Monday, 29 September 2014

'The Potted Hollyhock', oil on canvas in decorated frame, 18" x 24", by Lisa Takahashi (2014)

Here's my painting 'The Potted Hollyhock' just before I took it to the Royal West of England Academy to be judged for the Annual Open submission exhibition. The Potted Hollyhock is based on a drawing I made last spring at The Abbey Art Centre in Barnet, the magical place where I used to live and work. The canvas lay unfinished for quite some time as the prints gained popularity, but I always wanted to finish the painting! I finally got around to doing so once I had settled in my new studio in Bristol where I now live.

I guess I had a few observations of the paintings of others in mind when painting this: namely a gorgeous Vuillard still life I saw at the National Gallery in Scotland nearly 2 years ago - he left so much of the flowers (the main focal point of the composition) unpainted, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps...and although I haven't left many gaps there is an 'unfinishedness' in this painting that I feel adds a vibrancy to the quality of the paint. Secondly, I had just been admiring some wonderful work by Paul Nash at the RWA (funnily enough!) and was intrigued by his limited palettes - almost monochromatic paintings filled with every kind of variation on the colour blue you could imagine. Again, I wasn't able to limit myself entirely, but just had the thought in mind. I also had in mind early Freud paintings...when he was actually interesting, and when he painted the most beguiling interpretations of plants in pots. If only he had remained interesting as a painter, and interested in this subjects!

Anyway, I digress... the frame was decorated by me after I was dissatisfied with the frame I ordered (my fault entirely) and so I took a leaf out of the book of Vanessa Bell, and also Ben Nicholson, and decided to paint the frame how I wanted…  in a way that in terms of colour perfectly matched the palette I used, and in terms of motif, echoes the lines found within the leaf structures, and the shadows cast on the pot. This is the first painting I have made where I consciously, comfortably and confidently blurred my distinctions between painting and drawing, and found a new freshness in the quality of the paint I was working with.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Forthcoming Exhibitions

I am in 2 exhibitions coming up soon! Stick the dates in your diaries!

ARTSDEPOT OPEN - 26th July - 8th September

The Artsdepot Open is an annual showcase of art work made by artists who either live or work in Barnet.  This is the first time I have participated in the show, which always has some interesting pieces in it.  I will be showing a new version of my 'Tour de Force' cycling print, using whites and blues inspired by paintings I saw in New York recently, most notably by Agnes Martin, my newest painting heroine. (,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.48705608,d.d2k&biw=1366&bih=643&ion=1&bs=1&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=ovzTUeHNOom-0QXP0YGYBA )

The end of the Artsdepot Open leads very nicely into the Herts Visual Arts Open Studios event.  Me and my fellow Abbey Artists Fleur Oakes (, Sheila Englert, Verene Lack, Ruth Parker (, Molly Hagan (, will be opening the doors to our studios set in the wonderful Abbey Art Centre, 90 Park Road, EN4 9QX.

More information about what we are showing, when and where can be found on the HVAF website here:

Artsdepot Open, 26th July - 8th September 2013 (12pm - 4pm daily)

5 Nether Street
Tally Ho Corner
North Finchley
London N12 0GA


The Abbey Art Centre Summer Exhibition (part of Herts Visual Arts Open Studios), 8th-9th September, 12pm - 6pm Saturday and Sunday

89 Park Road
Herts EN4 9QX

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 10th June - 18th August

My linocut print, 'Tour de Force', has been accepted for this year's Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.  It is the first time I have been accepted and yesterday I attended the Varnishing Day, which was a lovely occasion; selected artists and patrons only meant that everyone you encountered was incredibly pleased with themselves, and pleased for you, too! The church service was particularly enjoyable, the address examined a passage from 'A Midsummer's Nights' Dream' that considered the idea of art allowing us to glance at the comprehended and the apprehended, heaven and earth, innermost feelings and those on the was thought provoking and inspiring.  Anyway here are some snaps:

The mighty Emin

Marimba band that led the Procession to the church

The Procession of the artists from the RA to St James' Church down Piccadilly

Me and my print (the blue one above my head!)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Exhibition Review: Hugo Grenville, ‘Harmonia’ Wally Findlay Galleries, 124 E 57th St, New York 15th May – 15th June, 2013

Hugo Grenville: ‘Harmonia’exhibition

If Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings remind us of the exuberance, the surprise and the energy of freeform jazz, then Hugo Grenville’s paintings in his latest show ‘Harmonia’ (Wally Findlay Galleries, New York) certainly evoke a different kind of music.  This collection of paintings, all executed in the past 12 months, possesses luminosity, where light and gentle colours dance across the whole picture surface: These paintings allow us to hear an elegant string quartet playing a Chopin nocturne on a bright summer’s day.  However on closer inspection of this show, one is treated to a surprising diversity of mood from piece to piece, as well as a dynamic and exciting (not to mention heartfelt and genuinely inquisitive) exploration into a world of colour and mark making that is clearly inspired by a love of French post impressionism; indeed a gorgeous landscape study by Pierre Bonnard hangs in amongst the Grenvilles, quietly reminding us not to forget where all this came from.
‘Summer Morning, 23 Arcola Street’ by Hugo Grenville

The show comprises twenty paintings, the majority of which are nudes and still lifes (some complete with Matisse-ian backdrop of a view from a window), peppered with a couple of landscapes.  In the figure paintings especially, compositions appear as if stitched together with patches of contrasting patterns and colour schemes. There is a real playfulness to the approach, which celebrates the beauty of the fabrics surrounding the figure, as well as elegant flowers and ornaments.  In ’Summer Morning, 23 Arcola Street’, the viewer encounters not a grimy east London view, but a Fragonardian seated figure in a beautifully opulent interior, mindlessly fumbling with a piece of material.  You sense that the artist lives his life inhabiting a very special place that marries all the best bits of life from the late 18th Century to today.  The patterns serve as a structure on to which Grenville can apply harmonious colour.  More often than not the fizz of the patterns lie in direct contrast to the human presence, which is always a young girl, either lost in contemplation or asleep.  The peace of the paintings is found in their innocence and passivity; one is invited to project one’s own narrative to the scene or simply bathe in the sheer delight of the colour.

‘A Pilgrim Soul’ is arguably Grenville’s bravest and most emotion-laden painting yet, and is a paired down composition drawn from an earlier painting ‘Ah Love, Let Us Be True To One Another’, which hangs nearby. It’s brave because one feels he is not hiding behind the cleverness of all the patterns and colours, it simply shows the upper torso of a girl asleep. It is painted so sensitively the feeling of serenity is arresting.  The use of gold leaf to decorate the girl’s headband and fabrics behind her evoke a similar feeling that one feels when standing in front of a medieval altarpiece; there’s something so spiritual and other-worldly in this very simple painting – through finding it himself Grenville is urging us all to slow down the process of looking, as there is something profoundly spiritual in the everyday, if only we paused to contemplate it.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Acrylic Painting Workshop at the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea, October 2012

Yesterday I ran an hour-long acrylic painting workshop at the Affordable Art Fair.  Having never been to the fair at its Battersea site, I had no idea of what the set up would be, who would be attending, and what materials they would be able to use!!  I arrived half an hour before the workshop began and was relieved to have a team of very helpful people on hand to help with setting up field easels and laying out palettes and acrylic colour, kindly provided by Jackson's Art Supplies.  I brought with me a few objects to paint - plastic fruit, patterned fabrics and a broken bowl.  I wanted to keep the subject matter very simple so that the attendees stood a chance of completing a painting in the hour.

I had not expected the majority of the attendees to be children, and having only really had experience of teaching adults in the past, this was a whole new experience to me.  However I found the children to be incredibly respondent to advice, intelligent, and totally engaged in their work.  Just as much if not more so than the adults!  It was really lovely to have a couple of mothers and daughters attending and working alongside one another.

As anyone who has ever attended an art fair will tell you, they are pretty chaotic affairs, and so I really felt that the workshop was a wonderful diversion from the mayhem. Those who took part seemed to use painting as a way of switching off for an hour, and engaging with the process of picture making.  The workshop was surprisingly serious, and very quiet! It was a wonderful experience and one I hope to repeat in the future.  I hope that some of my students will be back to the fair exhibiting their work with a gallery next was certainly better than a lot of the work I saw for sale!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Lessons learned from a weekend painting in the Lee Valley

Lesson one: The Lee Valley is a VERY good location to visit for the inexperienced plein air painter, who happens to live in North London, and not so bad for the inexperienced painter from South London either.  Me and my painting partner in crime Becky caught the train to Cheshunt on Saturday, less than an hour away from home. The station is 0.2 miles from the very affordable, very comfortable YHA Lee Valley, looked after by the nicest human beings that walk this earth.  And the hostel is located within the Lee Valley park, a thousand and one acres of fun, apparently - but not only that, but a series of pretty and interesting scenes, from the canal, to the marshes, to the cornfields.  This is great if you are laden with heavy painting equipment, such as a field easel, paints, supports, folding chair etc - literally everything is a few steps away from everything else.

Lesson Two: Painting should be treated as a hobby and never a profession.  What I mean is, always adopt an open minded, almost playful approach to your work. Experimentation is key to development in your practice, and remind yourself of this fact even when you are seemingly producing something laughable.  Once we parked ourselves in front of the scene in the photo above, I produced a number of very quick drawings, and then set about producing a collage.  The theory was that the number of vibrant and scribbly marks in my drawing were unreadable in terms of what they were of, and I thought that through collage I could re-establish a stronger sense of design, an arrangement of flat shapes across a surface.  Sadly my collage turned out to be just as unreadable, and actually made me laugh out loud at one point.  But still through the crap drawing and the crap collage, remained in my mind was an idea for a more accomplished painting, and one I  intend to do once I can return to my studio.

Lesson Three: Staying the night helps. Removing yourself from the everyday, the chores, the grief, the heartache, all of that crap, allows you to just enjoy yourself. A painting weekend is an intense yet enjoyable experience, and one that needs no other distractions.  It IS exhausting so make it as easy for yourself as possible.

Lesson Four: The problems faced with painting out of doors seem to be a little easier to deal with than the problems you might face in the studio.  Becky made a really good observation yesterday - that dealing with how to transport wet paintings, finding a scene that would make a good painting, avoiding strong winds and keeping a relatively clean palette are infinity more pleasant problems than not knowing what to paint, questioning whether there's any point to you painting anyway, and not knowing how to justify large chunks of  time during your 'working' week being spent in the studio, even though it earns you very little or no money.  Somehow throwing oneself into an environment abundant with subject matter just means you get on with it, and even better if you're kept company, it somehow stops one from becoming too self indulgent or serious!

Lesson Five: Never attempt finished works of art. As soon as I gave up on that idea, I produced the paintings that my friend said on my return were the most frame- able.  These were the least self conscious works, the most assured and immediate.  Working in series in quick succession once in the right frame of mind seems to work well for me personally. I suggest you give it a try if you haven't already, and if the fancy takes you!

Viewpoint where I made my first oil sketch for the weekend

1st Oil Sketch

Sunday Subject Matter

1st Sunday sketch

Tiny sketch (6 x 5) on unprimed linen panel, very absorbent surface

Final work of the weekend, which has been growing on me since I painted it.

Lesson six: If you go for a curry at the Indian in Cheshunt and you like your curry hot, make sure you ask for extra chillies as they make then pretty mild otherwise.

Final lesson: Probably best to think carefully about how you intend to carry your wet work at the end of the trip.  Spent Sunday evening with my man promptly developing a new way of carrying wet canvases, which we will never patent and earn our millions from. Talk about wasted opportunity...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

hello i'm back

A slight interlude - almost a month away from doing any work! And it's been getting to good then to have 2 hours this afternoon to start on a new drawing.  I really want this one to dance, was really inspired by Conrad Shawcross' industrial machine replicating human movement in the Titian inspired exhibition 'Metamorphosis' at The National Gallery that I have had the idea to try and make my drawings dance, so that they too also replicate human movement.... I also want to try and depict differences in speed, slow passages of drawing and fast passages of drawing..... and I can also see this potentially in paint, too. All very exciting. Off to cycle surgery to fix my bike. x