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STELLA TOOTH tells us about her work in Skylark.

What do you do? Why do you do it?

I produce impactful original drawings and oil paintings in the moment of real people. Through them I explore themes of separation and connection, seeking to blur the boundaries between illustration and fine art. 

Performers inspire me, both on the street and in venues, and I aim to capture the creative energy that comes from performing live. I’m Resident Artist at 
The Half Moon Putney, one of London’s iconic music venues where my work is also on show. 

Having grown up on the coast, I’ve created a series of oil paintings featuring bathers which hold up a mirror to a love that binds us all – of being by the sea.

My legacy has continued with my co-founding the Lots Road Group of portrait artists and I accept commissions, both drawn and in oils, from individuals, businesses and performers (including musicians and would-be musicians!)
I also tutor drawing in the inspiring surrounds of the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and The Courtauld for Sketchout.

Artist Stella Tooth

What has been a seminal experience?

In 2013, I was among 50 international artists selected to take part in the first Egypt art biennale in Sharm el Sheikh. The biennale was run under the auspices of three Egyptian ministries: tourism, culture and foreign, with the aim of supporting tourism in the region. During our 10 day stay, we were asked to paint in public – in the town square, inspired by spectacular ‘whirling dervish’ and fire eating performances, in the desert nightclub housed inside a cave ‘La Dolce Vita’ and in the bustling Naama Bay shopping area. 

In the grounds of the Sonesta Beach Hotel, where we stayed, we were visited by a stream of ministers as we each painted two 70x80cms pictures for the competition. The pictures were judged at the end of our stay by a panel of international judges, with prizes awarded at a televised gala evening attended by European and Middle Eastern art critics in the landscaped grounds of Le Royal Hotel Resort. Selected pictures then went on show at the hotel until Christmas. The closing night reception, with performances by Egypt’s best known singers and dancers, was attended by the Admiral Governor of South Sinai (whose portrait I was asked to paint). Italian artist Archille Quadrini and I won the Judges’ prizes. 

It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating, experience to paint alongside other artists from Europe and the Middle East – specialists in watercolour, in oils, in figurative, landscape or abstract art. We exchanged ideas, learned new techniques, from the showy display of burning gold leaf onto canvas to the texturising of paint by mixing sand into it. We realised all of us were products of our own, distinct cultural traditions. And, of course, the experience of being part of a shared endeavour gave rise to a camraderie that has produced a lasting legacy of belonging to a supportive community of artist friends.  This legacy has continued with my founding the Lots Road Group of portrait painters, taking part each September in the Borough of Ealing Art Trail (BEAT) and becoming a member of the Skylark Artists’ Collective.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

A couple came to my BEAT open studios and made a connection that I hadn’t thought of.  They saw my portraits of newsmen and my musician art and asked if I would draw them as musicians – even though they were not!

Here’s what my first would be rock ‘n’ rollers had to say about the experience: “A hugely enjoyable experience – with a unique artwork at the end! In another life we’d have been rock musicians, only neither of us can sing or play an instrument. This was no barrier to taking on the persona of a rock duo on stage, to be immortalised by Stella in one of her vibrant portraits. She quickly helped us overcome our self-consciousness and was even able to offer guidance on how to convincingly handle the instruments. We had a blast singing along to our favourite numbers – luckily to an imaginary audience. Stella makes the creation of the portrait itself a real collaboration, from choosing the best photo together, to regularly emailing images of the work-in-progress for comment. It was magical to see the picture grow, and it will never stop being a thrill to see our own wonderful portrait on the wall.”

Single portrait drawing
+£25 venue hire
+£50 per extra person

A3 / £250
40 x 50 / £300
A2 / £350 
A1 / £480 
A0 / £630

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I was a print journalist and, for almost 20 years, looked after publicity for BBC & Sky News, including the World Service. To join up my past and present careers I completed a series of portraits of some of best known names in UK broadcast news including the BBC’s John Humphrys and Kate Adie.

Are there stories behind your people portraits?

There are stories behind all my drawings and paintings – and I love to tell them to those who are attracted to them.  Journalists are curious people: we want to know the where, the whats, the hows and the whys about what motivates us all.  So, at a time in human history where we spend much of our lives engaging with a virtual world, my art explores the lives of real people – especially those who reach out to connect with us face-to-face through performance…or those I can relate to through observance of the shifting canvas of humanity.  My bathers are men and women who talk their cares away on the beach, letting it all hang out, enjoying the sun on their skin or playing the fool on the beach. 

What is your dream project?

Collaborating with a performer to create a piece of fine art that defines them.

Colin

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