MEET THE ARTIST! A Q&A WITH LOIS CORDELIA

Name: Lois Cordelia Bülow-Osborne
aka: Lois Cordelia
Occupation: Freelance Artist
Born: 8 September
Year: 1982
Location: Ipswich
Currently residing in: Ipswich
Your artistic medium(s): Acrylics, Papercutting (scalpel), Marker Pens, Brushpen, Mixed Media
Sun Bear: Taj Mahal by Sun and Moon
Sponsored by: Martineau Place

 

Can you give us a rundown of your career so far?

I work in diverse styles and mediums, including energetic speed-painting, intricate scalpel paper-cutting, and fantasy mixed media sculpture. I often create art in public and I welcome the opportunity to talk with people while I work, inspiring and being inspired. I maintain a busy schedule of live art demonstrations, workshops, talks, collaborations, publications, exhibitions, and other events.

I created Taj Mahal by Sun and Moon for The Big Sleuth, which is my third Wild in Art adventure to date, and I’m currently working on more behind the scenes. I have previously painted sculptures for Pigs Gone Wild (Ipswich) and Sitting With Jane (Basingstoke).
Lois Cordelia paintingI took formal art training only as far as A-level (Northgate High School, Ipswich, 2001), when my art teacher Mr Dan Emery encouraged me to begin painting. Since 1999, I have worked part-time as an assistant in the west London studio of children’s author-illustrator Jan Pienkowski (born 1936), best known for his Meg and Mogseries (with co-authors Helen Nicoll and David Walser), pop-up books including Haunted House, and several volumes of fairytale silhouette illustrations.

In 2006, I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a first level Honours degree in Arabic. The effortless beauty of Arabic script remains a major influence on my visual art.

Please describe the style of art you produce.

My art is extremely varied, ranging from intricate papercuts created using a surgical scalpel to bold, energetic speed-paintings using brush and palette knife. I also create fantastical sculpted figurines using mixed media.

…..and then describe it in just three words!

Dance, dance, dance!

What does a typical day look like?

There is no typical day (and certainly never a dull moment!) in the life of a freelance artist. Some days I teach, some days I paint or sculpt live in public, some days I run our local life class or Art & Spirituality Interfaith Forum. Many days are spent doing all the admin jobs of emailing, maintaining the website and so on. Often I work on commissions, doing meticulous research for every aspect.

I defy the age-old stereotype of the artist who labours in solitude, shut away from the world. Of course, artists must spend periods of their life alone, practising, experimenting, researching, but prolonged isolation is unhealthy and not conducive to a successful career.

For this reason, I perform live art demonstrations in public almost every week, engaging passers-by in conversation, listening, sharing anecdotes and inspiration, challenging people to think in fresh ways by introducing them to unusual approaches, and all the time I continue painting or paper-cutting or sculpting.

What or who is the biggest influence on your work?

I continued formal study of art only as far as A-level (Northgate High School, Ipswich, 2001). I owe a debt of gratitude to my A-level Art teacher, Mr Dan Emery, who first encouraged me to let go of my obsession with black and white drawing and evolve into colour: hence I began painting.

My ‘art education’ since then has taken the form of working part-time as a personal studio assistant to artist and illustrator Jan Pienkowski. Working so closely with Jan in his beautiful, spacious west London studio has exposed me to new art mediums and styles, and given me an insight into the book publishing industry, but above all it has introduced me to Jan’s radical, refreshing and often wonderfully eccentric philosophy towards art. What impressed me most was his carefree attitude to so-called ‘mistakes’. Jan welcomes these as unexpected gifts that offer him a different way of seeing things. Genius!

What artwork is the one you wished you had created?

My artwork is my own journey and no one else’s work could genuinely express that.

What’s hot and what’s not in the art world? What’s got you excited/interested to find out more about?

I’m intrigued by three-dimensional pens!

What’s the one piece of advice you would give your younger self when considering a career in the arts?

Chase after your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You must do more than what a camera can do.

There are no such things as mistakes.

Less is more.

Describe your artistic process and methods.

Movement links together all the apparently diverse mediums of my artistic expression. As I’ve mentioned, it also evokes my dynamic perception of spirit as striving to reach beyond the confines of physical form. The most difficult thing about my work is that there are never enough hours in a day…!

My so-called ‘speed-painting’ technique involves painting with acrylics on a large scale, launching in with a large brush, and working from my shoulder as opposed to my wrist to produce huge sweeping arcs of movement. I rarely take more than an hour or two at most to complete a painting or portrait, because I am keen to preserve the raw energy that fuelled the first few seconds or minutes.

Life drawing and sketching, capturing the likeness of a live model, often within a space of a few minutes, is another excellent discipline, which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to improve their drawing skills. I often quote Leonardo da Vinci: “Art is never finished. It is only abandoned.” An artwork that is truly ‘finished’ seems to lose something, weighed down by obsession with detail and perfection. Less is more.

Similarly, with my paper-cuts, a swift, energetic sketch forms the basis of a very precise design that may take many hours to cut out, yet it is that raw energy that remains manifest on completion.

In the case of my sculptures, the initial ‘sketch’ takes a bit longer to execute, being composed of wire, bent into shape with pliers and twisted together for strength, but the principle is the same: the emphasis is always on evoking movement. The figures in my work tend to dance, often with dramatic gestures and outstretched limbs. They are typically elongated, striving to reach beyond their physical limitations into spiritual dimensions. They represent the eternal longing of spirit for freedom of expression.

Movement is fundamental to life itself, whether in the flow of blood circulation or water, the economy, electricity, traffic, or conversation. Without fluency, life grinds to a halt and stagnation sets in. On the subject of movement, I will leave you with two favourite quotations of Friedrich Nietzsche: “I would never believe in a god who didn’t know how to dance”, and, similarly, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

What are the highlights of your career so far?

My three Wild in Art adventures are my favourite career highlights to date. Other than that my work has been published in the UK, Germany, Austria and the USA, in books, journals and music albums.

What have you got coming up?

Plenty of exciting workshops (see my website), lots of live demonstrations, more art films, a number of exciting commissions, … and lots more Wild in Art, I hope!

Where can people find out more about your work?

My website www.LoisCordelia.com, Twitter @LoisCordelia, and Facebook.

Have you taken part in any other Wild in Art events?

My first Wild in Art adventure was Pig-geswyk, a golden Pig for my hometown, Ipswich. Pig-geswyk is a play on the Medieval name of Ipswich, Gippeswyk.

I have also painted a Jane Austen inspired BookBench for the Basingstoke trail. Being a speedpainter, I completed each of my Wild in Art pieces within a space of a few hours.

Why did you decide to take part in this trail?

I’m a Wild in Art addict (ever since Pigs Gone Wild). My friend and fellow Ipswich artist Anne-Marie Byrne and I have been encouraging each other onwards and upwards to submit designs to various trails. I love how each trail is linked to a great charitable cause – everybody wins.

What’s the best thing about being involved in an event such as this?

Working live in public and seeing people’s reactions and delight on encountering larger than life painted critters.

Creating art live in public is a crucial aspect of my work, and I often create some of my best pieces in this context. Having an audience, whether in the form of casual passers-by and visitors or a sit-down audience at an art club demonstration who watch from start to completion, turns visual art into a performance art. It means that I have no excuse: I have to simply launch in, which swiftly eliminates the fear of making a start on a blank canvas. The adrenaline kicks in and no doubt sharpens my thinking. A live audience offers instant feedback, critique and encouragement, which can be a valuable boost to confidence. Best of all, I have the opportunity to engage in conversation, learn, share, and inspire others to have a go themselves.

And finally, tell us one thing that other people may be surprised to learn about you.

I always like to surprise people…! To be an artist is a license to endlessly reinvent oneself, as an alchemist, a wanderer between worlds, a prophet on the margins of society, a child playing with a loaded revolver, a teacher, a fool, a philosopher, a rebel, and even, perhaps, a hero(ine).

As the saying goes: An artist cannot fail – it is a success just to be one.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us and sharing your wonderful insights. We’ve been truly inspired!