as much and are purer, with less of a mix of hydrocarbons, and no recycled matter in their formulae. This is also important for your painting mediums too because it doesn’t contain the impurities that may be found in household white spirit, artist white spirit can thin paint without causing yellowing or the cracking of paint in years to come.
Artist white spirits are effective when thinning or cleaning synthetically derived oil painting mediums, such as alkyd resin, but are less effective for breaking down natural resins such as copal, mastic or dammar for some oil mediums – you will need gum turpentine, oil of spike lavender or in some cases a citrus solvent to do this.
Low-odour Solvents and Odourless Mineral Spirits (OMS) such as Gamsol, Low Odour Solvent, Sansodor and Shellsol T are slow to evaporate. This makes them less hazardous in the studio and a pot of Gamsol for cleaning brushes can last a long while. But some artists find the slow evaporation a drawback when painting. The low-odour solvents can be grouped with the citrus solvents for some uses – for example neither can be used to dilute Golden MSA Varnishes, the varnish turns cloudy or hardens – but genuine turpentine or white spirit works well for dilution.
Turpentine is also sometimes called spirit of turpentine or oil of turpentine. It is slightly more viscous than white spirit, and is obtained through the distillation of resin obtained from live trees, mainly pines. ‘Turpentiners’ remove the bark of the tree in order for it to secrete oleoresin onto the surface of the wound to seal the opening. The oleoresin collected may be evaporated by steam distillation in a copper still. Turpentine is flammable and emits vapours that can irritate the skin and eyes and damage the lungs. Household turps from a hardware store is likely to leave a gum residue that may prevent your painting from fully drying or can cause yellowing to occur over time. Turpentines that have undergone the greatest purification treatments will have greater solvency, and will dry fully without yellowing. For that reason it is best to use artist quality turpentines that state that they have been triple distilled (that is the meaning of ‘English Distilled’. The more distilled the turpentine the faster it will dry. The highest quality turpentines (such as our English Distilled Turpentine) will have what many find to be a pleasant pine fragrance. Lower grade turpentines are made from the distillation of liquids derived from forest waste, which can come from a number of different trees. These can still be purified to a point where they are suitable for oil painting, but they will not be made purely from one kind of tree and may have a less pleasant fragrance.
Turpentine is the fastest drying of the solvents so many artists prefer it as it gives a nice brush drag (instead of it being too slippery) and their underpainting will dry quickly. This speed of drying comes from its fast evaporation, so it is important to have good ventilation and to cover your container quickly. Artists who prefer genuine turps also report that turps ‘bites’ the paint better than OMS, it doesn’t take much to break a stiff paint down to a fluid paint. (Be aware that resin from the larch tree is sold as Larch Venice Turpentine, but in spite of the name it is not a solvent, it is used as the resin component in some oil mediums.)
Citrus and other plant based solvents
There are now a number of citrus-scented turpentines available, such as Zest-It, Seville Citrus Turpentine and Studio Safe citrus solvent. Most are closer to turpentine than petroleum distillate and can dilute natural resins such as copal, mastic and dammar. They reduce residue and are a great solvent to use both in cleaning up and for thinning oil paints and mediums. These have a low flash point so are many times considered safe for plane travel, but check with your airline first. As always, remember that when something is labelled as ‘non-toxic’ that only covers it’s expected normal use, so it is not non-toxic to injest for example. Zest-it make two versions of their oil paint solvents – the original dilutent and the citrus-free solvent. I am not sure which group the Zest-it Solvent belongs in – it has a much stronger bite than OMS but it is not a citrus solvent.
Oil of Spike Lavender is another popular solvent — it is slower drying than turpentine, but has a very strong bite so a little goes a long way. I find that Oil of Spike is strong smelling but the smell is not bothersome to me, but other people think it is an overpowering smell, so you will need to see how it works in your studio. The green label Turpenoid is a good brush cleaner but is not suitable as a paint thinner, most artists report that the paint never dries.
Ten Point Oil Paint Solvent Safety Guide
Always read the warning label on any product you use.
Always store your solvent in its original container. There’s no guarantee that anything else won’t be broken down by the solvent! Never pour your solvent into an empty drinks bottle, for obvious reasons.
Always make sure your container of solvent is clearly labelled.
Always keep oil solvents out of reach of children and animals, and never leave them out and unattended.
Always keep solvents away from food.
Always keep solvents away from cookers, heaters and fires. Most are flammable!
Always work in a well ventilated room to avoid dizziness, lightheadedness and headaches, as well as respiratory issues. Low odour solvents evaporate more slowly so there should be less in the air. Also close your container as soon as you can to minimise its evaporation into the air.
Wear gloves when possible. Allowing solvents to remove the natural oils on your skin (letting it dry your skin out) leaves your skin without the natural sealant of a layer of oil. Without that barrier it is then vulnerable to absorbing toxins. So gloves or a barrier cream are a must to keep solvent from contacting your skin. Also wear safety goggles or other protective clothing if you’re splashing it around!
Wash your skin with warm soapy water soon after exposure to solvents to avoid any irritation.
Dispose of solvents properly. Contact your local authority waste management office for advice and never pour them down the sink!
After receiving over 1300 entries and after many hours of deliberation by the Jackson’s Judging Panel, we are delighted to announce the winners of the Jackson’s Emerging Artist Prize! Three category prizes – Painting, Drawing & Printmaking, and three People’s Choice Awards have been selected. Read on to find out about each winning artwork.
3 Category Prizes: £400 Jackson’s Art Gift Voucher each
an editorial features in 2 medium-specific publications.
Winners were chosen by the Jackson’s Judging Panel
PAINTING CATEGORY AWARD
Energy Flow, 2017 Uchercie Tang Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm
Uchercie is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice blends photography, painting, poetry, design and avant-garde installation. She received a bachelor degree in Theatre Design from The Central Academy of Drama and is currently enrolled in Camberwell Colleges of Arts, focussing on Fine Art Practice. Uchercie is based in London and Beijing and uses art as a means of expression to alleviate depression and reflect on self-existence.
Death Throes, 2018 Kathryn Poole Pen and paper, 70 x 100 cm
‘I draw with the desire to hold onto something of the departed; securing a trace of life glimpsed in a corpse. Human memory is transitory. Although the physical specimen may rot and fade away and my memory may become unreliable, the representations I make will remain as a testament to their existence. The impressions I take allow me to reconstruct people and animals from fragments into a whole. Contrary to the conventions of traditional naturalists, I collect everything but the specimen itself; not intruding further upon their death. Recording this data aids in memorisation and through this, memorialisation.’
Description of Artwork:
”Death Throes’ is a drawing from the project ‘Bypass Wildlife’ – an archive of drawings, animations and photographs of the roadkill I find on my daily commute. Watching the animals slowly disintegrate inspired me to create a more permanent memorial to their lives.’
Night Flux #4, 2018 Francesco Poiana Aquatint print on paper, 200 x 160 cm
Francesco Poiana is an artist and illustrator based in London. He graduated in Painting at the Rome Art Academy and is now doing an MA at Central Saint Martins College. ‘In the last year, I have worked as an illustrator collaborating with many companies such as “Hermione de Paola”, “Curcio Editore” and “Rover Dreams productions”. At present, I’m working on a graphic novel and on the contemporary Landscape project “Mirabilia Urbis”.
Description of Artwork:
‘Like in the Tarkowsky’s Zone, the landscape here is taking the shape of a psychological site. Every place is real and fantastic at the same time. This is the point at which psychology and geography collide. Psychogeography is a mirror of our subconscious thoughts on the emotional landscape.’
3 People’s Choice Awards: £50 Jackson’s Art Gift Voucher each
Winners determined by public vote – the 3 artworks from the longlist with the highest number of votes
Bowl of Sunshine, 2018 Claire Osborne Watercolour on paper, 30 x 51 cm
‘I am a self-taught watercolourist living in Athens, Georgia who began painting in a committed fashion starting in January 2015. For as long as I can recall I have been simply mesmerized by watercolour art. When I was eventually at a point in my life where I had time for personal interests, I happened to see a watercolour exhibit. Rather than wanting to buy a piece, my overwhelming thought was – I don’t want to buy someone else’s watercolour painting, I want to LEARN how to paint my own’
Description of Artwork:
‘Lemons in light and shadow in glass bowl on linen draped wood table.’
Nightwatch, 2018 Jacqueline Bright Pastel on pastelmat, 25 x 30.5 cm
‘I live in Norfolk and am inspired by the huge amount of wildlife I have right on my doorstep. I have always loved animals and birds of all kinds and I love drawing animals in a realistic style using pastels. I find pastels are a beautiful medium to work with, and they help me to create a lovely soft look.’
Mirror to the Soul, 2018 Kelley Butler Pastel on pastelmat, 30 x 24 cm
‘My drawing began just 18 months ago when I injured my achilles tendon and was laid up at home. I wanted to draw my dogs so I searched “how to draw a realistic dog” online. There were many time lapse videos on YouTube but my techniques really developed when I found Patreon. I have learned so much from the wonderful teachers like Jason Morgan, Lisa Ann Watkins and others. I’ve combined the techniques I’ve learned and really enjoy the combination of pastels and coloured pencils. I always found comfort when able to use my creative mind now I spend every day drawing during the day and watching tutorials on Patreon at night. I had always wished I could find some way to earn a living using my creative side and now that dream has come true. I love drawing pet portraits, wildlife and nature and have a long, long list of things I want to draw.’
Description of Artwork:
‘I had horses for 20 years and I think there is nothing more soulful than a horse’s eye. I loved this reference photo from Pixabay because you can see the photographer and the overhang of the barn in the reflection which reminded me of my horse barn.’
Nicola Wilkinson, who won the Animal Category Award in the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2018, is a UK based, wildlife, equine and pet portrait artist. Working almost exclusively in watercolour pencil, she combines her lifelong love of art with her love of animals to create photorealistic images, each and every one a reverent meditation on her craft. We caught up with Nicola to find out more about her process and motivation.
Clare: Tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education.
Nicola: Art has always been an important part of my life and although it’s not something I pursued far in education, I’ve always kept that interest alive. I loved art in school, it was definitely my favourite subject, and I studied it up to G.C.S.E level where my final piece focused on Indian wildlife. I remember struggling with the decision to take it for A Level but instead choosing to pursue alternative subjects. This enabled me to study Zoology at University which I loved, but even then I would spend my spare time drawing.
Fox Study, 2018 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper, 41x32cm
Clare: How did you become interested in photorealistic drawings of animals?
Nicola: It’s something I have never really thought about, it has just happened quite organically, for as long as I can remember I have always loved animals. It made sense to draw what I love and the detail has just come over time as it’s what I’m drawn to when I look at other artists work.
Nicola: I spend a lot of time researching before I even begin drawing, often I have an idea in my mind of what I want and so I spend time getting that right before I begin on the actual piece. Most of the time I will start at the top left of my piece, to avoid smudging and I lay down a base layer first. Depending on the type of paper I use this is either with coloured pencil or watercolour pencils, before slowly adding in the detail. I try and block in rough detail before going in and spending time putting in all the fine detail. This is what takes the most time, but is my favourite part of the drawing as it’s where I really get to focus and bring what I am drawing to life.
Clare: The detail in your work is really impressive. How long does each piece take you on average?
Nicola: This is a question I always struggle to answer as I tend to work on pieces in small periods as I have to fit my art around a full time job! I always say around 40 hours for an A3 sized piece but that’s a very rough guess, I have yet to actually time myself for a whole piece. This also doesn’t include the time spent beforehand researching and drawing out the sketch which can sometimes take hours.
Wild at Heart, 2017 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper
Clare: Do you prefer to draw fur or feathers, and what has been the most challenging animal texture for you?
Nicola: I love all textures, I think what I enjoy the most is the variety, as no fur ever seems the same and feathers also seem to vary. I love the colour variety you can find in feathers, it’s always nice when I can use the pencils in my collection which don’t often see much use. Several years ago I drew a Kingfisher and it was so nice using so many different shades of blue. One of the most challenging textures I have found is long fur, it can twist in so many directions and be very time consuming but I do really love the challenge and the final results.
Balanced, 2018 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper, 30x30cm
Clare: From your process photos on Facebook, you appear to work quite methodically, moving across the image, drawing in the subject to its completion. Do you start with preliminary sketches or texture studies beforehand?
Nicola: I do spend a lot of time preparing before I even begin on the actual piece. Most pieces start with a preliminary sketch, this is so I can work out the composition, size and see what it looks like on the paper. If it’s a texture I am not used to or feel I need to understand better I will practice on a bit of paper and also look at photos to try and get a feel for what it would look like in real life. By having this understanding it makes the drawing process a lot easier and I think it makes the drawing look more authentic.
Work in Progress, 2018 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil on paper
Clare: Do you have any favourite pencils, mediums, brushes or surfaces? Which colour pencil do you find you have to replace the most often?
Nicola: My go-to pencils are always my Faber-Castell Polychromos, once I started to become more serious about my artwork I invested in a full set and to this day they have been my favourite investment. For some reason I tend to stockpile their dark sepia colour, it’s a very versatile colour and great for creating depth without using black. I also love the Caran D’ache Luminance range, they have such a lovely selection of natural colours which I have found to be very useful. For surface depending on the subject and size I will either use Pastelmat, Fisher 400 or Fabriano Artistico HP. All are fantastic papers which produce amazing results.
Repose, 2018 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & marker on paper, 21x29cm
Clare: What is a good day in the studio for you?
Nicola: A good day in the studio is getting to that point in a drawing where everything starts coming together so that you can take a step back, look at it and realise that everything you thought was going wrong actually looks pretty good. I think we can sometimes be our own worst critics, especially as pencil drawings can take such a long time which means a piece can spend a lot of time not looking very good before it all starts to come together. For me that’s when a bad day in the studio can turn into a pretty good one.
King Vulture Study, 2014 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper, 38×28.5cm
Clare: What makes a good pet portrait for you?
Nicola: For me it a good pet portrait has to capture the personality of the pet, otherwise you could just be drawing any dog. When taking commissions I always ask for lots of photos of the pet, as it can really help me get to know what the dog looks at from more than one angle and can be a great insight into the dogs personality, which really helps when it comes to creating a pet portrait for someone.
Poppy and Pippin, 2015 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper, 42.5×30.5cm
Clare: Who are your art influences? Who are your favourite animal portrait or contemporary artists?
Nicola: One artist whose art I have adored from a young age is Bev Doolittle. I remember picking her to study during a school project and just being blown away by the detail and cleverness of her pieces. Her artwork often has hidden meanings within it, which means people spend longer looking at it and understanding the story she is telling. While this is something I don’t do with my own art, I think part of me loves drawing detail, as it invites people to stop and spend time looking at it.
Nebula, 2018 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & ink on paper, 35x50cm
Clare: In the studio – music, audiobook, radio or silence?
Nicola: Music definitely. I have several playlists that I listen to depending on my mood, a lot of the time it’s a playlist of film scores but sometimes I like to listen to something with more of a beat. I sometimes put the radio on when I really need to focus so I can just have a bit of background noise, I really don’t like working in silence. This year I’m looking forward to finishing off my Christmas commissions with some Christmas music.
Marmalade, 2017 Nicola Wilkinson Pencil & pastel on paper
Clare: What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of your art in the flesh or on-line?
Nicola: I am currently working on opening my own Etsy shop where I will be selling limited edition prints of my most popular pieces, just in time for Christmas. I also have a couple of pieces on show at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham over the Christmas period. I still have my Instagram account, where I post pictures of my most recent pieces and works in progress. I think the aim for next year is to sell my artwork locally in fairs and galleries.
Fans of Daniel Smith Watercolours love the array of pigments used to make their exquisite colours. They are best known for reviving the use of some pigments that are mined from the Earth. Daniel Smith began with the Primatek collection in 1998. Their penchant for creating fascinating colour mixes began with the production of Lapis Lazuli — the gold speckled blue gemstone found in King Tutankhamun’s mask! Painters who tried the colour adored it, and the positive response compelled the company to hire a mineralogist to find more natural pigments from which to create a range of paints.
Finding the right pigments is no mean feat. Journeys have been made across the world via plane, jeep and even mule to get to the, often remote, sources of the pigments. High quality veins of ore are identified and then mined with large quantities of minerals, or “massive”, being processed to unearth the colour within.
Making paints is as much a chemical process as it is an artistic one. Chemists and paintmakers come together to grind and re-grind the pigments until they are at the optimum particle size to bring out maximum colour vibrancy. These pigments are then milled with the medium, at a ratio that guarantees the necessary attributes of the finest watercolour: vibrancy, consistency and stability.
Insight into a Few Colours
Today there are 35 colours in the Primatek range. Here’s an insight into four of the colours.
Piemontite Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek Colour Swatch
Piemontite Genuine is ground from a scarlet-streaked mineral sourced in the hills of Italy. When squeezed from the tube its appearance is of a deep ruddy violet. Add water to create a granulating violet-brown that has a carmine tone.
Amethyst Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek Colour Swatch
Amethyst Genuine looks almost black when squeezed from its tube, but it’s actually a rich purple. It is capable of a wide range of tone when more and more water is mixed with it. Although it does granulate, it also makes beautiful clear washes with the faintest hint of sparkle due to the crushed gemstone that the pigment is extracted from.
Serpentine GenuineDaniel Smith Primatek Colour Swatch
Serpentine Genuine is a green that comes from a stone found in Australia. This soft stone is used cross-culturally for carving amulets used to ward off harm. Daniel Smith Serpentine Genuine is the newest colour in the Prima Tek range, and has no comparison in any other known paint palette. Serpentine Genuine is semi-transparent and develops granulation with specks of burnt scarlet. It makes a great addition to landscape and floral palettes.
Bloodstone Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek Colour Swatch
Bloodstone Genuine is from a stone that is seen as mystical, magical and medicinal. Its red specks are thought by some to represent the blood of Christ. Bloodstone when ground into pigment makes an intense and velvety aubergine colour. When washed out it then turns to a warm grey wash that has great lifting properties, and granulates beautifully. It mixes especially well with transparent Rhodonite Genuine and Quinacridone Burnt Orange.
Quinacridone Magenta Daniel Smith Swatch
Did you know?
Daniel Smith was the first manufacturer to use Quinacridone pigments to create artist paints. Quinacridone pigments were originally developed for the automotive industry which requires extremely lightfast and durable paints. Quinacridone is known for its brilliant colour and luminous transparency which also makes it the perfect source of pigments for watercolour.
Since the staff at Jackson’s are artists, we asked them what they think would make good gifts for different types of creative people. Ranging from the small and neat to grand presentation pieces there’s plenty to inspire your creative gift giving or to give you ideas of what you’d like to put on your own list!
Jackson’s Staff Gift Picks for Different Types of Artists!
Did you know that you can create and share a wishlist on the Jackson’s website?
Let your friends know what you want for Christmas!
Simply log in to your account and click the ‘Add to My Favourites’ button under any product.
Then click on the ‘My Account’ button at the top right of the page.
Click ‘View My Favourites’ and share it by email if you wish.
Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers in the Gift Ideas section on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.
At Jackson’s we have a good selection of over 600 useful and inspiring books for artists to help you get the most out of your painting time and materials. While most of the books we stock are practical art titles – how to draw, paint and make prints – in addition to these art instruction books we also have art theory and history books, as well as books with career advice for professional artists.
This list of our best-sellers is a handy guide to what has been popular during 2018. This year’s bestseller list has lots of books about the mediums of watercolour painting, pastels and printmaking, with a predominance of subject matter of painting flowers, water or skies and colour mixing. Some favourite titles from last year are still going strong!
We are very proud of the competitive prices on our great selection of art books; we are often the best price online! Why not browse our Book Department, filter your results using the tick boxes on the left side of the screen or the finder tool at the top of the list, and add a book to your materials order. Learn something new!
Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers in the Art Instruction Books Department on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.
You can find all of our recommended art exhibitions in one place. Below is a list of our 7 must-see art shows for the month, along with a navigation that can take you to smaller weekly listings that are worthy of note, this section is updated with new shows every week. If you want to see exhibitions in London or in your area simply go to our Artist Calendar – let us know about an exhibition using the form at the bottom of that page for the chance to be included in one of our Art Exhibitions on Now posts!
7 Unmissable Art Exhibitions on in November
This month’s art exhibitions not to miss choices focus on artistic responses to the cultural state of the Western world in the twentieth century and how mediums interact with and facilitate ideas.
1. Festival of Print: East London Printmakers Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition
Wuon-Gean Ho, She Doesn’t Care If We Stare 29:8:17, linocut, 15 x 20 cm, Southbank smooth paper with Sakura oil based relief inks
This year’s annual exhibition by members of East London Printmakers marks the 20th anniversary of the group and features the work of over 70 printmakers, the work is contemporary but utilises both traditional and experimental techniques as well as demonstrating a broad range of abilities.
Jeune fille tenant une fleur. Fernand Léger,(French, 1881-1955). Oil on canvas, height 55.0 cm, width 46.0 cm, 1954.
An exhibition of more than 40 works by the french artist Fernard Léger, who lived between 1881 and 1955. His pieces capture the vitality of life at the time along with a focus on the hustle and bustle of city life. His output included paintings, murals, film and textiles but he also drew on photography and the “new” types of communication such as typography, advertising and graphic design that developed during the twentieth-century.This is the first major UK exhibition of Léger’s work in thirty years and celebrates his belief that art should be part of everyday life.
Mali’s favourite work in the Fitzwilliam- Henri Fantin-Latour, White Cup and Saucer (1864)
As part of the celebrations of the Royal Academy having their 250th anniversary this year the Fitzwilliam Museum have selected seven Royal Academicians who have links with Cambridge and the Fitzwilliam Museum. Each of the following Academicians, Eileen Cooper RA, Stephen Chambers RA, Anne Desmet RA, Antony Gormley RA, Nigel Hall RA, Mali Morris RA and Eric Parry RA, were asked to select works they found significant and explain why. You can see all the works on display in the galleries alongside the interpretations of them. For more information and blogposts on the choices you can visit the RA250 project page here.
4. Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 Exhibition
The Clarendon Fine Art Gallery as official partner to the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year TV series is hosting all eight semi-finalists work. Giving you the opportunity to see the works up close before anyone else. To enable a smooth viewing experience the gallery has implemented timed attendance for the exhibition.
This annual exhibition has been running since 1974, the works are a restricted size measuring no more than 7 x 9 inches (18 x 23 cm) and by contemporary artists. More than 100 works are on display with the smaller scale allowing you to purchase pieces by renowned names as well as rising stars in a variety of media.
This year’s selection includes work by Tom Phillips RA, Jack Smith, Derek Boshier and Alice Irwin (who had a solo show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park earlier this year).
This is the first exhibition in the UK to champion the stunning and varied work of the Oceania area. The displayed pieces have been made during the last 500 years and includes items from those first brought to England by James Cook and his crew through to contemporary works that deal with current concepts of history, identity and climate change.
This show celebrates the wealth of culture, artistic vision and technical skill that comes from these island civilisations that cover almost a third of the world’s surface. With a combination of shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, giant canoes and god images what becomes obvious is the intricacy and character of the work, along with an awareness for Western audiences that these cultures have dramatically affected the shape of European art and still do so. The exhibition consists of around 200 works lent from public collections worldwide in range of materials such as shell, feathers, shark teeth, bark, wood and leaves, made by a vast range of artists. The opportunity to see a show that draws a common thread between the artistic work of the Oceania communities and shows a selection of work on mass from the last half a century is truly to good an opportunity to miss.
Cornelia Parker’s ‘Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)’ in the Annenberg Courtyard Photo- Phil Sayer
Originally exhibited on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the backdrop of Central Park and New York, Cornelia Parker’s Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) has now been set up in the Neoclassical surroundings of the RA’s courtyard. This structure is made from a deconstructed typical American barn which has been re-envisioned as a homage to the motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The motel itself was based upon Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad (1925), which Parker has also drawn inspiration from. Parker’s Transitional Object is in fact just a facade with the whole piece embodying a series of paradoxes and exposing polarities of good and evil.
Interesting Upcoming Artist Shows on this Month:
This is a selection of UK art exhibitions, including group, solo, artist-led and gallery curated shows, that we think are interesting or unusual in some way. We update this section every week so you know the exhibitions to see now. Formally, we presented this information as our Current Events weekly blog posts. If you want to submit your own, follow the link at the bottom of this section.
Exhibitions on in the First Week of December
Journeys: Taking viewers into unexpected discovery paths
4 December – 9 December 2018
‘Journeys – Taking viewers into unexpected discovery paths
Journeys inspire the imagination from physical to spiritual experiences. It is the path to discovery, driven by a great sense of curiosity and the process of asking questions and searching for meaning which allow us to grow and blossom.
We all have our personal and collective experiences which we express through different channels. Journeys offers each artist within the collective, the opportunity to present and express their unique and individual perspective on various Journeys.
There will be wide interpretations of Journeys through Abstract to Figurative Art using a variety of media from watercolours, oils, inks, photography, mixed media and fused glass. As with other Espacio exhibitions, all the artists are actively involved with the gallery and many will be available each day for a friendly chat about their work.
We invite you to join us on these fascinating Journeys of discovery revealing the artists’ unique paths and inspiration for their work.
Annie-Marie Akussah, Gerda Berger, Giacomo Bevanati,
Eva Edery, Jacqueline Ennis-Cole, Kai Fiáin, Zurab Gogidze,
Marilyn Green, Susan Keshet, Marguerite Knight,
Rosana Miracco, Amravati Mitchell, Shân Monteith-Mann,
Suzie Ostrove, Georgina Talfana, Carole Thomas
Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018
28 November – 9 December 2018
Hope (III), Adebanji Alade VPROI Oil 40 x 40 cm
‘The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition has a well-earned reputation for attracting highly exciting young exhibitors, alongside the much admired, more established member artists. This year the trend will continue, with new artists and new discoveries waiting to be made.
The exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to see the many and varied ways in which artists use oil paint today, from a traditional approach to this highly technical media through to more innovative uses of material, style and content.
Offering valuable prizes such as The Phyllis Roberts Award (worth £2,000) and The Winsor & Newton Young Artist Awards, the ROI continues to lay the foundations for future generations to enjoy and achieve artistic expression with this most adaptable and durable medium.
Unique to this year, the ROI presents a show within a show on the theme of ‘Community Spirit’, for which several members have put forward work that highlights cohesion and togetherness, “ … a perfect foil for the times of uncertainty and division in which we are currently living” (Tim Benson, President).’