Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunflowers and Stephanie Smith

23cm x 30cm
Stephanie Smith

23cm x 30cm
Stephanie Smith

Artist Stephanie Smith is bursting onto the scene with free-form florals that make most flower paintings pale in comparison. Perhaps they even work better than the real thing, in the visual sense. Open, loose, color-forward and engaging as only full throated pastel works can be.

Her blog, A Roker Artist, delivers her images and her process for your enjoyment. Stephanie is from Tyne & Wear, England.

I wanted to interview her about what she is thinking and feeling when she renders these florals.

The interview.

Pastelsblog: Tell us something about your Sunflower series.

The flowers I painted from were weeks old and well past their best, but I loved the curious shapes made by the live and dead petals around the solid centre.
These weird, asymmetrical arrangements of petals were what grabbed my attention.

PB: What is your common theme from one image to the next?

I was driven by the need to capture the last days fo these flowers; when they were in full bloom they were quite uniform and bland. But as they died the colours developed, like the oncoming of autumn and change in the foliage of trees and bushes.
The saucer shapes became contorted and oranges and reds appeared alongside the lemon yellows. There was such a variety which hadn't existed when they were newly bought. Each head was individual and changing almost from hour to hour, until all the petals were shed.

PB: What is the role of gesture in your Sunflowers?

I apply pastels in a number of ways, and I've used a range of techniques in this sunflower series; intial drawing in conte stick, smudging in the local colour, building up structure in thin layers similar to drybrushing so that the colour underneath shows through, then getting heavier with impasto pastel as I strengthten certain areas and details.

The excitement was in the contorted petals, so once I'd lain down the structure of each flower head, the pastel marks became freer and more expressive.

PB: What about color?

I was painting the sunflowers in gloomy corner, and I wanted to show the way the yellows shone out, as though emitting a light of their own.

Choosing a coloured paper gound which was very close to the sunflower centres was effective. It meant that the petals made an almost abstract arrangement on the paper, with the flower heart and leaves disappearing into the background. And I used a restricted colour palette throughout the series, as pastels, when laid over each other, start to meld and smear and create new shades. It's one of the characteristics of painting with pastels which I enjoy.

PB: Also, I notice the bones of drawings in these images. Tell us something about the role of drawing in your process.

I have always been a drawer and I've only recently learnt to paint I suppose. Pastels were one of the earliest mediums I worked with, and I've been trying to find new ways of working with them. So I'm not surprised that drawing is evident in these pieces. And pastels make such great marks, depending on how you hold them and how little or how much pressure you apply. I suppose I've drawn on top of the painting in these sunflowers.

PB: Give me the what, when and wheres of the venues where you are showing right now.

Some of the sunflower series are currently being shown in the Time For Tea, a little Cafe-Gallery in Poynton, Cheshire where one of my sister Melanie lives. Melanie also has some of her acrylic still lifes on show there too. The cafe owner is an artist herself and displays and sells her own work in the cafe.

Four more paintings from the series are being sold in Warm Earth Gifts on Park Lane, Poynton, Cheshire. UK.

Note: Melanie Rimmer blogs at Chickpea.