Women’s History Month: Figure 1

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Hello hello! It’s women’s history month!

This is the first of an undetermined number of portraits I’ll be doing of amazing women this month. I’m calling the project ‘Overlooked & Underrated,’ as the women I’m choosing fit into two categories.

Underrated is women you’ve heard of, but often only for their looks or fame. Think Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn: remembered for their appearances and style, rather than their considerable work for charitable causes. These women are often remembered for superficial reasons, when the truth is that they helped society tremendously with comparatively little recognition.

Overlooked will hopefully introduce you to women of history who you have never heard of. They worked hard and the affects of the work they did might still be felt today, but they have been forgotten or even deliberately excluded from the history books.

Today’s woman falls into the first category for me. Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958) was a British scientist who pioneered research in coal, DNA and viruses. Science at this time was almost exclusively the realm of men, but Rosalind refused to be put off, despite facing considerable sexism, especially by her colleague Maurice Wilkins. Her photograph of DNA led to the discovery of the double helix for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Due to her uncomfortable relationship with Wilkins, Franklin left the research team at King’s College in 1953. Her career was cut tragically short when at 37 she died of ovarian cancer.

 

I heard about her just a few days ago while listening to a recent episode of the In Our Time podcast from the BBC. As someone who has always had a fascination in women’s history I was really disappointed not to have heard of this woman, who really is the reason we now understand DNA. Not only this, but to hear the level of exclusion and sexism she faced from her male peers even as she pushed forward with her groundbreaking discoveries, is inspiring.

Discovering Rosalind has also led me to discover the Lost Boss Bitch podcast, which I’m really enjoying and has inspired a few more of the ‘Overlooked & Underrated’ women to come! I also always love listening to The History Chicks podcast, which also works to highlight impressive women of the past.

I hope you like today’s illustration, and keep an eye out for the next ones to come!

 

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Belgium

I’ve been dreaming of going to Belgium for a while now. In all honesty, I fell in love with the idea of Belgium because I fell in love with its art; all it took was seeing the Arnolfini Portrait in real life and I was obsessed. I wrote my BA dissertation on the art of the Low Countries and I thought that would be the end of my love (how much can you love something when you’ve written 10,000 words about it?!) but instead, I learned that 10,000 words weren’t enough.

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Two weeks ago today I was in Ghent. The weather was awful, foggy and rainy and the wind was like a punch in the face… but I was delightfully happy. The city is beautiful and old and it felt as though it was bursting at the seams with history. I got to see the Lamb of God by Jan van Eyck, which I couldn’t stare at enough. I think if I lived in Ghent (and believe me, that is a tempting prospect) I would go and see it every other day. The lower panels on the interior side are currently replaced with replicas, as the real panels are being restored at the Museum voor Schone Kunsten in the city. Being able to see the restoration process was also a highlight for me.

My art pilgrimage also lead to Bruges, which houses another van Eyck masterpiece as well as many other pieces of beautiful art from the Low Countries. I still find it tricky to put my finger on what exactly makes the paintings of this region so fascinating. Perhaps it’s something about the people; they so often seem to be holding onto a secret, and the calculated poise of the wealthy classes gives so little away; the total opposite to the far more popular art of the Italian Renaissance. I suppose this is the earliest European art which makes a convincing attempt to depict reality; suddenly there’s a sense of space created with the use of perspective instead of flat or even plain gold backgrounds. It’s also the first time we see real people; nobles and merchants, rather than purely religious scenes. It’s a window into a time which is entirely unfamiliar to us.

We stayed in Brussels, which is beautiful and interesting, but honestly was less exciting for me than Bruges and Ghent. In part this was because the city was destroyed in c. 1700 and therefore was entirely rebuilt since then, unlike Ghent which has barely been touched since the middle ages.

Unfortunately, the trip is also important to me as it marked the end of a relationship. The reality is that taking this trip together, after being long distance for a while, confirmed for us that we no longer worked as a couple. While it’s for the best, it really sucks. We were great together for a while, and I really hate that it didn’t last; but when you know it’s wrong you have no choice but to accept it.

These paintings were actually quite hard to paint, as they forced me to confront feelings which I would prefer to suppress. Looking at them now, however, I see them as full of hope for the future, and a willingness to focus on the very best of things.

It’s only been two weeks since I was in Ghent, and a lot has changed. Back home, the sun has come out today after the rain, and I feel the same. I hope you do, too.

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Snapshots from left to right: 1 (view from Hotel Queen Anne, Brussels) 2 (The bell tower in Ghent) 3 (Full Circle Coffee, Ghent) 4 (a church through the trees, Bruges) 5 (Palais de Justice, Brussels) 6 (a house in the main square, Ghent)

Gentleman s

Sunshine Stories

 

I painted these scenes inspired by some of the photos I took in summer.

Nothing beats turquoise and orange/yellow as a colour combo!! Such vibrant, happy colours.

(Yellow is my fave colour in case you haven’t noticed yet!!)

These are some of my favourite pieces that I’ve produced in a while. I’ve finally had the courage to loosen up in the way I work, and I think the personality shines out so much more! My next goal is to keep finding ways to incorporate patterns into my paintings, I just love to use pattern.

Saying no to winter blues

 

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It does seem a bit ironic that I came up with this design slap-bang in the middle of a cold British winter!! But this many smiley faces and this much lively yellow can only be an antidote the darkness, and a nice reminder that spring is not really so far away.

In truth, I came up with this design because I was thinking back (again) on what was probably the first time my artwork was ever criticised. I was four or five, in my first year of school. I was painting a landscape at the easel and I gave the sunshine a cute smiley face, when my teacher came up behind me and told me that the sun shouldn’t have a face!! Well, even at that age I knew VERY well that the sun didn’t have a face, duh!! I was pretty precocious about my art at that age so I was seething, and clearly I haven’t gotten over it yet (I turn 23 next year so it’s almost 20 years since it happened…. which is nuts).

And so I decided that perhaps a bit of art therapy would help me to get over this tragic, harrowing experience from my youth – ha!

Live drawing 2017

I went back up to Lincoln for the Christmas market this year, to offer support and live drawing at the stall of my publisher! It’s that one called ‘Growing up in Babylon’ which I don’t share really anymore, it’s not really my style now!

I absolutely loved drawing and getting to know the people at the market. I had such a fun couple of days there!

New Direction

Hi hi!! Long time no see!

I’ve got a set of really fun watercolour based illustrations to show you. I’d like to do one illustration per day now, I feel as though I’ve figured out how to create in a way which I love and really enjoy. I don’t think I’ll ever have one ‘style,’ I would just get so bored of never trying anything new!! But I think that I have finally relaxed enough to listen to myself and create art in whichever way I choose! So far they’re all watercolour based because… Well, because before I was only comfortable working digitally. I felt that it was less risky, that any mistakes were fixable, and I thought that my traditional media work was too messy and rough. I thought my work needed to look perfect.

Now I see the joy in having imperfections and I can finally actually enjoy the bleeds and textures created by watercolour! Watercolour has always been my favourite type of paint but I’ve just been too shy to use it as much as I like.

Anyway, here are some of the paintings, I hope you like them because I sure do!!

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Sketchbook Page

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I never paint sketchbook pages but I’ve been craving painting and the paper in my little A5 sketchbook is a nice smooth texture so I thought I’d give myself some time to have an experiment and try out some new ideas.

This is a follow up really from what I was talking about in my last post; lots of colour, history, pattern and people! You also can never go wrong with some florals which I also enjoy painting.

Something Different

Portrait

In between my design commissions I’ve been thinking a lot about my illustration career, prompted by 15 Steps to Freelance Illustration by Thomas James, which is such a useful resource.

As an experiment [illustrator Marshall Arisman] made a list of 4 things that he had a deep knowledge of and decided to focus his  energy on creating art based solely on those 4 things.

Inspired by this I asked myself, what do I like to illustrate? The answers were colour, portraiture, history, and pattern. And here they all are in one image!!

There’s more to come like this soon!

 

Love Nora