Monday, 24 September 2012

Black, White & Gold

This month, the members of The Glasgow Print Studio were set the brief of creating an artwork on the theme of 'Black, White and Gold', set by the GPS sponsors, Ancnoc whisky. The piece was also to have reference to Scotland and elements of print in it.

I have been experimenting with using the medium of monotype printing (one of a kind prints rather than editioned from plates) using block printing inks, oil paints and etching inks.

Taking the theme of the colours and the whisky, I decided to make a print around the idea of a goddess of all the things that go into making Ancnoc whisky. I wanted bees and honey for the honey undertones in the drink, barley and water, for the main ingredients, and an osprey and hills to represent Scotland. I realised that this would have to be a big piece to get all that in, so I ventured into full paper size!

 This is the print I achieved on the first 'pull' of the press. The beauty of monotype printing is that you can never ne quite sure what you are going to get. I was pretty pleased with this, but wanted the figure to stand out more against the background.

 This is the second perspex 'plate' which was printed over the first print. You can see I have darkened the background a lot. The image is in reverse so it relates properly to the first print.
I also decided to add some gold colour to the first layer, using artist's oil paint.

And here is the finished piece, The Mistress of Honey and Barley.
I will be framing her this week and hope she perhaps catches one of the judge's eye. It would be wonderful to win the cash prize, but also very nice to win a nice bottle of Ancnoc to keep the winter chills away!


Now those of you who know me, also know that I always plan paintings and prints in twos, just in case one doesn't work out. I created a second figure on this idea, which is still in progress.

Here is the first print

 This is the other print with the perspex plate overlaid, ready to be printed. It looked perfect like this, but as is the way with monotype, it didn't print as well as I would have liked.

This is the print as it stands at the moment. I prefer the dress and the use of gold in this one, but I prefer the face in the other print. I will keep playing with this one to see if I can get something useable, and if not, it will make great collage material!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Julia Kay's Portait Party Flickr group : Portrait #1

I thought I would write a post about a portrait I did in response to Julia Kay's Portrait Party, a group on Flickr. The idea is that someone posts photos of themselves, then different people in the group make paintings, drawings and digital artworks based on those photos. My first portrait was of Hettie Price.

This is Hettie's photo that she posted. I was drawn to this picture as I loved that she'd added all these flowers in her hair. I thought of Nymph paintings of old, and decided to call her portrait Primavera.

Firstly, I selected a old canvas that was never going to be finsihed and was cluttering up the studio. It was 40 x 40cm so a good size, as I wanted to work with big brushes. I also decided to set myself the challenge of finishing this painting in one day only, with no going back.

First stage is to quickly and roughly block in all the main features and get a rough feeling for tones, erring towards the darker colours. Darker colours in oils are painted on more thinly than the light, so are easier to paint over. Blocking in the background helped also to keep the tones in the face right, and obliterate the old painting underneath.

This painting is a 1/2 of the way through the session. You can see that more of the features are beginning to emerge from the canvas. I feel that this stage is almost like sculpting for me. The eyes are a little uneven and the lips lop sided, but turning the canvas upside down and looking at it helped to identify these problems easily.

Here the face is almost complete. I was not happy with the lips, so I rubbed part of them back to reapply the colour. All that is really left at this stage is a bit of tweaking and a lot of painting in the background detail. I wanted to keep the background vague, so I had to resist my tendancy to overcomplicate.

And here os the finsihed painting. I like how I managed to keep some of the background from the painting underneath, in her shoulder area. There is maybe a touch too much detail in the face for what I was aiming for, but I am pleased that I managed to keep the flowers quite impressionistic.

And finally, here is the painting in all 8 stages.

Click on the image to see a larger size, so you can see all the details. I hope this lets you see the graft that goes into a painting. The session lasted 7 hours, with a couple of breaks for tea only. I can't wait to get started on my next one!

Check out Julia Kay's Portrait Party on Flickr here

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Frauleinwunderlich Article

Last month, I was contacted by a German magazine called Frauleinwunderlich (Girl Wonder), a magazine for pin-ups, rockabilly girls and burlesque stars...and artists that like all of these things!
They wanted to do a feature on my paintings, and who was I to refuse such a kind invitation?

They did a wonderful job of the two spreads, really showing off my paintings of Leyla Rose, Daiquiri Dusk, Miss Hell's Belle and me (of all people). I was amazed that they printed the whole article that I wrote. I love how the issue was called their herzblut issue (meaning doing things with a passion). How appropriate!

Here is a transcription of the article in case you can't read it on the photos.

You've just returned from the "A brush with Burlesque" show in London! Congratulations! can you tell our readers a little bit about the show?

Thanks! The show was organised by Mark and Sarah Bell of Kinky & Quirky productions. They hired the East Gallery on Brick Lane and ran the whole show, inviting a great selection of their favourite artists working in the theme of burlesque. Mark himself is a painter, so had a fine series of paintings based on their Black Country Burlesque shows they run. The artwork was a variety of oil and acrylic paintings, drawings, graphic posters, prints and even cake sculptures!

Was there a special moment when you knew that you wanted to become an artist or was it just the natural flow? (Were you always drawing and painting as a child?)

I was always drawing and painting people, even from a very young age. I remember doing a life sized drawing of girl when I was about 5 years old. I always wanted to be an artist, or do something creative, but I also have a mathematical brain, so was pulled between the two. I studied visual communication at the Glasgow school of Art before taking a post graduate in computer animation. I fell into lecturing for 13 years, so I am a bit of a late starter in the art world. Better late than never!

I do tend to be more drawn to making pictures of people rather than landscapes, and even my cityscapes have people in them, and my landscapes need to have something man made as part of the image.

You create beautiful paintings of Burlesque dancers - where does your fascination for this scene come from? How did you get involved with the scene?

I was busy painting a series of flamenco dancers, when I saw a poster for an event called Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The promise of a life drawing class with people in costumes sounded exactly up my street, so I went along and became a regular attendee. It is through these sessions that I met all the fabulous burlesque people I know, and have painted today.
I think the appeal of the burlesque dancers is partly the costumes, but also the retro style pin-up poses that are often part of my favourite acts. Every performer I love exudes an inner confidence and love of performing. It is this, and the beauty and grace of the performer that I want to capture in my work.

Your paintings are very expressive, sometimes even raw. They look like you sketch them during a performance. is this the case or do you use models posing in your atelier or photo material as a base for your paintings?

I use a wide range of material for my paintings. I attend the Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School sessions where models are drawn and photography is allowed, so I have both sketches and photographs to work from. I also attend life drawing classes at least once a week where I get to draw from life. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have someone model for just me! Most of my paintings are produced from photographic material as the poses are often just not practical for the model to hold for long. When painting from photographs, I do tend to try and not just replicate what is in the photograph, but to capture a sense of the movement in the performance or the pose. I try to tell something about the performer as well as make a likeness of them and enjoy adding items to the paintings to add my own story, like the little ship in ‘Caught in the Fishnet’ where Leyla Rose is portrayed as a giant mermaid.

Is painting for you an obsession or more a "day job"? Can you put away your brush at 5pm when the painting is nearly finished? How does it feel for you during the process of painting?

I think that left to my own devices, I would have very erractic working hours, but my husband, who is very sensible and organised, keeps me to a regular working day. I leave for the studio at 9 and stay there until 5.30pm at least 4 days a week. In the evenings, I catch up with writing my blog posts, my admin, retouching photographs, keeping in touch with portrait commission clients and promoting my work on social networks, like facebook, twitter and flickr. I also like to do craft projects with any spare time in the evenings and at the weekends. 
When I am painting, the early stages of laying down the image (after I have finished the preparation drawing and planning work) is very quick. It is the ‘finishing’of the painting that takes the most time and consideration. I can get lost for hours concentrating on one part of a picture and I have to be strict in making myself take a step back to look at the overall piece now and again. I dearly wish I could spend more time just making my art and less time running errands.
Whatever I am doing, I draw something everyday!

Who are your clients? Do they also come from the Burlesque scene - or is it more the "common" art collector?

Most of my buyers are just people who see the burlesque portraits as a window into a world of glamour, or as a bit of light hearted fun. My main buyers are middle to late aged women who connect with the strong personalities of the burlesque performers. I am finding that as my work is shown in new places, that more of my clients are male, and I have two collectors in France now! Most of my fans come from the burlesque scene, but sadly as they are artists too, they can rarely afford one of my originals. This is why I am branching out into limited edition giclee prints sold through my website shop, and more reasonably priced poster prints which will be available through soon.

Speaking about the Burlesque performers. You surely have seen quite a lot of shows! do you have any favourite ones that you try to catch when they perform? Was there an act that you really liked?

One of my favourite shows was the High Tease that used to be run in the summer and xmas in Glasgow. The performances were always top class and you felt really entertained after the show. I was also very fortunate to be able to take photographs which helped with a couple of paintings.  Sadly it only runs in Edinburgh now. I also want to see Missy Malone’s Burlesque Revue sometime, but I never in Edinburgh when it is on.
I tend to love performers rather than single acts and my favourites include Missy Malone, Leyla Rose, Miss Hell’s Belle, Daiquiri Dusk, Cherry Loco, Bunny Warren, Cat Aclysmic, Beatrix von Bourbon, Wild Card Kitty and Vendetta Vain.
It is hard to choose acts that I love as they are all so different, but one of the most original acts I saw was the Steampunk act by Chassy van Klass & sparky strange which is a double peformed to the soundtrack from the war of the worlds.
I was also blown away by ‘The Wings of Desire’ act my Ms Tickle of the Slipper room, which I saw on their Scottish tour and I adored the American woman act by Dirty Martini. It was so outrageous!

You've also painted Mimi le Meaux, correct? Have you seen the movie Tournée in which she participated and what did you think of it?

I am afraid that I have not painted Mimi le Meaux or seen her show, although I would dearly love to do both. I have painted her friends Kitten on the keys and Dirty Martini though!

I read somewhere that you love to travel! traveling is always a great source for inspiration, isn't it? Where are your favourite places so far - and what are your dream places that you still want to see?

My favourite places are always a little latin in flavour and are usually hot. Scotland is so cold, we are always chasing the sun. I love Arizona for it’s scenery and 50s style motels on route 66, but Argentina is very special to me. It is the birthplace of tango that I loved to dance. I hope one day to live in either Spain, Tucson (USA) or Buenos Aires.

I would love to visit Mexico for the Day of the Dead festival. I have an obsession with skeletons and all the wonderful decorations that go along with that festival. I am also gond of the odd marguerita too!

You've got a huge list of exhibitions! What was - for you personally - the greatest success so far?

I guess it depends what you mean by success. I could say that shows where I have sold a lot of work were successful, but that is not the whole story. I think my favourite show was the Tunnocked show at the Glasgow print studio. I painted a self portrait of my torso with my modesty being hidden by two Tunnock’s teacakes (a Scottish delicacy!). The painting caused a fair amount of raised eyebrows and a lot of press. A lovely collector of pop art bought the painting and I got to eat cakes all night with some friends. I guess I liked that show best as it brought burlesque out to a wider audience and perhaps changed people’s perceptions about the scene.

Any other shows, projects that are planned in the near future?

I will submitting work to an all women’s festival in Edinburgh, where only women will be allowed to attend and I have various summer shows to submit work to across the country. I am very excited to be working with the n Milan on a series of prints.
I am also working away at a project called The Birds where I will be portraying women as various types of feathered friends. Missy Malone is my crow, Vicky Butterfly a swan and one of my life models is to be the lonely lovebird. If anyone else wants to be one of my birds, they can get in touch!

You can view my portfolio and buy limited edition prints in my shop at
Keep up with new paintings, projects and shows at
And of course, LIKE me at

Friday, 15 June 2012

Fifi's Great Fire Sale # 2

As some of you may be aware, I recently had a show in London where I had a lot of trouble getting the work back from the gallery. It took nearly 3 weeks to get my hands on my pictures and it cost me a couple of hundred pounds in courier fees, so I am having a little fire sale again to see if I can raise some funds to cover those costs. I also feel sorry that I have so many paintings just lying around, so would love to find good homes for them.

I am starting with a pair of very appropriately named paintings of the performer Lucille Burn.

Flash Fire, oil on canvas, 24 x 30cm

Smouldering Hot, oil on canvas, 24 x 30cm
They are both 24 x 30cm oil paintings on artist's canvas boards. They will be sold unframed although I can happily get them framed for you at cost.
Postage will be added at cost and I can get a quote for you.

Bidding starts at £50 for each painting (normal gallery price £650 each)
I can accept UK cheque, postal orders, bank balance transfers and paypal.
WW postage available too!

You can send bids to my facebook pages, or my direct email

Bidding will end on Sunday 24th June 2012 at 9pm.
*This is a blind bid, so you don't have to rush at the last gasp. The highest offer wins the lovely ladies.And yes, if I only get a £50 bid, then this is what they will sell for. No bids, and the ladies go on the fire!

Bidding has now closed and the two paintings went as a pair to a happy new owner in Glasgow, and I managed to pay my postage bill. For anyone who missed out, you can see my other available works on my site at
All's well that end well!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Portrait Commission: the planning stage

After the whirlwind of the London show subsided, I started my work in earnest on my new portrait commission of a lovely lady called Katie, of Miss Katie Cupcake in Edinburgh.
My brief was to portray her as a demure and vintage style damsel, featuring her favourite things, such as a fabulous black jet necklace, a fur stole and of course, one of my granny's teacups that she fell in love with.

Study of Katie with teacup, charcoal on paper

The first stage in a portrait commission is to meet the sitter and take photographs for the poses, but also at least one drawing from life. This sketch only takes about 20 minutes, but gives me a chance to study the sitter's face a little closer and understand how that person looks in 3 dimensions. This experience really helps when being left with the flat reference photos in the studio. We had a lot of fun with the photos, but I never post these up, as I am a terrible photographer!

Study of Katie in sepia, done from a live sitting.

The next stage is to select the best poses and make some drawn studies from these, with a view to making a rough plan of the overall composition of the final painting, and to help the client choose how they want to look.

Study of Katie with necklace, pencil on paper

Study of Katie with necklace, pencil on paper

Study of Katie with teacup, charcoal on paper

Study of Katie with teacup, charcoal on paper
I also collect together reference material for background textures and colour reference, which in Katie's case, is faded pink roses, old love letters and vintage style photographs. Not all of this will appear in the final painting, but I like to gather a feel for the direction the work will take.

A photo of the lovely things in Katie's shop, Miss Katie cupcake
 Once the sitter has chosen their favourite pose, I make a small oil study to see how colours will roughly work, and if the pose will be the most suitable.

Study of Katie, Oil on canvas, 18 x 24cm

Once this has been OK'd by the sitter, I start the fun of drawing up the composition on the full sized canvas, ready to paint. Watch this space, where I will post up the painting stage by stage.

Friday, 4 May 2012

A Brush With Burlesque

I have been neglecting this blog, but only because I have been stupidly busy with creating new work for A Brush With Burlesque show in London, organsied by Mark and Sarah Bell of Kinky & Quirky productions.
Originally the exhbition was to be 6 artists, but as there are so few outlets for showing burlesque inspired art, the number of people involved grew to 12 in total. Mark himself was also showing 8 stunning portraits of his favourite performers, dancing in the setting of his own club nights.

I deliberated over what to send, but practicality won out and I sent a selection of smaller works alongside 3 key larger pieces. One of these was my brand new portrait of Daiquiri Dusk, which I have named Popcorn & Corsets, after the theme of her act.

Popcorn & Corsets, Oil on canvas, 60 x 80cm

 I had been feeling for some time that my work had taken a dark turn and I had lost all my love of colour that I once had. Perhaps it was the greyness of the Glasgow weather, or the current fashion in Scottish figure painting for realistic, limited palette work that had influenced me. But moving into a new light filled studio in the city centre, I was inspired to try something more vibrant, and less safe. I am very pleased with the final painting, but it is very much a starting point for a new line of work I am embarking on.

Me posing with my paintings, wearing my Vivienne of Holloway dress

Cherry Shakewell and Vicky Butterfly have a chat in front of my work
Here is a shot of the press opening night in full swing. There were many folks from the burlesque royalty, including one of my favourite models, Beatrix Von Bourbon of BGT fame and Vivienne of Holloway, who makes such fabulous dresses!

The show is open for just over another week, until 13th May 2012 as part of the London Burlesque Festival, so pop along if you can.

A Brush with Burlesque
The East Gallery
Brick Lane, London

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

iPad portrait

As a bit of experiment, I have been taking my new iPad to my life drawing sessions. In the past I have made colour studies of the models in oil paint, but the finished boards are never easy to transport, without getting oil paint everywhere! For this study I used the Brushes app. The result is a little soft, but I love the amount of colour that is available for use.

This portrait was done using the Sketchbook Pro app. I prefer this one as the brushes are more controllable and the blending better. I also like being able to add photos into the layers, meaning that I could incorporate the fabric that the model was standing on as a backdrop to the painting.

Monday, 6 February 2012

28 Drawings Later challenge 2012

I missed this last year, so I was very excited to have the chance to join in. The challenge is to draw something every day during the month of February and post it onto the facebook page for everyone to see. It happens that I am touring around northern Argentina for the month, so I have decided to post pictures from my travel sketchbook. I will add each day in order until the end of the month when I will do one big picture for the final exhibition in Glasgow at the Old Hairdresser's on the 4th March.

1 FEB 2012 : KLM flight Amsterdam to Sau Paulo
2 FEB: La Esquina de Gorriti y Uriarte, Buenos Aires
3 FEB: La Boca, Buenos Aires
4 FEB: La Fabrica Del Taco, Buenos Aires
5 FEB: La Esquina de Gorriti y Thames, Buenos Aires
6 FEB: Palza 9 de Julio, Salta City

More to follow...

Monday, 30 January 2012

BP portrait competition entry 2012

It's that time of year again when the competitions across the country start calling for entries. My choices for February are the BP Portrait Award, the Lynn-Painter Stainers Prize, and the Royal Portrait Society Annual Exhibition. They are all due in at pretty much the same time and are all London based, so the considerations are mainly the cost of sending the work down there from Glasgow rather than having enough work to go round.

I have been working on a series of portraits of the incredibly beautiful Missy Malone. I love every painting I make of her, and I was very honoured when she agreed to come and model for some paintings. She has given me a painting challenge in return, to portray her sitting on an elephant, so watch this space during March for progress. The pose I chose for the portrait is a demure one, where she is at rest sipping a nice cup of tea. I have been moving towards portraing the burlesque performers, not only in the throws of a performance, but also at rest. The final one is an oil painting, 100 x 80cm large, and is simply called 'Missy' and I hope she likes it as much as I do.

So back to the competitions; the Royal Portrait Society has started an interedting idea of judging works online, so you still pay your £12 per work, but you only send it down if you get picked. This is a great bonus for artists living outside London. The Stainer-Painter prize always has interesting mix of work, but as I want to try and  promote myself more as a portrait painter, so the other two win my money this year. Wish me luck!

Friday, 13 January 2012

New Year, New Studio

For over 6 years I have been working out of a bedroom studio in my home. My house was getting more and more full of paintings and art paraphenalia and I was also concerned that the house smelt of turps constantly. So, with trepidation, I put my name down on the waiting list for a WASPS studio at the beginning of the year, not expecting anything to happen for at least 3 years.
With all the new refurbishments going on with the WASPS studios around Glasgow, there were a lot of artists moving from one studio to another and I got the fabulous opportunity of a proper artist's studio in the refurbished Briggait building in the Merchant City, a very bohemian end of Glasgow. I was offered the studio in December and started the long task of moving in my equipment and furniture on the 4th January.

Here is the studio before I moved in. It didn't look so big when it was empty.

I have now moved in a small amount of my stuff and the place is looking quite homely and nicely minimalist (for me). I am not sure how long that will last, but I will enjoy it while I still have plenty of floorspace. I love it there as the light is amazing; I have a wall that is completely glass plus some of the ceiling too. I cannot wait until the summer when I will get so many more hours of daylight. My husband is worried that he will never see me!

So now, if you want to see my work, I will also have a continuous little show of paintings, framed, and in progress, in studio 203. Come and say hi (but call first to get let in)!