Louise Braithwaite’s vibrant life

Kew Gardens cr Louise Braithwaite

Kew Gardens © Louise Braithwaite

There’s an energy to Louise Braithwaite’s work that makes it resemble a still from a film – press play and all her characters will resume performing whatever role she’s set them. Her paintings been described as the ‘happy Lowrys’, and it’s easy to see why – they’re crammed with figures in suspended motion, and usually set against an intricate, colourful backdrop.

Barnes Pond II cr Louise Braithwaite

Yet her success has been something of a surprise, at least to her nearest and dearest. “Art was always my favourite subject at school but I was told by my family I’d never make a proper living out of it!” she exclaims. “I studied Media and Production Design (Graphics) as I thought this would be more commercial but I ended up painting after a few years working for a design company. I proved them wrong.”

Louise never wavered in her decision to pursue this goal. “It was meant to be… I bought some oil paints (my mother had always wanted me to paint in oils, sadly she died in 1995). I took the first painting I liked to be framed at a local framers in Battersea and three people asked if it was for sale so the owners asked me to paint something for their window and it just spiralled from there.”

Southwold II_cr Louise Braithwaite

Southwold II © Louise Braithwaite

Louise started out by painting “generic seaside scenes” but has gradually become more site specific over the years, so that viewers can often recognise the places they love in her work. “I paint many commissions of townscapes or individual houses.”

Cirencester cr Louise Braithwaite

Cirencester © Louise Braithwaite

The figures striding through her oils are also part of her driving force. “I’m fascinated by people and I love watching them. Really any situation, place or event can translate into one of my paintings.”

Centre Court cr Louise Braithwaite

The scenes are full of enjoyment, and mostly show people relishing their leisure time – strolling, watching and playing sports, sunbathing, dog walking… In a way, these depictions reflect the elements Louise says she finds most satisfying her life as an artist. “I love having the freedom to take the dog for a walk, do a yoga class, play tennis or have a long lunch with friends, and there is no one to say no, except me.”

Brighton cr Louise Braithwaite

That isn’t to say she doesn’t work hard to produce and sell her paintings. “I try to sell a lot of my work directly to minimise the commission paid to galleries,” she says shrewdly. “I have a website www.louisebraithwaite.co.uk and another for prints and cards www.madloupublishing.co.uk. I take part in The Affordable Art Fair in Battersea in March and The Bristol Affordable Art Fair in September. We also do shows such as Hampton Court Flower Show and Spirit of Christmas in Olympia to sell the limited edition prints. Plus I exhibit with Aubergine Gallery in Wimbledon, Ingo Fincke Gallery in Battersea, and Marine House in Beer, Devon.”

Picadilly Circus in the Rain cr Louise Braithwaite

In fact, many of the places where she exhibits her work are also those captured in her oil paintings, presenting daydream, exuberant versions of the places we know and love – cast in vibrant, aesthetically pleasing shapes and colours.

Find more of Louise’s artwork at www.louisebraithwaite.co.uk and www.madloupublishing.co.uk.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Writing prompt – crowd

Park on Park Street cr Judy DarleyWhile I’m a people-watching aficionado, I’m not a fan of crowds – not the type where you have to push your way through, simply to get from one place to another. This week I invite you to submit your character to that scenario, adding the stress of a time-sensitive goal to the mix.

Quite simply, consider the sheer numbers and variety of people who wait at, or amble through a busy corner of a city. Then take your character and give them an annoying, worrying or even life-and-death mission or chore to achieve. Drop them in the centre of the mass of people, all of whom have their own immensely important aims in mind, and see how they cope. What will the cracking point be?

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to judydarley(at)gmail.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Bright shiny day

ShinyBrandNewDayMay cr Bread and JamSometimes all you need to start the day right is a strong tea or coffee served in your favourite mug.

My particular favourite is a sturdy, wide bottomed work of art sporting the words: “Last Night I Had a Lovely Dream”, which cheekily states on its base “About You.”

A nice, or potentially unsettling, message for whoever I happen to be sitting opposite!

This one from Bread & Jam, purveyor of witty and stylish wares, is also a delight. It’s named the Brand New Day Mug and will definitely be on my wish-list next time I need a fresh cuppa. I think it’s bound to get any day off to a bright  beginning and fuel your creativity.

Find the whole range at www.wearebreadandjam.co.uk.

Art with narrative

Lover Leaving, oil on panel, 60x70cm cr Frans Wesselman

Lover Leaving, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

I’ve recently come to realise that quite a few of the artworks that have attracted me in recent years have two particular things in common: 1) they offer the sense of a larger story; 2) they’re by the same artist.

Shropshire-based artist Frans Wesselman has been creating narrative paintings, etchings and stained glass since his childhood in the Netherlands.

Godiva window 1, stained glass panel, detail cr Frans Wesselman

Godiva window, stained glass panel detail © Frans Wesselman

“When I was a child, my interest in visual art was kindled by my mother pinning illustrations, cut out from magazines, onto the wallpaper,” he recalls. “They were done in a kind of Arthur Rackham style, presumably to children’s stories, though I don’t remember the subjects. But they were drawings, graphic art. I was fascinated by this alternative way of telling stories and at about 17, decided I wanted to do this myself. Ever since, drawing has been the basis of all my work.”

Owl cr Frans Wesselman

Owl © Frans Wesselman

Frans’ parents insisted that he study a subject that could lead to a living wage, and he initially attended an Art Teacher Training College. “After completing my military service I topped that up with a few years at art college, studying print making and photography,” he says. “I went abroad, doing odd (but often interesting) jobs for a few years, drawing, etching and painting all the while. Eventually the odd jobs became fewer, the exhibitions more successful. I was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.”

I love the atmospheric fairytale quality of Frans’ works, but when I ask him what drew him to develop this style, he says it wasn’t a conscious decision.

“I don’t think it worked that way. I made the images that interested me and tried to express what I felt was important, and this is what came out,” he explains. “I think art is based in one’s attitude to life. Over time the accent changes and the handling of the materials develops, I always try to make the work more direct, better conceived and more spontaneously drawn or painted. But for better or for worse, this is the result.”

Father, oil on panel, 69x70 cm cr Frans Wesselman

Father, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

Much of his work is inspired by literature, poetry, and even the bible, which he finds “a great source of fascinating thoughts and stories, especially in conjunction with the work of the old masters who took similar subjects as their starting point, Rembrandt for instance or Murillo. Sometimes my own experiences are the beginning of a series of sketchbook scribbles that may lead to finished work. And from time to time I get commissions that may lead on to the exploration of other themes.”

Frans also draws from nature a lot, saying that “though that rarely leads to a finished piece, it underpins all the rest.”

Swimmer II, woodcut, 42x49cm cr Frans Wesselman

Swimmer II, woodcut, © Frans Wesselman

Key pleasures in his craft include “having the freedom to explore through drawing and painting the subjects that interest me. To be able to get out of bed in the morning and think ‘I must change the stance of that woman in my new painting’ and to be able to just go and do that.”

The Owl That Sang In The Night, oil on panel, 35x28cm cr Frans Wesselman

The Owl That Sang In The Night, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

Frans will be exhibiting at the Bristol Affordable Art Fair from 18-20 September on the Churchgate Gallery stand. He also exhibits pieces at the Montpellier Gallery in Stratford on Avon, at the Bankside Gallery, London, and will have works at the Great Print Exhibition at the Rheged Gallery, Penrith, from 19th September to 22nd November and at the Glaziers Art Fair, Glaziers Hall, London, on 27-28 October 2015. Find more of his art at www.fwstainedglass.com.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Boats among the trees

Luke Jerram- Withdrawn-Sea cr Judy DarleyThere are only a few days left before Luke Jerram’s Withdrawn installation disembarks from Leigh Woods and sets sail for its next, possibly, ultimate, destination.

I finally got a chance to visit last Sunday, and really wasn’t sure what to expect. A fleet of unseaworthy vessels arranged in a woodland – part of me couldn’t help but ask why. The boats have formed the setting for a variety of cultural performances throughout the summer, as well as asking grand ecological questions – but beyond that, what is the emotional impact of this artwork?

Luke Jerram- Withdrawn-Gloria Jean smells of the sea cr Judy Darley

I love trees, and I love boats, so an afternoon tramping through to a leafy land-docked harbour was irresistible. Any when we arrive and glimpsed Grey Gull through the foliage, something deep inside me leapt for joy.

Luke Jerram-Withdrawn-Grey Gull cr Judy Darley

Because, in a curious way, it made perfect sense. Not only in the sensible sense that these seafaring craft are made primarily from wood, so to return them to a woodland offers a delightful symmetry to it, but because the boats themselves look perfectly at home.

Being a Sunday, the woods were awash with family, mainly in wellies and bright waterproofs, and it led me to wonder if part of the reason this works so beautifully is because it harks back to the Swallows and Amazons adventure games of childhood, when any fallen tree trunk could become a pirate ship, mountainside or palace in an instant.

Luke Jerram-Withdrawn-Joanne Marie detail3 cr Judy Darley

The installation is both absorbing and unexpectedly transportive. Joanne Marie has a cockpit where a pair of tortoiseshell spectacles rests, and a lobster pot lolls on the stern. Stand close to Gloria Jean and you’ll catch an enticing whiff of saltwater.

Luke Jerram-Withdrawn-Gloria Jean cr Judy Darley

More than that, though, is the way nature has quietly been taking hold. The peeling paint has inevitably peeled further, moss is quietly springing up, and thick cobwebs are appearing in interiors we ourselves can’t enter. Oak leaves gather where once seaweed might have strewn.

Luke Jerram-Withdrawn-Joanne Marie cockpit cr Judy Darley

And I’m fairly certain that when all the humans leave for the day, the badgers, squirrels and other Leigh Woods’ residents come out to play.

Luke Jerram’s Withdrawn installation will be in Leigh Woods until 6th September 2015.

Writing prompt – wreck

The Titanic wreck cr Dr Robert Ballard

The Titanic wreck © Dr Robert Ballard

The tragedy of the Titanic has inspired creative output for more than a century, but the discovery of the sunken vessel is equally evocative.

Today marks the 30th anniversary since the famous wreck was found by American oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard and French diving engineer Jean-Louis Michel 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, nearly two and a half miles (4000m) below sea level. The boat still lies in 13,000 feet of water today.

Imagine devoting your life to searching for a missing vessel, plane or artefact. How would you feel when you finally discover it? What losses might you have incurred along the way? Write that into a work of fiction.

Find out more about the Titanic at www.titanicbelfast.com. Find 30 intriguing facts – perfect for filling in the details of your tale – at www.titanicbelfast.com/30things.

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to JudyDarley(at)gmail.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.