Category Archives: North East Creative Talent

Fiona finds colour in nature’s treasures of the deep

In our latest feature on North East creative talent we talk to artist Fiona Carvell who is based in the Northumberland countryside near Shotley Bridge.

Lindisfarne by Fiona Carvell
Lindisfarne by Fiona Carvell

Where exactly in the North East are you based?

On the border of County Durham and Northumberland, perched on the edge of the Pennines – beautiful space! Fine Studios at Fine House Farm, Kiln Pit Hill, Consett. DH8 9SL.

How would you describe your work?

Ideas-led, which means I let the subject matter inspire and direct how I respond (as opposed to working in the same way, or having a ‘style’ regardless of subject). Visually, I am interested in line and space, the connections between objects and relationships of pattern in nature.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

I graduated as an illustrator and moving image designer, which led to work both as a freelance Illustrator in publishing and then a career in broadcasting. I later moved into teaching but throughout all of this never stopped drawing. I would finish a shift for doing the on-air graphics for Sky News and then go straight to a life drawing class! Teaching in F.E. meant I could spend more time experimenting with materials but it wasn’t until I started running community-based art classes that I finally realised I needed to create more of my own art. It was clamouring to get out!

Fiona Carvell
North East artist, Fiona Carvell

My love affair with pastel started around this time and a few years later I entered a piece for the Pastel Society Open Exhibition in London which made the first selection round. I was invited to be a Unison Colour Associate Artist soon after this, which I am immensely proud of, especially as they are a North East company and sell around the world.

I was offered studio space at Fine Studios at the end of 2016, which is perfect for me as it’s just a few miles from home and an amazing place to run workshops from.

Which work are you most proud of?

Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’, which was the first of my seaweed series. It was very big (over 3ft high once framed) which is huge for a pastel piece, and incredibly detailed.

Treasure of the Deep
Treasure of the Deep by Fiona Carvell

What inspires you?

Lots of things – I go through obsessions! I had a thing about grasses and then trees for a while last year and my current theme seems to be seaweed. I am drawn to connections in nature – patterns of line and surprises of colour, that echo from one life form to another.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

The North East has a wealth of inspirational landscapes. From the Pennines to the beautiful Northumberland coastline, there is so much to draw upon. My parents live on the coast and so I spend quite a bit of time photographing and sketching at beaches and castles.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’. There were so many colours in each tiny section, that I would cover only a few inches a day at some points. It drove me to distraction. I would often go to the studio in my running gear so I could run a few miles of tension off in between pastel painting!

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Work hard, be practical and approach what you do as any profession. If you seriously want to develop a career as an artist, you must get the balance between personal creation/production and all the other stuff that makes it possible. Admin, promotions, attending events, keeping galleries supplied and happy are all part and parcel of the job. As a qualified teacher I still enjoy teaching workshops and have found this a valuable part of my practice as it helps to develop my own artwork.

Resilience by Fiona Carvell
Resilience by Fiona Carvell

Which other artists or photographers inspire you?

My favourite pastel artist is probably Sarah Bee. Just gorgeous line work and energy. The most inspiring exhibition I attended was in Paris a few years ago by fashion designer, Issey Miyake. He presented fabric as lines and forms of pleated colour in the most astonishing display that played with light and shade. I am a great believer in looking at everything the world presents to you for potential inspiration – it can come from anywhere.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I have just returned from running my first pastel workshop in France, (which was fabulous!) and I now have another planned for May 2019. I am also in the midst of planning my workshops at Fine Studios for 2019 alongside exhibitions at various venues across the country.

Long term, I would love to exhibit with the Pastel Society, that would be an achievement and a great honour.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My work is currently on display and for sale at Number Four Gallery, St.Abbs, Scotland www.numberfourgallery.co.uk

You can also buy my prints at Gallery 45 in Felton www.feltongallery45.co.uk

and at The Links Gallery in Whitley Bay www.linksgallery.org

You can catch me in person and my latest work at Art in the Pen, Skipton, Yorkshire, between August 11th and 12th. www.artinthepen.org.uk

For more information regarding my French workshop in 2019 go to www.sweetnothings.eu

I am also available for demonstrations or to to run art workshops in pastel and drawing at art groups and societies.

See more of Fiona’s work at:

www.fionacarvellart.co.uk

 

Sarah creates a sense of place in colourful magical maps

We talk to 49-year old Morpeth-based artist, Sarah Farooqi in the latest in our series of interviews featuring talented artists and photographers from the North East of England. Sarah is best-known for her wonderful, colourful illustrated maps.

The Quayside by Sarah Farooqi
The Quayside by Sarah Farooqi

How would you describe your work?

I am a watercolour artist specialising in landscapes, townscapes and illustrated maps. From a pen drawing, my pictures evolve into busy, layered compositions which reflect my love of detail and colour, and hopefully a sense of fun.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

I began drawing when I was old enough to hold a pencil and went on to study graphic design at university. But then I took a wrong turn into corporate TV graphics and lost my enthusiasm. So I trained and worked as a primary teacher until I became a full time mum. During that time I was asked by my local school to work with their youngest children on an art project.

However, I had to stop myself grabbing the paint brushes off the children as I just wanted to do it myself! I started painting again soon after, and have never looked back. I spent a year experimenting and finding out exactly what it was I wanted to paint and how. Then once I had a couple of finished pieces I took them to show lots of galleries, shops, the National Trust etc. until I had a few places willing to sell my prints/cards. I joined Network Artists and had a group exhibition at Alnwick Garden in 2009. From there I was asked to make visitor maps for Alnwick Garden and Castle.

Detail from the Howick Hall Estate Map
Detail from Sarah Farroqi’s Howick Hall Estate Map

What work are you most proud of?

In the visitor centre at Howick Hall Gardens (near Alnwick) there is a huge map detailing the whole of the Howick estate, its rare plants/trees and wildlife. The map took the best part of a year to complete and some of it was previously unmapped so I was able to work closely with their head gardener and other members of the Howick team. The map has had a very positive reaction from visitors and I am very proud of it.

What inspires you?

Everything really. I love being outdoors and the intricacy of the natural world. But I also can’t resist a bleak northern industrial scene (see below), or something unexpected or irreverent, as I don’t like to take things too seriously. I also have a terrible sense of direction, so if someone asks me to make them a map I am inspired by that challenge.

Sarah Farooqi
Sarah Farooqi

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I grew up in Teesside and have fond memories of sketching at South Gare near Redcar. Home to the now ghosted blast furnace, at the time I loved peering through the railings and seeing the molten iron being poured into the trucks, and the architecture of the industrial landscape.

It was also right next to Paddy’s Hole with its fishermen’s huts and the North Sea. There is even a lighthouse at the end. Perfect!  Now I live in Northumberland I am totally spoilt by the North Northumberland coastline, with its empty windswept beaches and fabulous castles, and even more lighthouses. The fact that Northumberland is a bit of a secret to many people is also quite appealing – I like to help celebrate it.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Definitely the Howick Hall visitor map, as it involved mapping previously unchartered territory, working with a range of different groups, and the sheer scale of the project. I painted it on a series of squares which when laid out wouldn’t fit in any of the rooms in my house!

Howick Hall Estate Map
Howick Hall Estate Map by Sarah Farooqi

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Never give up, and if you feel overwhelmed by the possibilities/challenges, take a deep breath, start at the beginning and just keep going. To begin with there will be set backs, and you need to go through these in order to learn how everything works. Also, if you are trying to make a living from your art, try and remember to put the customer/buyer at the centre of your marketing so that you make it as easy as possible for people to see, understand and buy your work. Also, being an artist can be a little isolating, so make sure you make connections with people and get out and about. All the other artists I know are really nice people, and happy to help.

Whch other artists or photographers inspire you?

The Cornish fisherman and artist Alfred Wallis who started painting on bits of old cardboard at the age of 68. Arthur Rackham, the Victorian artist whose work includes my favourite illustrations for the Wind in the Willows. Tove Jansson, who wrote and illustrated the Moomins. The stories, symbols and patterns in aboriginal art are fascinating. I am also amazed by the photos of Iceland by Benjamin Hardman, who I’ve just started following on Instagram.

What are your ambitions for the future?

More commissioned work, more of my own work, maybe expand my portfolio from Northumbria into Yorkshire and beyond, and one day to have a fabulous studio. I’d also like to illustrate a children’s book.

See more of Sarah’s work at www.sarahfarooqi.co.uk

Chalk, charcoal and jam sandwiches are a source of pride for artist Alfie

In our latest blog featuring North East artists we talk to the multi-talented Alfie Joey. Alfie, 50, is a writer, stand-up comic, impressionist, singer and breakfast time presenter on Radio Newcastle. Here Alfie talks about his artwork and how he is inspired to paint and draw.

Jam Sandwiches
Jam Sandwiches by Alfie Joey

How would you describe your work?

Caricature and local heritage pictures.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist:

I drew a picture of Winston Churchill at infant school and I was told by Mrs. Derby I had to show it to the headteacher Mr. Smith who was more than encouraging!

What work are you most proud of?

The first chalk and charcoal sketch I sold was called Jam Sandwiches- it is 3 coal miners eating bait down the pit.

Alfie Joey
North East artist Alfie Joey

What inspires you?

My art hero is the legendary Broadway cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

The North East is littered with gorgeous landmarks that lend themselves to art work!

What has been your most challenging piece?

I had 2 days to draw a very busy cartoon cover of NE1 Magazine.

Do you have any tips for up and coming  artist?

There are endless tips and teachers for free on YouTube and Instagram.

Trimdon Colliery by Alfie Joey
Trimdon Colliery by Alfie Joey

 What other artists inspire you!?

Locally, Alexander Millar, Ben Holland and of course, Norman Cornish!

What are your ambitions for the future?

To have my children’s picture books published.

My work is on display and for sale at the North East Art Collective in Eldon Garden, Newcastle and from August, Spennymoor Town Hall, County Durham.

See more of Alfie’s work  on Instagram and Facebook:

www.instagram.com/alfiejoey.art/

www.facebook.com/AlfieJoeyArt/

Sycamore Gap
Sycamore Gap by Alfie Joey