Chris Forsey RI SGFA Interviews Shirley Trevena RI

by Chris Forsey RI SGFA


Chris Forsey with Shirley Trevena

It was a great opportunity for the audience to listen to Shirley Trevena talk about her career in Art and I was lucky enough to get the job of interviewing her. She requested I do it as we have a good rapport and enjoy each others work and she sent me  a copy of her new book ’Shirley Trevena Watercolours’ published by Batsford to read about and digest her career to enable me to ask the right questions. From working in the GLC for Ken Livingstone to a member of the RI is a leap, and she kept us amused and interested in her creative life, what inspires her, how she tackles a painting, her favourite subjects and also her periods of creative block. This is a problem for many busy, successful artists when inspiration and drive seems to be lost and she talked of her problems with it in a very interesting and insightful way.

Her images were projected onto a screen and she described her approach to still life subjects and her working process. She also showed us some of her very early work, painted when she was 8 years old, and  the future Shirley was apparent in her cups and saucer drawings and tea-time paintings , and also her delight in the circus explaining how a yen to perform has always been lurking within!

An interesting afternoon that we all enjoyed, especially the interviewer!

Shirley Trevena, "In the Pink", Watercolour, Oil Pastel & Graphite Pencil 45 x 39 cm

Shirley Trevena, “In the Pink”, Watercolour, Oil Pastel & Graphite Pencil 45 x 39 cm

Posted in Drawing in the Media, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Image of the Month: Mallows Blossom by Venetia Norris SGFA

Venetia Norris, "Mallows Blossom", collage and mixed media on paper, 87x67c,m, 2015

Venetia Norris, “Mallows Blossom”, collage and mixed media on paper, 87x67c,m, 2015

I enjoy the spontaneity of drawing from life and communicating a sense of place.  I only feel that I have fully understood something if I have drawn it.  I love the sound of a pencil leaving a mark, varying its pressure, looking carefully at what I am drawing while the work evolves upon the paper.  I use a variety of materials including graphite, pen & ink, paint, charcoal gold/silver leaf upon paper and board.

Through my work I try to understand and express the journey of how a plant or flower grows.  Everything living has an individual shape and form, everything makes it’s presence felt in some way, leaves a mark, some trace.  Using just the tip of my pencil, graphite and ink I try to reveal the intricate layers, the sensuous interiors, the infinite variety and texture of a leaf, a stem, or a petal.  My enthusiasm and curiosity of the plant world continues to be a lifelong passion.

I am currently working on a series of drawings inspired by New Covent Garden Flower Market.  I plan to exhibit these during Wandsworth Artist Open House in October 2016.  The Flower Market is on the move with a huge regeneration project underway.  The US embassy is moving to Vauxhaull and again, for the second time the Flower Market is being transplanted.  I used to see the Flower Market as a landscape of flowers in constant flux within a solid building.  However, I now view the flowers as the permanent structures that link the past with the present within a changing landscape.  My drawings include architectural details, flowers and graphite rubbings made on site.


Profile of the Artist: Venetia Norris SGFA

Venetia studied at Chelsea School of Art, London College of Fashion and Sir John Cass Art School and has been a professional artist for the last seven years.  Her artwork has been shown at the Affordable Art Fair, Christies London and included in several group exhibitions at the Mall Galleries London.  The most recent of Venetia’s five solo shows was  at North London Collegiate School.  Venetia Norris completed a Fellowship with Ballinglen Arts Foundation, County Mayo, Ireland in March 2016 and has been awarded a place on the EU funded London Creative Network Program.



Posted in Image of the Month | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Alice White ASGFA on her ZSL London Zoo Artist Residency


Sketching, drawing and painting are all equally important processes for me as an artist. Since graduating from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2005, I have conducted my oil painting practice from my studio in London, creating artwork which celebrates the beauty and voracity of natural forms.

Alice White ASGFA "Crystal Bubble Fish" sketch

Alice White ASGFA “Crystal Bubble Fish” sketch

My main focus has always been on animals which seem to embody or evoke recognisable, almost ‘human’ qualities of emotion.

I love the sinewy limbs of wolves, the complex, rugged heads of cows, the depth and tensile strength of tentacles. In short, I will paint anything that moves. I sketch every single day, for hours. My studio shelves heave with sketchbooks going back over years, full of drawings in coloured pencil, acrylic inks, graphite sticks and very occasionally, regular pencils. I prefer to draw in light coloured tones, as I’m usually trying out colour palettes which I’ll later develop through the painting process.

Alice White ASGFA " Young Hippocampus Hippocampus Gold", black ink on paper, 21x 29 cm.

Alice White ASGFA ” Young Hippocampus Hippocampus Gold”, black ink on paper, 21x 29 cm.

As I sketch on such a regular basis, I will often repeat studies of the same few animals over and over. It’s when I notice that I’ve done several studies of the same creature in my sketchbook, and realise that form is something which is fighting its way through all my other visual source material, that I’ll go to canvas. At other times, my sketches will take on a clearer, more vigorous line, and the composition itself will be ripe for a good tonal ink drawing, pure and unadulterated by colour. In that case, I’ll get to work with my pen and nib.

Alice White ASGFA "Jovial Squid", ink on paper, 50 x 50cm

Alice White ASGFA “Jovial Squid”, ink on paper, 50 x 50cm

This investigative process of making, whereby I combine various materials and working methods depending on the qualities of each individual subject matter, has been extremely useful during my most recent project.

My year’s residency as Artist for Animals at ZSL London Zoo took me on an incredible creative journey, investigating marine species of every kind, from seahorses to deep sea sharks, tiny little eels to colonies of living coral, and vast quantities of fish of every shape, size and colour imaginable. My aim was  to connect with the conservation science being actively practiced and developed on site at the zoo. I had the good fortune to work with specialists from all areas of zoology, from the aquarists breeding rare species of endangered fish to the pathologists studying whales, porpoises and sharks indigenous to UK waters. My artistic research takes the forms of drawings, paintings and interviews in my ongoing project entitled ‘A New Wave: Art and Conservation Science’. 

My solo exhibition at ZSL London Zoo Aquarium in Spring 2015 was the first painting exhibition to launch on zoo grounds. Since then I have continued to work in collaboration with marine conservation scientists, producing artwork which brings the beauty and complexity of marine life to the surface of the page.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Alice White at her Exhibition Opening

Forthcoming group shows include the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) Annual Exhibition 2016 at Mall Galleries  the Society’s largest ever exhibition to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its Royal Charter. Alice has also exhibited at the Music Room in Mayfair, Kingly Court in Carnaby Street, and the Affordable Art Fair in New York and London.
She is an Associate Lecturer at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, where she teaches drawing and painting.

Posted in Artist in Residence, Drawing in the Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Image of the Month: Beasts Above the Sea by Tamlyn Blasdale-Holmes ASGFA


Tamlyn Blasdale-Holmes ASGFA, “Beasts Above the Sea”

“Beasts Above the Sea” is an interpretation of human impact upon nature. It is also a reflection of the chaos we inflict upon ourselves. This piece examines our relationship with the Seas and the seemingly devastating pressures we put upon her.

I first started doodling patterns when I was really small and after a brush with a long dead monk my work started to take on a very intricate style, sometimes likened to the Zoomorphic style. My main body of work is intricate knot work, but I also like to draw people and my work is now blending both of these. I like to challenge people’s perceptions, both with my subject matter and my presentation. My work has a few possibilities when viewing, stand at a distance and it appears to be simply a serene pattern but get closer, very close and all is revealed and sometimes like life,  it’s not all that pretty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Profile of the Artist Tamlyn Blasdale-Holmes ASGFA

Tamlyn is a self-taught artists who has walked across Spain.  After working in conservation Tamlyn began to explore human and animal rights through his drawn subject matter. He prefers to work with a 0.5 pencil and a 0.5 ink pen. Tamlyn Holmes was elected to the SGFA in May 2016.


Posted in Image of the Month | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Open Studios: An Insider View

by Christine Hopkins SGFA

Do a google search for ‘Open Studios’ and you will find a comprehensive list from Bedfordshire to York; towns, cities and regions whose artists are linked together with one aim – to make art accessible to as many people as possible. Open Studios, Open Houses, Arts Trails and Arts Weeks happen every summer all over the country and from the perspective of an artist are a chance to show one’s work to whoever comes in through the door. This may be someone who has seen your tiny thumbnail image in a glossy brochure, come by recommendation from another studio, or is just a curious neighbour or friend.  Perhaps they were attracted by the balloons or bunting, or brightly coloured arrows that you’ve distributed around your neighbourhood, or perhaps they’ve visited before and wanted to come to see what is new.

Christine Hopkins, "The Road to Dungeness"

Christine Hopkins, “The Road to Dungeness”

Some of us operate as solo artists, others group together to offer an alternative experience. ‘Studios’ can be purpose built work/gallery spaces, front rooms, dining rooms, sheds and outhouses. I’ve even bought work myself from a downstairs loo. We open up our workplaces to the curious; happy to show work in progress, allow visitors to watch us at work, and talk about our processes and inspiration. For a visitor we try to ensure that the experience is as different as possible from a commercial gallery, giving us the opportunity to make direct contact with someone who will (hopefully) buy a piece of art to take home, or even just a greetings card. However, whilst sales are an important part of our income, it’s about so much more than that. We work alone most of the time, and I’m sure most of us enjoy talking about our work. The feedback that we get is so encouraging – either verbal, or a lovely comment in the visitors’ book. The best visitors are those who take time to look properly at the work, and ask about techniques or ideas. My least favourite are those who either rush in and straight out again, or those who arrive just as I’m thinking about closing for the day, then stay for an hour talking about themselves. In Surrey there is a ‘loyalty’ scheme for anyone who has been to four or more studios, collecting a signature from the artist as proof. Once or twice I’ve had ‘signature hunters’ whose sole aim is to get the back of their book signed.

Whoever your visitors are, you have to be on duty for several hours each day, ready with a smile and a cup of tea, jelly beans, biscuits or mints, and put on the act of being a successful artist for a few hours. Pretending to know what you are talking about can be an awful strain. However most visitors are utterly charming, ask insightful questions and are just thrilled to have a small introduction into your creative process. They think that artistic clutter is meaningful rather than untidy, and if you appear scatty or too talkative it can all be blamed on your ‘creative personality’.

Christine Hopkins, "Seafood Bar"

Christine Hopkins, “Seafood Bar”

I’ve been taking part in my local Surrey Open Studios every year since 2005, and each year is a different experience. The event has clashed with Fathers’ Day, world cup football, royal birthdays, my own birthday and with other Open Studios events taking place in nearby regions. One year I had the Olympic torch passing the end of my road and another time there was a cycle race whizzing by. The weather can affect visitor numbers dramatically – 2016 was the wettest and coldest June in memory, and in some years the heat has been almost unbearable.  The Surrey event takes place in early June each year, but events can be found round the country at all times of the year, and  sometimes there will be a Christmas ‘pop-up’ fair, a preview exhibition or other communal event associated with the main summer opening.

Before we can welcome any visitors, we have to clean and tidy the studio, do a health and safety assessment, display hazard warnings on sharp tools, and remove spiders to a quieter place. It’s necessary to plan what work will be on display, and what to work on during the event. Sometimes it can be a productive fortnight, with several new pieces done from start to finish, and occasionally painted, framed and hanging on the wall, ready for sale. The goal is to end the event with empty wall space and lots of new contacts and even new friends.

Christine Hopkins in her studio as part of Surrey Open Studios 2016.

Christine Hopkins in her studio as part of Surrey Open Studios 2016.

At last, at the end of two weeks you can shut the door for the final time, pack away the bunting and return the dining chairs to their rightful place. The spiders all come out of hiding, determined to recreate the webs that you so thoughtlessly brushed away. All the clutter that you tidied away into the spare bedroom can begin to creep back downstairs, and suddenly there are no more nice ‘visitor’ biscuits to snack on. For about 24 hours you exhale sighs of relief that the hard work is all over and that you have the house back to yourself. But, you wake up on the following day feeling unexpectedly flat, and soon you are full of ideas for next year, and can’t wait for the merry-go-round to start up again so that you can jump on for the ride of your life.

It would be hard to do this without an understanding family offering support and advice, climbing ladders and nailing up the bunting, making endless tea and coffee, and not minding that their lives are disrupted too – thank you.

The individual artist is just the top of the iceberg, resting on all the hard work that goes on beneath. Without the hard work and enthusiasm of everyone at the Surrey Open Studios office, our East area co-ordinator, the support of the New Ashgate Gallery and media partners Surrey Life magazine, none of this would get going in the first place.

Artists are asked to submit a statistical return and evaluation at the end of the event – in 2016 the Surrey event 305 artists attracted an estimated 15,700 visitors which resulted in sales worth £240,000. This event is a big boost to the local arts community  – artists, framers, greetings card printers all benefit directly, and there are many indirect benefits too. Artists gain commissions, pick up teaching or demonstrating bookings, and build a network of like-minded people who may go on to organise other events and opportunities.

Find out more on, or search for UK Open Studios 2016 to find a comprehensive list of events across the UK.

Find out more about Surrey Life magazine:

Find out more about the New Ashgate Gallery:

About the author: Christine Hopkins SGFA is a painter/printmaker who has been a member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art since 2007, and served on the governing Council from 2009, acting as Honorary Secretary until her retirement in 2015.

Footnote: As a result of visitor votes during the Open Studios event, Christine Hopkins has been shortlisted for the Surrey Artist of the Year seven times, being awarded runner-up in 2015. In 2016 she was among the four most popular artists in Surrey, and will go forward to the final whose results will be announced in November 2016. This takes place at the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, and more details can be found here:

Upcoming SGFAMember Open Studio Events:

Bridport Open Studios: SGFAPP David Brooke

August 20 -29 2016

Somerset Art Works – Various locations across Somerset including SGFA members Anne Carpenter, Myrtle Pizzey and Chris Lee

September 17 – October 2


Wandsworth Artists Open Studios– Venetia Norris ASGFA

1/2 and 8/9 October


Posted in Artist in Residence, Drawing in the Media, Interviews, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Townscape 2016, East Grinstead

Press coverage of the exhibition

Press coverage of the exhibition

A contemporary art group based in East Grinstead has been working on objects based on items in the East Grinstead Museum. Harriet Brigdale SGFA is a member of the group and is showing with them until 3 September 2016.

Harriet elaborates:

Our images are based on items in the Museum. Some members have drawn medical instruments used by McIndoe during the second world war on faces and hands of heavily burned air crew and pilots.
Another Member choose a simple 1970’s phone and created a three dimensional wire phone.
I choose a very old carpet beater, and drew on a patterned background in pen and ink, I also made a  small wire carpet beater and made a patchwork carpet and embroidered the carpet beater on that.

It is an interesting project to be involved in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more information about the museum please see their website

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Image of the Month: Bear Swimming II by Gary Cook ASGFA


Gary Cook ASGFA, “Bear swimming II”, Watercolour, 70cm x 55cm

Polar bears are modern man’s canary in the coal mine. The dangers that they are facing in the Arctic are an early warning to us. I wanted my watercolour to demonstrate how our actions are affecting the environment there and will, in time, affect us all too.

Layered into the painting are facts and information about how the sea ice is dramatically shrinking as temperatures rise. In 2012, the area of summer sea ice was 1.3 million square miles less than the average for that time of year. The lost ice is a vast amount, equivalent in area to 13 UKs. Scientists are predicting that the world’s weather systems will be disrupted by this dramatic change in the amount of ice at the North Pole. “I want people to look at my work and be drawn in by a dramatic image. Then, on closer inspection, discover the shocking statistics subtly drawn within the background about how we are in danger of losing so many magnificent animals by the way we are affecting the environment.”

Although polar bears are strong swimmers, in the past they only had to swim short stretches between floes to hunt and breed. The melting ice has seriously changed this. They are now forced to swim long distances to survive. I think the image of the struggling, swimming bear highlights our unintended actions on the climate.

The elephant in the room from cookthepainter on Vimeo.

I paint on unstretched 640gsm handmade Khadi watercolour paper which is a lovely surface that helps create rough textures. I use masking fluid, salt and a roller at different stages to move the paint around, which often results in unintended but pleasing results.

By using a restricted colour palette I hope the animal and especially, the eye becomes the main focus of the piece. Influenced by my newspaper infographic background I believe the most compelling way to communicate these shocking statistics is visually, so I create woodcuts to depict the facts. In this case I used the outline of the UK, stamped repeatedly on to the paper to drive home the enormity of the loss of summer ice. On this occasion, I ended up with two blocks because only when I had finished carving the first did remember I needed to work in reverse.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Profile of the Artist: Gary Cook ASGFA

Gary Cook ASGFA

Gary Cook ASGFA

After training at Bournemouth Arts University, where he was later made an Honorary Fellow, Gary Cook joined The Sunday Times where he worked for 26 years, becoming graphics editor and winning many national and international awards for his artwork.

He is now pursuing his passion for painting and campaigning about the environment. He combines his journalistic training with traditional painting to create infocanvases, which merge art and graphics.

His work has been shown at WWF headquarters, was featured in GreenSpirit magazine and will be shown at upcoming exhibitions including the Quartz festival, Taunton and the Resurgence R50 event at Oxford. Gary was elected to the SGFA in May 2016.

For more information please see:


Twitter: @cookthepainter

Instagram: cookthepainter


Posted in Image of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments