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Studio Secrets

Nadia Hebson

 

Describe the images and things you have around you in your studio and how they influence and inform your work.

Easel, table, chair, shoe and boot spill over, two broken CD players, and a 1930s matador hat. Boxes of images, books, photocopies, flyers, scraps of drawings and negative photographs. The most important images I have are the postcards I've collected over the years from various galleries and museums predominantly Northern European, Early Flemish portraits and Medieval German landscape; it's not so much that I study them, more that I look at them and remember the experience of seeing them and what I noticed when I stood in front of the very painting.

The image I covet the most is a postcard of a late Bonnard self-portrait; a wizened turkey-necked man studies himself in the mirror, eyes reduced to burnt out black slits.

Describe your working methods and process.

I have a few approaches to working: if it's a still life I simply find some flowers, put them in a cardboard box and then fiddle with the lighting till I see something interesting. Then it's a quick eye to hand process. If it's a portrait then its more convoluted: I find a historical image I want to borrow, pose a friend in a similar position, photograph, draw onto zinc sheeting, make up a costume/outfit and fabricate a landscape. Invariably I end up changing the positioning of the figure and frequently try out a variety of clothing in the actual painting. If it's an ice flow or shipwreck, I may find a 19 th century stock print and use this as a starting point. Covering the canvas in Neutral Tint. I draw the image into the wet paint, removing more than I add until there's a plausible composition. Then I work a combination of lead white, Caribbean blue, and violet in, with a variety of marks and methods, glazes rich with linseed oil and other more turpsy combinations, thick and thin layers, casually worked areas and acute detail, all in total disregard of the ' fat over lean' rule.

Which single item is the most important to your work?

Music

Which artists most inform your work and which recent shows have been inspirational?

I have total Courbet lust at the moment.
Truthfully I haven't been bowled over for a while.

Is your studio a refuge or a place of torture?

It has always been contingent, but maybe there's been a permanent sea change for the better in the last year. It's not a refuge exactly, but I do love it. I shut the door and focus completely on this parallel world interspersed with coffee breaks and dancing.