With vibrant colours and a taste for adventure, we chat to globetrotter Stephanie Wilkinson to find out more about the artist and her exotically inspired paintings. Her beautiful cushions and coasters are available to purchase in The Lightbox's very own Shop on the Ground Floor by the Cafe.
Bottle Mural hanging, 2018, image courtesy of Stephanie Wilkinson
Your main source of inspiration is largely focused around travelling exotic locations. What’s one of your favourite artworks inspired by your travels?
Yes, a way to remember a place really well, even better than photographing it, is to create a piece of artwork from it. When painting I am often combining and condensing elements that will evoke memories of a specific event or place. For this reason, I think the images with the palm trees, beaches and coloured houses are particular favourites as they give permanence to some of my personal memories of what it was like to grow up in the north east of Brazil in the early 60’s.
Your childhood in Brazil plays a strong role in influencing what you create. Are you ever inspired by your local surroundings in London?
Yes, I love the river and the open spaces and when I see colour in architecture, that also makes me very happy as we need colourful interiors to counter some of London’s grey days! The Lightbox is a very light building especially on a sunny day when pink and purple stripes are projected across the space. That’s what inspired my Lightbox print and card design. Similarly, I am inspired by London’s beautiful stained glass windows, which I adore looking at - I marvel at the artists and craftsmen who created them.
Down the road from me in Teddington there’s a neo-Gothic building, formerly a church, now the Landmark Arts Centre. There I created a Promarker design based on an angel playing a harp that forms a small part of one of the memorial windows. I started with a simple line drawing using the original leaded lines as a guide and then filled the spaces between with patterns inspired by other architectural elements found in the building using my vibrant colours. The original is approximately 15 x 25cm, which I scaled up to an A2 sized fine art print and continued to add more detail directly onto the print using acrylic pens, including some gold. It’s called ‘Angel with Blue Wings’.
Angel with Blue Wings, 2016, Promarker and Posca pens © Stephanie Wilkinson
Where else do you draw inspiration from?
Sometimes it’s just a colour. For example, while on a short break to Naples, I noticed that many older houses are painted a sort of yellow ochre colour and decided this would determine the palette for my next painting. I took a photo of the building and back in the studio used this as a basis to create ‘Napoli Windows’ which has a different mood compared to some of my other paintings.
Napoli Windows, 2017, acrylic on canvas © Stephanie Wilkinson
Your paintings made with Promarkers are concise and defined, whilst your acrylic paintings take on a looser, more liberal style. Do you prefer working with acrylics or Promarkers?
Both styles are very enjoyable although they are quite different activities. My acrylic painting takes time to evolve, with lots of edits and changes and seldom has a defined composition worked out at the start. It is also a more physical activity as I sometimes stand at the easel, or paint on the floor, and preparing the colours and tidying up afterwards can be messy.
By contrast, Promarker pens are neat to use and come in set colours. However these need a more planned approach starting with a definite drawing. It can pose quite a challenge choosing which pattern or colour to put next to another as, with little room for error or changes of mind, it forces me to make early decisions and then work out how to make the rest of the compositions sit together. So I love both styles - the painterly images really suit the soft cushion fabric and the graphic Promarker designs work really well scaled down to coaster or card size.
The cushions and coasters for sale in our Shop make quite a statement. How do you go about choosing such vibrant colour schemes?
I think I was very fortunate to have had good painting tutors right at the beginning who taught me how to handle colour and gave me lots of encouragement. I’ve had a lot of practice so I think my confidence putting colours together has strengthened over the years. It’s very liberating painting in vibrant colours, like children naturally do, though many adults can be a bit worried by colour, when they don’t really need to be. I’m leading a workshop at The Lightbox on Saturday 14 July called ‘Colourful Still Lifes in Acrylic’ and I would really encourage anyone who would like to do some colourful painting to come.
Stephanie Wilkinson cushions in The Lightbox Shop
Your work is always evolving – what can we expect to see next?
Yes, that makes it fun! I’ve just completed my biggest painting called ‘Bottle Mural’ which I showed at an exhibition at the Fountain Gallery near Hampton Court last month. Measuring 360cm wide and 90cm high, it depicts a long shelf with bottles, jugs, bowls, teapots and vases set upon it, with a tiled background. It has a lot of impact and is painted across four canvases for ease of transport and to provide flexible hanging options. I’m looking forward to seeing where it ends up.
I expect parts of the ‘Bottle Mural’ painting design will find their way onto the cushions or coasters and I am also interested in producing a few designs in gift wrap in the year ahead. I’m always working on new things to keep developing as an artist and also to keep my products fresh and enticing. Exhibition-wise I am taking part in the Spring Art Fair at the Landmark Art Centre in Teddington from 18-20 May and am booked to exhibit at the Barbican Library in January 2019. So there’s plenty to keep me busy, experimenting and learning new things all the time.
Bottle Mural detail, 2018, acrylic on canvas © Stephanie Wilkinson
Finally, do you have a favourite artist or piece of art?
I’m very drawn to the work of Karel Appel, a founding member of CoBrA, the avant-garde abstract expressionist group of artists from northern Europe. His work is vibrant, childlike and roughly painted and gives a great feeling of freedom and spontaneity. I find his intense colours incredibly appealing and whenever his work pops up, it shines out like a beacon to me from across the room and gives me such joy to stand in front of it and drink in all the colours. One of my favourites is called ‘Oiseau 1951’.
Book your place on our workshop, Colourful Still Lifes in Acrylic, to meet Stephanie and learn how to achieve a lively and colourful still life from the artist herself.
Sat 14 July 2018, 10.30am - 13.00pm
Adult £25 | Friends £22
Banner Image: Tabletop Vase & Chairs © Stephanie Wilkinson