Liz Dalton’s Sydenham studio is light and airy. Images of flowers and leaves abound. Liz has always liked drawing, from her schooldays through her years as an illustrator to her present status as a free-lance artist teaching and working to commissions.

How did you start?

I did a three-year course in Illustration at Harrow then moved into publishing. My drawing skills, initially developed at college are practised in life classes and in my sketchbook. After practising as an illustrator for about ten years, working to very tight deadlines, I began to feel that the commercial briefs were dictating how I worked. So I decided to branch out on my own. It felt as though I were starting again from scratch, so I started where I always begin, with drawings. In 1990 we moved to Chicago and it was there that I began to start painting again. It felt like the right time to do it and I had personal ideas I could work through.

What influenced you there?

A group called the ‘Chicago Imagists’ painted in a vibrant, figurative way. The wide open spaces, huge skies and monumental buildings influenced my compositions. Over in the US I painted in oils, on paper and canvas.

How did things change when you returned to the UK?

When we returned to England I got a studio in Crystal Palace and worked part-time as a teacher and carried on painting. My work changed again, quite radically. I was sketching on the computer and began to paint using flat colours. I was teaching post-16, exhibiting nationally and internationally, and now I teach drawing on the BA in Theatre Design at Croydon. This year I’m also teaching The Dynamics of Colour, drawing and painting at Westminster Adult Education Service.

What art do you do outside your teaching?
Most of the time I’m doing commissions and working for exhibitions. The skills I learnt as an illustrator come in very useful –‘Your work has a graphic clarity which is calming and easy to live with’ commented Susan Wood during this interview. The joy of a commission is that your work will definitely be seen outside the studio! It’s important for people to meet the artist, and nowadays people are keen to sustain the local economy. Normally we aim to have an Open Studio twice a year, but people can contact me any time.Fennel flower, Switzerland (oil on canvas, 89cm x 122cm) was a commission for a couple living in Sydenham. It’s based on a flower from my father-in-law’s garden. I tend to do what I call ‘photo drawings’ – I take a photo then base the drawing on the whole photo or one small part of it. Sometimes I start from the flower’s actual shadow. Most of my works are of plants, but they also remind you of other things. My son, for example, said that my fennel flower painting reminded him of a Roman candle. Dioxzine Cadmium (oil on canvas, 135cm x 135cm) (see image at top of page) was commissioned by a collector of mine. She wanted one image to spread across 3 canvases. As it was for her library, which had little natural light source, I used a very bright warm yellow to compensate for this. The client is a very keen gardener, hence her passion for flowery images.‘I-U’ was a collaboration with artists Bruno Maag and Dan Prescott for a charity auction at the ICA. The theme was to capture the true meaning of love, set by Love-in-the-Sky TV. I drew a heart shaped wreath which I wanted to be quirky and whimsical. The concept was that we all would use a heart shape – in the end the middle section departed from that shape: it was an abstraction of the letters I and U, this introduced another dynamic. Collaborating was great. We all bonded during the project and found the artists’ dialogue motivating and inspiring.

‘I-U’ (mixed media, 46cm x 122 cm. Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

What are your plans for the future?
I am at the drawing and conceptual stage, of some new work with the SLWA BANKSIDE show in mind. …Readers, over to you!  

Posted: 2010-01-07 04:52:00
Kim Thornton is one of the eighty or so SLWA artists exhibiting at Bankside in May this year. I met her in her Camberwell studio.Kim, I know you're very busy organising the publicity team for the show, but how are your own preparations going?Well, I always have several pieces on the go at the same time, so am working hard to finish some in time for the show.What is your modus operandi?I take everyday useful things and they end up not being useful! Some of the objects include a dustpan, a washing powder scoop, a dishwasher tablet and a dosing ball for the washing machine. Or a wooden spoon – I covered it with gold leaf then made it into a photo.These objects then become historical objects. My work was included in the London Group 2009 exhibition and the photo of the spoon was sold at the SLWA Dulwich Library exhibition in autumn 2009.How did you end up knitting a miniature washing machine, complete with knitted plug cover?????In 2006 I was in the final year at Camberwell College of Art and started my first knitting piece. I'd an idea that I wanted to knit Big Ben … I thought it would be nice to have a life-size piece and to cover it with knitting (à la Christo). The underlying concept was that the Houses of Parliament is a very 'male' building, and to soften it I would introduce knitting.At this time I was reading Ros Minsky’s work on the changing roles of men and women. She felt that men took on aggressive ‘acts’ for women and women took on emotional softer acts for men. As the roles were changing, women didn't need men so much so the men were having to deal with emotional matters themselves. I started with a miniature Big Ben and then knitted other iconic buildings, made them into a knitted landscape and then photographed it.Knitty City (Indigo), Lambda print, 84 x 106 cmWould you call it an installation?No, but I like the idea of taking the work to another level. People want to see the actual objects, but can’t. It wasn’t that I was particularly fond of knitting (I’d hate to knit a jumper!), but making everyday things into precious objects became more and more important to me.What materials do you use in your knitting?I've made a pair of swimming trunks out of tumble dryer fluff – one single wearer for them!Or used teabags. I tend to collect things – I once took apart an old mop, made big balls of ‘wool’, then made it into a cloak. This was part of the ‘Life Stages’ series.Where do you work?In September 2006 I got a studio very near Camberwell College. When I first went there it felt cold and lonely, and I wasn’t used to the idea of being all on my own. I sat sewing my used shopping lists into parts of Stonehenge. There was a lot of repetitive work – I could have done it at home, but psychologically it was easier in the studio where there were no distractions. Usually I spend three days a week in my studio; I sew or knit all day, but am usually multi-tasking, with several projects on the go at once, such as Picasso's jacket.You said you like to use found objects – what exactly was ‘Picasso’s jacket’?Picasso’s jacket, Deconstructed jacket, fabric & thread, 186 x 114cm It was an old suit jacket that I deconstructed; I thought to myself, wouldn't it be funny if I took it apart … so I started laying it out and it just grew. Grew into something spontaneously. As for the shape, once it was finished I stood back and looked at it and joked with a friend - Oh, look, I’ve made a Picasso! And that was how I gave it the title.What then?After that I looked to see what else I had, and found a handbag and unpicked it. I used everything, including the lining, the handles, and even the zip. Once it was taken apart it didn't lie completely flat – that’s where you try to make it into something pleasing. The bag had fantastic handles and that really made the image, and I then had the picture in my head.Picasso's woman, Deconstructed handbag, fabric & thread, 74 x 89cmThis seemed to be developing into a preoccupation?Yes. I did a series called ‘Forbidden Places’. First I took a glossy photo then stitched into it using surgical sutures – some were done with fishing line and some with thread. For that I used actual stitches used by surgeons – such as ‘continuous mattress’, ‘mattress stitch’, or ‘simple interrupted’ or ‘vertical mattress’.My previous handbag works were called ‘Secret Spaces’, and for the individual works I chose euphemisms for vagina such as ‘growler’, ‘bizzle’, ‘oyster’ or ‘velvet box’. The idea was to question the way that men intervene in events to do with women and control them. I was thinking of female circumcision and how the titles of my works were important in a subversive way. I liked the idea that these lovely names all meant vagina.With the ‘Forbidden Places’ series all the names of the works will be based on archaic or now rarely used words for tart or whore. In terms of technique, the works were based on the idea of samplers. Historically, samplers were introduced to keep women at home, but the messages I transmit are not the sort that nice and well-behaved women would sew. The irony was that a man (the surgeon) is the one who stitches up the woman.Maybe it's actually about ‘hidden' places as well as forbidden ones. There are secret spaces and forbidden places, and my work was about the idea that it wasn’t quite acceptable to show women being controlled sexually by men, but now the tables are turning a bit and and the roles are different.Thanks very much for your time, Kim. That was fascinating. Contrasts seem important to you. We started by talking about transforming everyday objects into precious things. But your images aren't necessarily sugary-sweet. There's often a black side, a kind of bridge between the playful and the serious, a way of bringing up serious themes in an ironic way.NB.  Do watch the SLWA website for information on the next Open Day at Kim’s studio (and also a chance to see work by a lot of other artists working in the same Camberwell side-street – itself a ‘hidden place’, an oasis of calm just a few steps away from a major bus route past Camberwell College.Find more about Kim Thornton here>

I met Lucy in Bainbridge Studios in West Norwood, where she was able to spare me a few minutes in between clearing up after a teaching session, cleaning screens, and dealing with SLWA artists coming to collect works and the corresponding digital images [Lucy had offered a service to SLWA artists whereby artists could bring their works to her studio and they could be photographed by a professional for a reasonable sum].

Lucy, you’re one of the SLWA artists exhibiting at Bankside in April/May. How are you preparing for that?
I’m working on a new series of images, so it’s a good thing they’re all ready now.

What’s the media?

I always do screen-printing.

When did you start screen-printing?

Over ten years ago now.

Why do you stick with it?

I like the printing process, like working on the computer, but also like the ‘hands-on’ bit.

How do you work and how do you choose the image?

Normally I photograph buildings. It’s always something quite architectural, buildings or reflections of buildings. I manipulate the images on the computer and then transfer them to the screen. The idea is to photograph a lot of detail then take out as much of this information as possible, so there are just the bare bones left and the image is just recognisable. I photograph in colour but then take out the colour too – it’s different each time. By playing with the image in Photoshop I see how much I can get away with without losing the image completely.One example is a new work, Battersea.

BatterseaScreenprint, 30cm x 30cm

Wow! That looks stunning!

I often take the photos at dusk or in the early morning so it’s often slightly blurry. By the time the image gets to the screen I know exactly how it’s going to look.

Sounds very different to many screen-printers’ techniques?

Yes, I like being experimental and don’t want my work to look like a ‘typical’ screen-print. The aim is with my new work to push the limits of screen-printing, maybe to end up almost Turnerish, at least painterly …
Changing the subject: Lucy, how do you manage to do your own work as an artist and manage your studios at the same time?
It’s a bloody nightmare! About 98% of my time goes on the studios, 2% on my own work.

Tell me about the range of work you do.

Mmm. There are so many different things:• Teaching people how to do screen-printing. There are about 50 people who drop in to use the facilities, but if people have no experience of screen-printing they have to be taught to use the equipment – I give people 4 sessions, with a maximum of two people at a time, as they have to know enough at the end to be able to work independently. Then they can buy a 10-session pass which they can use over six months. [I advertise on Gumtree, in different studios and in artshops]• Working with the council’s Resident Artist scheme to get a window in an empty shop that’s closed down so we can display work there.• Working with Lambeth on the next Open Studios (like the Dulwich Open Studios in May) – we’re just working on the dates, but it will probably be in the summer.• Applying for funding.

How would you sum up your first year of running Bainbridge Studios?

It’s been a busy twelve months, but look how far things have come.Before and After at Bainbridge Studios:

And is Bankside your next exhibition?

No. I’m the featured artist at ORIGINALS 10 – the big print show at the Mall Galleries.

Congratulations! When’s it on?

Start of March. Watch the website!

Lucy, I do appreciate it that you made time for the interview! Good luck at the Mall Galleries and at Bankside!

Posted: 2010-02-16 05:00:00
Circus, Paola MinekovPaola's first solo show opens on 18 October in City Tower, London, followed by a second solo exhibition which opens on 12 November and runs till the end of the year at Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. Her work had been spotted at Dulwich Library, Bankside Gallery and Dulwich Open House and South London Dance Studios earlier this year.

Did you always love art?

As a child I had to choose between dancing, the piano and painting, and chose art. Between the ages of 9 and 11 I had art lessons every day, in order to gain a place at the highly competitive National School for Fine Arts in Sofia, one of the very few secondary schools in Bulgaria specialising in art. After this very technical training in painting I studied at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv for 18 months, then did my degree at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where I studied Multimedia Design for three years, including work on videos, art installations and websites. It was then that I decided that what I really wanted to do most of all was art.

What made you move to London?

I fell in love with London the very first time I came here on a holiday back in 2003. I think I immediately knew I wanted to live here one day. It’s such a cultural centre and perhaps one of the best places in the world for an artist to be! I’ve lived in a few different countries since leaving Bulgaria at the age of 18 and wasn’t afraid of moving again. When I move to a new place I like to feel the atmosphere and come to know its people. Now I'm finding my way here and meeting a lot of amazing and interesting people. Through researching websites I found SLWA and Dulwich Open House. It's my first year of being a professional artist, and I've been exhibiting non-stop since January 2010 and sold some work. This October I'm organising the SLWA Exhibition at Dulwich Library (31st October – 27th November 2010), together with Gabrielle Bradshaw, Torie Wilkinson and Jenny Sweeney, and my first solo show is coming up later this month.

dancers6Where is it?
It is in City Tower and is organized by MWB Business Exchange who are also sponsoring the Private View reception. It's also linked to a Ballet Gala Night at the Britten Theatre which will take place on November 7. It's to raise funds for a charity called Honeypot, which uses the money to support vulnerable children. At the night of the gala I’ll exhibit seven original paintings and six giclee prints on canvas, and a percentage of the sale money will go to the charity.

What sort of work are you showing?
I'm very interested in movement, and am exhibiting work from my 'Dancers' and 'Circus' series.At the moment I’m working on two new paintings especially for the gala and have recently had the chance to sketch Celisa Diuana, a ballerina from the Royal Ballet, as well as dancers from Ballet Black, a company of professional dancers of Black and Asian descent.Dancers VI is about movement, reflections and energy, about how elegant, fragile and vulnerable the dancers are, but how they can express a range of emotions and are actually very fit and strong.

There's another theme too?

The theme of my new series 'Echoes of Romance' relates to women, relationships and sexuality, and is based entirely on my own experiences. While very personal, these works are much more stylised and monochrome when compared to the 'Dancers' series. I find that not only many of my female friends, but also many men relate to the works. In 2006 a psychologist chose my painting Every Woman to represent his research project on genetic breast and ovarian cancer in women at Leiden University, which concerns how doctors should discuss these matters with patients. This is another subject I’m very passionate about. The Outsider is about the person somebody wants to be with, the pressure, worry and insecurity that women often feel in a relationship – feelings that men are not always aware of and therefore remain 'outsiders' in the joint experience.
Do you have favourite artists?
The Impressionists, Rembrandt, Monet, Klimt and Schiele are favourites of mine. I also like Damien Hirst! Two years ago I had an exhibition with my father, sculptor Ivan Minekov, and realised that his sculptures work well with my paintings. He created the statuette for the Special Grand Prix Award for International Ballet Competition 2008, and I'll be showing it at the gala in the Britten Theatre along with 2 more of his bronzes.

You're also working on your website?

My portfolio website is  and I also have an on-line gallery, mainly prints, but also some original work that you can order online.

Thanks very much for your time, Paola, and good luck with the solo show!

When I was just eighteen I studied Mural Design for three years at Hammersmith College of Art (now part of Chelsea College of Art). I did all sorts of things from ceramics to stained glass, enamelling and casting a huge cement slab I’d modelled. There was a huge prejudice against women. We had a tutor on my foundation course who said ‘women can’t paint’!, so I didn’t feel then that I could become a painter. It took me years to realise that it was a terrible thing to say. I think that prejudice has been there for ever. When I finished I made stained glass for a while for commissions. My mother had an antique stall where she sold my decorative stained glass roundels.

What then?

I made plastic jewellery and had a stall on Covent Garden in the craft market. Sometimes I used to see TV presenters wearing my jewellery. I made everything by hand and sometimes stayed up all night – it was very labour intensive. So it was very exciting when in February 1980 the magazine OVER 21 featured a model wearing one of my earrings.

How did you move from jewellery and glass to painting?
Once the children were at nursery I started to go to life-drawing classes at Morley College with Denzil Forester. But I was very frustrated, because I knew I wouldn’t get any better if I just went once a week. Then, when I was at City and Guilds in Kennington doing a course on something like ‘Techniques of Oil Painting’, I showed the tutor some of my work and he said, ‘start on Monday’. I did my BA and MA there. I did the City and Guilds course because it’s one of the few Fine Art degree courses dedicated to painting, and since then I’ve been busy painting in my studio in Camberwell.

What did you paint?

For a long time I did still life, setting things up myself and working from observation. Later I came round to using photos quite a lot as a source. Sometimes it’s the only option: obviously I couldn’t have gone back to my uncle’s wedding in 1940 – almost all of the people are dead now. 

A small wedding
(11cm x 12.5cm, oil on gessoed card)How do you draw people?
At life class I always left the face till last, because it seemed less important. But the figure is very complex, and I was keen to get it right anatomically.  I liked the challenge of working from observation. I’m interested in what happens between your eye and when you make a mark on the canvas. It can be frustrating when you can’t make the mark do what you have in your head and what the eyes see.

What are your subjects?

I paint a lot of women and things that shape some of our expectations, such as wedding cake toppings. It seems wonderfully romantic. The cake-cutting is often the ending in romantic comedies or fairy tales. I did a series called’Happily ever after’ – one of the paintings was called

Dancing bridegroom
(25cm x 20cm, oil on linen)
I’d heard something about how much the average wedding costs and also about the high divorce rate, and was thinking how extraordinary it was that half the weddings end in divorce, but people spent so much money on it.

You seem interested in gender roles.

Yes. I was interested in the idea that ‘all little girls want to be ballerinas’ and based a series of paintings on photos of Alicia Markova and other dancers of that era.

Tiny dancer
(60cm x 46cm, oil on linen)
Recently I found out that when she was young Annette Messager wanted to be a ballerina or a nun – just like me! When I was about twelve the nun I wanted to be was Audrey Hepburn (in the film The Nun’s Story): a nun wearing lipstick!

There’s a link here to this painting of your mother, isn’t there?

Honeymoon dress (38cm x 27cm, watercolour on paper)

It was based on a photo taken in 1942. My mother was wearing a wonderful, terribly expensive dress she bought on her honeymoon in New York. Actually her father wouldn’t let her be a ballerina. And here she is in that dress! Quite like a ballerina’s dress, actually.

Jennie, what are you working on now?

This time the title of the series, ‘My last Duchess’, came before the works. I kept hearing references to Browning’s poem and found it very evocative. I’ve done paintings of the notorious Duchess of Argyle, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Windsor – all based on photos.

My last DuchessDo you ever do larger works now?
I once had a big enough space to work on big paintings and store them, but couldn’t afford the rent and moved to a smaller studio, so am now mainly working on smaller paintings, such as this series of paintings of transvestites.I found the pictures in a book. They reminded me of women who were friends of my mother who always wore pearls and stockings, but there’s an edge to them. This woman, for example, has quite a confrontational look.

Just Like a Woman
(55cm x 40cm, oil on canvas)  Thanks very much for your time, Jennie. The SLWA Dulwich Library Exhibition is coming up soon – I look forward to seeing what you submit!            

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