Sarah Dickinson

Art & Inspiration

Art & Inspiration

Creativity is good for the soul and during lockdown many of us looked to tap into art, in all its forms, as an outlet. For professional artists, it was a particularly creative time. Six artists talk about what inspires them, how they got started and how lockdown influenced their work…

An eye for portraiture

A good portrait artist can reflect someone’s character so well that you feel you might actually know them. Kingston artist Nataliya Zozulya paints in a wide variety of genres but it was for her talent for portraiture that she was recognised recently when she was accepted as one of 63 artists)  to take part in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 competition, which will be screened in October.

Nataliya notes that a portrait artist needs to be sincere  and will be able to empathise with the sitter: “It is about developing a good relationship and having a genuine interest in those you paint,” she says. “I love meeting new people, love conversations we have during the sessions, and love the development of our relationships as many of my sitters are now good friends. I’m fascinated by how infinitely different our faces are – I’m never tired to paint a new one!”

Originally from Ukraine, she trained at the Ukrainian National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture where she was subsequently Associate Professor in  Fine Art.

She captures people in a variety of ways – one of her series showed the subjects with their digital devices, their faces lit up by divine light as if they were in a religious paintings – but their god now is technology.

Lockdown was particularly tough for Nataliya, dealing with the grief of losing her daughter last autumn. Nataliya painted irises in lockdown, which her daughter loved, and they had admired in Richmond Park.

“Being an artist is a way of life and not just a job. I would be lost without it,” she says.

She exhibited with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and Society of Women Artists in Mall Galleries and at the likes of the Fountain Gallery in Hampton Court. You can also see Nataliya’s work at her studio based at FusionARTS in the town centre – the FusionArts initiative turned a neglected 1960s office block into a creative hub and is now home to designers, artists and photographers.

Message of hope

Wimbledon artist Jo Holdsworth says that painting in lockdown helped her to stay positive. She says: “I have always been driven to paint. I love the feeling of putting paint on a surface and seeing my work take shape. I have always loved London too and I am inspired by city views and people going about their daily lives. Many of my paintings carry a message of hope for the future and I have used my creativity in lockdown to stay focused and positive.”

“Without a doubt lockdown has also re-established my connection with nature and I have found myself yearning for the sea. As well as urban views, my lockdown pieces include figures on the beach at low tide reflecting my need to reconnect with the ocean.”

Jo’s paintings will feature in a forthcoming exhibition in October with NoonPowell Fine Art, which is opening a new gallery space in Notting Hill.

Capturing the outside world

After studying at St. Martin’s School of Art in the fifties, Margaret Knott worked as a designer before going on to learn etching and silkscreen at Putney School of Art & Design. Now 85, she is still exhibiting widely, selling her work through Will’s Art Warehouse Gallery and is on display at the restaurant Artisans of Sardinia. “I have been painting for the last 25 years, and my early work as a designer greatly influenced everything I do,” she says.

“Anything outside inspires me: land, sea, air! They are all changing, and you have to capture that movement in the marks that you make – a mark made in the open air is worth hundreds of marks made in studio or kitchen,” says Margaret.

She is particularly inspired by Richmond Park and took solace in painting there during lockdown. Margaret and her painting group took their weekly meeting virtual, painting a chosen subject each week. “Therapeutically, I couldn’t have got through this awful year without it!”

The beauty of Barnes

Sarah Dickinson’s beautiful local landscapes (pictured top) will be part of Barnes Art Fair (opening 12 November) along with other works inspired by lockdown. Sarah would get up at 5am to capture the emerging light in Barn Elms Allotments and Barnes Common from May to July. “The early sunshine was particularly beautiful on the long flaxen grass and lace caps,” she says.

Her artistic journey began at Camberwell College of the Arts where she studied for a degree in Textiles & Painting followed by a six-year stint producing paper designs for print to the fashion industry. Needing a more sociable working environment, she changed tack to hair and makeup for film and TV – “where I could still be wielding a brush,” she says.

“As I’m unable to pursue my career because of the pandemic I have loved the opportunity to paint and have been delighted to sell a number of works. I’m hoping to blend both careers moving forward,” she says.

(The Barnes Art Fair will now be an online gallery show opening on the same date

Windows into another time

Another artist exhibiting at the Barnes Art Fair is Gosia Tomczuk. On maternity leave from her job as an architect, lockdown gave her the time to pursue her passion for art, painting people’s ‘happy places’. She started with her own favourite places where she recalled her most cherished memories – Barnes pond, Hammersmith Bridge, and Barnes Common and then others asked her to do the same for them.

“I have really enjoyed creating pieces based on someone’s happy place – be it a house, the view from a window or a memorable spot visited during holidays. I feel like my work is helping to bring these memories back and make them last longer.  And I hope that every time a person looks at one of my pieces, they feel the good vibes over and over again – no matter what’s happening in their lives at the moment. To me, that’s the true magic behind art.”

Battersea, Brutalism and turning to nature

Clare Halifax’s images of London landmarks are utterly striking and her depiction of Battersea Power Station have been a sell-out success, drawing them originally for Battersea Affordable Art Fair in 2012. “As a building it was incredibly enjoyable to draw as the major elements of it are very geometrical as well as symmetrical. The most challenging part though was getting the towers right in particular the lines of perspective as they rose,” she says.

Clare is a big fan of Brutalist architecture in London, especially the Barbican and the Southbank Buildings. But during lockdown, she turned to nature.

“During lockdown, living in a London flat with no outdoor space, I found myself obsessively focused on drawing botanical and outdoor elements as a way of bringing the outdoors inside. I also felt very lucky to have a practise that allowed me to fill the abundant amount of time I had suddenly been presented with,” she says.