Interview with Helen Booth

Artist Helen Booth studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art in London in the late 80’s and since has gone on to win the Pollock Krasner Award for Painting and exhibited all over the world, including in cities such as New York, London, Hamburg and Edinburgh. SOON met with the artist to talk about how moving to rural West Wales effected the way she works and about the inspiration behind her paintings…

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Introduce yourself and your work…
I’m a painter who lives in rural west Wales. I have a wonderful studio in an old woollen mill about 30 mins from Cardigan Bay. My work is always in oil. I buy more Titanium White than any other colour and I never clean my brushes (tut tut)

What made you move from London to rural West Wales?
We saw an advert in Artist’s Newsletter – It simply stated “Beautiful old woollen mill in South West Wales, Change Your Life!” And so we did!

Has moving effected your work/ the way you work?
Yes, so much. I moved from Peckham in London in 1996 and the transition from Urban to Rural effected my work. I love the flat light in Wales, the silvery sombre tones really suits my painting and the way it flattens the landscape. I find the grey damp days in the Winter so inspiring.. I’m not that good in the heat.

Do you find yourself getting more inspiration from people or places?
That’s a hard question. My work centres on the emotional connections that I have to people but it uses the landscape for inspiration in terms of palette. My recent work is all about Love and Loss and my relationships, but in the painterly tones that you can find walking or in the colours of the pebbles and stones on the beaches.

Where do you work best? 
In my studio – alone – listening to audiobooks on my iPhone. I can’t work with other people around at all, I love the solitude. I miss my studio so much if I get bogged down in my office.

If you could only paint using one colour for the rest of your life what colour would you choose?
I know they are actually not colours but definitely black or possibly white. Actually, that would depend on what I’m painting on. However, if I get a pencil too then white.

It’s rare for people to fully commit to a career in the Arts. What’s the hardest thing about being a full-time artist today? What would be your advice to a young artist starting out in the industry?
Art is not a lucrative profession in terms of financial gains, but it is the most incredible way to spend your life. It has been incredibly challenging, especially now with Brexit; where lots of small galleries are closing because people are nervous and not buying original works of art. Making money out of something that you love to do is hard, but I wouldn’t change my life and I couldn’t if I am to remain true to myself. I’ve just always had to make things; my hands are never idle. Art is one of the most important parts of life, it feeds everything that is good. If you have a creative impulse, then you must trust it. My two pieces of advice to young artists would be to nurture your connections and to understand that rejection is not personal. I have had so many rejections in my career, but now I know it’s about taste and how your work sits alongside other work. Oh, and also make things happen for yourself. If you can’t get a gallery, then turn your house into a gallery space and invite people to come see.

What’s your favourite painting of all time? 
One of the best exhibitions I have ever seen was the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern. I also saw a smaller exhibition of his in Edinburgh. Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair Part I (1985) is probably one of my favourite paintings ever to have been created. I also love the paler works by Peter Doig, Blotter 1993 is just so beautiful. I would find it hard to choose between these two paintings if I were to be offered one as a present!

Which painting are you most proud of?
It’s difficult to say which of my works I am happiest with, but I suppose it would have to be “A Conversation With Myself”. Its one of my most recent paintings, very small and stripped back down to a very simple structure. It makes me feel peaceful and it will be one of the works that I would be very reluctant to part with.

What’s your Something Out Of Nothing? One of life’s simple pleasures you just can’t get enough of…
Spending time with my daughters, who are both now away at University.

To see more of Helen’s work you can head over to her WEBSITE, or follow her on INSTAGRAM

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Young and Creative: Jasmine Jones

For Part II of the ‘Young and Creative’ series, SOON met Jasmine Jones, a painter from New Quay currently studying an Arts Foundation at Carmarthen School of Art. 

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Introduce yourself and your work.
I’m Jasmine Jones from West Wales. I’d say my artwork is still in development; I’m definitely still a student rather than an artist but I’m on my way.
I like to think of my work as my filter. Most people can filter what they say, only saying what’s worthwhile rather than babbling on relentlessly but I, however, babble relentlessly often losing what I actually mean to a flood of words. Creating artwork for me turns this flood into a gentle stream, through which I can see more clearly. I know it sounds airy-fairy but that’s the best way I can explain why I do it.

How long have you been making art?
I have a vivid memory of my grandma, who used to be a medical illustrator, sitting with me in the living room explaining that the body is not made of sticks but has many lumps and bumps. I can’t have been older than four but it’s definitely where the interest sparked.

Describe your work in three words.
Big, paint, colour.

Describe the way you work in three words.
Off the cuff.

What’s your favourite colour?
Can I just say the primaries? Red, blue and yellow are the only ingredients you need for a painting… white helps it on its way.

How long do you spend on each piece of work?
At the moment, the time is way low; maximum 6 hours. Throughout my school years I’d take around 20 hours so this fast pace is changing the way I work- for the better, I hope.

What’s your favourite environment to work in?
It’s funny because the environment depends on the work. If I’m creating something expressive I prefer to be alone, freed from any judgement of others, but then again, I love doing portraiture from life because I can sit with the person, ask them questions and see how their expression changes throughout the process. I find it meditative being entirely immersed in someone else.

Who inspired what you do?
People in general are my biggest inspiration. Anyone and everyone. Sometimes artist, sometimes not. A funny little woman I saw in London once inspired an entire project and she’ll never know it!

What’s your favourite piece of work you’ve ever made?
A couple of years ago I painted a portrait of my father, it was never finished and it’s on a flimsy piece of A2 paper, but I think that was a point for me when I thought, ‘this is what I love doing, I’m going to carry on doing this for as long as I can.’

Where would you like to be in 10 years time with your work?
I just hope I find it equally as exciting and frustrating as I do right now.

What’s your ‘Something Out Of Nothing’? One of life’s simple pleasures that you absolutely love…
All the little pops and crackles the sea makes underwater on a calm day.

Jasmine Jones plans to start studying Fine Art at University of Arts London: Camberwell, in September. If you fancy keeping up to date with her wonderful work, you can follow her  art account on Instagram here.