Friday, 19 June 2015

Artist Feature: The Wonderful work of Este MacLeod

I came across Este MacLeod's vibrant and eye-catching abstract work on her Facebook page. The painter and designers colourful works are full of flowers, plants, birds and insects. Este has a lovely painting process which she invites you to view on her blog and Facebook page. The South African artists work is bold and beautiful and the details combine harmoniously to create striking and strong imagery.

1. How did your business come about (and when did you start)? 

I’ve known I’d be an artist for as long as I can remember. My parents said I was so obsessed since the age of 2 with all things art related, they realised I will have to have a career with art as the focus. I studied textile design (pre computer era) and became a studio ceramicist and freelance designer for 10 years whilst I developed my practice as a painter. This was in the early 1990’s. We moved to the UK from South Africa in 1999 and I did more figurative ceramics and painting became a priority.

2. Can you give a quick insight into your working method? (ideas, techniques, etc.)

When my son was a toddler I allowed him to paint on my canvasses.. in order to keep him busy I’d let him paint on a black gessoed canvas. I realised that these lines with colours and shapes held so much promise, energy and spontaneous mark making, so much more fun than creating on a blank canvas. I’ve adapted my style and now mostly start from a canvas filled with marks and random colours..(or what appears to be random). I often use a canvas to clean off the paint of brushes whilst I work on another. These marks made without intention are little gems, colour combinations and marks I would not have thought to put together offer new options. I then create a composition out of this, with many layers, using Golden’s fluid acrylic and matte medium, as well as other painting mediums. It evolves over time and I work on at least 3 painting simultaneously and this offers me the chance to observe and progress without too much pressure to complete right there and then. I am currently making tutorials for an online course in painting happening in September. Looking at the videos I realise that when finalising the composition, my painting style and touch is very light but decisive .. if that makes sense?

3. What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in design (apart from a shortage of time, which seems to be universal amongst creatives!)?

Being an artist is not easy. Making it without resolving to offer art classes or other means in order to supplement my income meant I had to be resourceful to earn a living. There is a balance between creating original fresh work and making work that is commercially viable. There are artists who’ve developed a sort of method of creating, the work they produce ends up looking like variations of the same theme. I aim to create one off unique pieces instead of duplicating. Knowing what is the best way forward to being a professional artist is not always easy but it is important to be true to yourself.

4. How do you stay motivated? What inspires you?

I am motivated by a huge variety of things, I love nature, and travel and culture, the world around me, and mostly colour I have to say is what inspires me most. I also like to learn, from many sources. I’ve done a Masters degree in jewellery design (contemporary craft) but I am not a jeweller. I love to learn about other disciplines, like printmaking and woodcarving, this opens my world, and offer new options. I find it hard to get into digital design, it is not a natural way for me to create.

5. What has been the icing on the cake for you as a artist/designer?

A few years ago the Duke of Devonshire bought a painting of mine through a gallery, it was a large still life featuring lilies, it is now at Chatsworth house.

6. Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally) and what/who are your biggest influences, past or present?

Ooh hard to say, there are many artists and designers I admire. Painters I would say Kandinsky and Klee as well as Chagall. Designers: Scandinavian and mid century styles. I admire powerful women, artists, scientists, politicians: movers and shakers and go getters, women who do their own thing. Flying solo, moving minds or breaking boundaries. I find huge inspiration in them.

7. Describe your creative space

I have a studio and it is packed full of all kinds of things I like to think inspire me. Several easels and spaces to work on in the log building. I work everyday so pretty much anywhere with a flat surface or even my lap is suitable depending on the size of paintings and what I am working on. I love to work when I am travelling and on holiday, in gardens, on the beach, public parks, museums, cafes. When I have the choice of working at home I think I work better sitting flat on the floor rather than in front of an easel. 

8. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

It must be when I went back to study a few years ago. I did a degree in Ceramics and Glass as a mature student. A wonderful free thinking tutor who understood the way in which I work and create. He told me to ‘Just play’ and see where it leads you. Don’t worry about the material you are working in, you will adapt. This might not work for everyone, but to me it was an endorsement of my abilities to create and apply myself in different ways.

You can keep up to date with Este's work here...

(all above images are © Este MacLeod)