I met Rebecca on Twitter a few months ago (@RTpromotes) and we hit it off, chatting about art and studio visits. She is enormously passionate about art (with an MA in Art History) and as I love discovering new artists and hearing about other peoples experiences, I thought it made perfect sense to ask Rebecca to write a guest post, choosing one of her favourite artists to do a studio visit with. She chose the fascinating artist Nicola Grellier, who kindly opened up her studio for us to take a peek inside…
It was with great excitement that I accepted Kate’s offer to do a guest blog on an artist’s studio of my choice. What a wonderful excuse to seek permission to look inside the creative and personal world of an artist. The window to their soul.
The artist I chose is Nicola Grellier. She has a studio in the building where the wonderful Pegasus Art Shop is, near Stroud, along with several other artists. In order to get to Nick’s studio I pass large easels and open doors leading to other artists studios and have to stop myself smiling inanely – it was like being a child in a sweet shop.
The first thing that hits me as we enter her studio is the gorgeous smell of orange oil; she doesn’t use turps. There is a wonderful array of paintings on the wall, boards piled up on the floor, a desk covered with paint brushes, paint tubes, pencils, paper, card and in the middle is an easel, empty, but covered with specks of paint from previous works of art and moments of inspiration.
Nicola trained at Wimbledon and Chelsea Schools of Art from 1984-88. On paper she is a figurative artist but looking around her studio, there is so much more as well, including collages, embroidery, drawings and some landscapes. When I ask her if she enjoys being in a studio, she says “it’s way better than anything I had hoped for”. She loves that she is “going to work” and thrives on the sociability of having other artists around too. She has had a few years out focusing on a business called Mad in England, but is now back where she belongs and openly admits that turning 50 (she so doesn’t look it!) has refocused her and made her more determined and keen to make up for lost time.
The studio is well lit during the day by two large windows along one wall and although it’s dark when I visit, the studio still feels very bright. Nicola mentions that as her paintings are mainly invented amalgams using old photographic references, natural light is not essential. When she is doing portraits however, it’s important to keep a consistent natural light.
Looking around the studio there is great warmth imbuing from the paintings. I realise it is the soft colours that are used, all of which add calmness and complement the subjects. Working next to an art shop means Nicola has an endless supply of oil paints and colours – an artists dream come true!. Her palette is an a old large bread board which she cleans off at the end of every week. She uses a lot of white (zinc white) and usually starts with all the paint on the palette and just mixes as she goes along. Looking at the palette there are hints of ochre, black, blue, alizarin crimson and sap green , just to mention a few!
My eyes are drawn to a large drawing on the back wall, similar to the three that were selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016. She admits that she has always been interested in drawing as a fundamental necessity but clearly her drawings can be stand alone pieces as well. What I love about her drawings are the freeness of lines and strokes created by the charcoal, giving immediacy and life to the drawing. This particular drawing is a prelude to some 2.5 metre drawings she will be doing for The Malthouse Kitchen Bar, Stroud, next year.
Her work is infused with humour and her figurative art has a recurring theme of dressing up through out. She explains it adds a child like, playful aspect to the paintings. The word Politicians was added as an ironic twist to this painting and is part of her series called Heads of States.
Many of her pieces have been reworked several times. The girl with the green coat is on its 6th iteration and may even just be painted over and left ready for a new painting. Her ironic humour reappears as the portrait is of her daughter many years ago, who dislikes dogs and hates the colour green! The old lady started out as two figures but has now completely changed and has the magnificent title of “Little Queen Leaving Her Bedroom”.
There are piles of painted boards lying around which she has done in anticipation of future works. She has coloured them all differently, but the key is to have a warm colour as the basis. I notice a shelf of books on all sorts of artists such as Henry Moore, Hockney, Mark Rothko, Gaughin, Picasso and Lucien Freud. When I ask if they influence her work, she admits that she just buys books on artists she likes and is not aware of overtly immitating a style. Lovely to dip into, on the rare moment she isn’t working.
When asked if she has a process, Nicola enthuses that “you just leap in and start”. A lot of what happens is accidental and although she will start by drawing, she never knows what the ending will be. Well, for me the ending is always the same, raw, energetic and genuine pieces of art done by a talented artist in the midst of a rebirth.
It was such a pleasure to be given the opportunity to visit an artist’s studio. There is nothing quite like seeing an artist at work or seeing the paint brushes that create the strokes or the squashed paint tubes used time and time again. It really feels like you are being allowed to see a very intimate part of their journey as an artist. Thank you Kate for asking me to do this and an even bigger thank you to Nicola, for being so welcoming and open and who it turns out is also rather good at the art of Tea making!
Nicola’s work can be seen at:
Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016
The Edge ICIA Bath 4 Nov – 16 Dec
Turnpike Arts Centre Leigh 14 Jan- 12 Mar 2017
Arts University Bournemouth 30 Mar – 27 April.
The Hampshire Hog solo show
18 Oct – 28 Nov 227 King Street London W6 9JT
EXTENDED TO END DEC 2016
2016 1 – 24 Dec Wetpaint Gallery Christmas Exhibition, Chalford GL6 8NR
2017 29 April – 30 June FUTURE GIANTS as part of SELECT FESTIVAL
ONE & TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS
FUTURE GIANTS solo exhibition as part of Select Festival 2017 29 April – 30 June 2017 Malthouse Kitchen Bar Stroud GL6 6NU
For further info: http://nicolagrellier.co.uk/