Sophie Walbeoffe
Artists & Illustrators|May 2017
Sophie Walbeoffe

The travel artist reveals her fascinating techniques and recounts her adventures while painting the landscapes of africa and the middle east ahead of her latest solo show.

Sally Hales

Tell us about your latest exhibition Painting with Both Hands. What is the show’s focus?

It coincides with the launch of my book of the same name, which illustrates my time as a travelling artist and features paintings from Syria, India and the Middle East, as well as a number of landscapes from Kenya and seascapes from Lamu. There are also paintings that highlight the terrible poaching of elephants and other animals.

You studied with Cecil Collins at the Central School of Art. How did he inspire you?

First, he told me to slow down: to stop, look, listen; to notice feelings; to listen to music; to meditate before painting. He would make us lie on the floor for 10 minutes before painting. He gave me drawing practices that loosened my painting ability, and showed us how to use different brushstrokes – both hands, your feet and your mouth – to make dots and circles. He taught the use of the reed pen, red chalk, and 4B and 2B pencils – all using both hands. When painting on site, he gave me a new energy in trying to paint the air, the atmosphere and the movement of the soul in order to freeze a moment in time. I went to an exhibition of Cecil’s recently and I found myself crying because he still moves me.

You’ve adopted his both-hands style. What does this bring to your art?

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May 2017