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Artist Lorraine Brown in conversation with Mary during lockdown

Lorraine is an mixed media artist and explores themes of landscape and the environment. Mixed media allows Lorraine to combine digital technology with the physicality of paint, creating multi-layered surfaces. Words and symbols in the form of collage, mark making or asemic writing are incorporated in the art making process as an aesthetic element rather than literal meaning but reflecting our modern day landscape, where nature grows alongside man-made signs, symbols and grafitti.

I hope you enjoy this "in conversation" and help to share an insight into the artist work.

Q. How did you get into Art?

I've always loved art and drawing as a child. It was something I used to do. And I was never wanting to be sporty or that, that was just one thing I felt comfortable with. So, I have always drawn and loved art, love my art classes and I do still. It is funny actually, I remember as a teenager, when I got my own bedroom, eventually, I collage three of the walls, my parents must have been beside themselves.

Q. Do you have any pictures of your teenage room?

Unfortunately, no because once I left home, my parents quickly decorated.

Q. Where did you grow up and do you think it has had a bearing on your Art?

No, But I was always near the woods where we use to play and climb trees. So, nature was a big part of my life. And I always loved being outside, in nature. I have always had a love for nature and that sort of inspires a lot of my work.

Q. Can you describe your working day as an artist. I've obviously been to your studio, as I like to go out and visit the Artists in their studio, as you get a sense of what the Artist is working on. We spend some time in your studio that was before the first lockdown and you demonstrated to me how you do your work but can you describe your day to the customer.

I probably spend a little bit of time in my studio every day, whether it's just sorting or, or actually working on a piece or just doing a little bit of background layers or sketchbook, I've taken two sketchbooks more recently, as well. If I go out for a walk, I always take my phone or camera, then I am ready if something catches my eye, I will take photographs, and that's what I use when I get back in the studio. That is where my inspiration often comes from just my sort of walks out and about. And yeah, and then I come back and sort of have a little bit of a play, perhaps in the studio, not sort of focusing on much, but then, some ideas will come and that's how it kind of, sort of develops that way.

Q. Have you had any previous jobs before becoming an Artist?

Oh, well, yes. I mean, I've always had the sort of boring day jobs. I trained as a medical secretary but then I've always done the Office admin, that sort of work. I think you can always have an interest in your art, even if it doesn't sort of pan out as your career because I wasn't allowed to go to art school, when I was young. So, it was something I had to put on hold until I was much more mature. So, I went to art school as a very mature student and, it was only then I had the time really to sort of focus on it and, work on what I do now. Although it's always been my interest, and I've done the odd courses here and there. It was never my main career or anything like that. But yes, I'm very glad, I picked it up again, later in life.

Q. Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years, that would help or inspire budding artists?

I would say stay open minded because I think it's all about experimenting. I think you can get too stale in what you think you do as an artist. And I think you should just be completely open minded, try new things, learn new techniques. Because otherwise I think you just get stale, and I think you need to develop and grow. And I think that's quite important. Otherwise, I think you get in a rut. But I think it doesn't matter how long you've been making art I think you will can always benefit from learning new skills.

Q. Do you listen to music in your studio when you are working?

No not generally. I can do sometimes if, I can listen to sort of a playlist or something random, that's not something I've chosen, perhaps because I think that can be too distracting. But sometimes it does help as it can give you a bit of inspiration, or maybe try something a bit different.

Q. What piece of equipment can’t you do without?

My camera. As if you take a photograph as your working you can sort of see where perhaps you could, improve things or you want to change things. You can then put the image on the computer and look at things by cropping as well. You can play around with the painting on the screen and then make changes to the painting.

Q. We have a selection of your work at Wonky Wheel, can you give us some insights into your inspiration behind these two pieces?

There'll be from photographs that I've taken and the last couple of summers on Jesus Green, where I live next to. The Council have been sowing wild flowers And it's kind of a new thing, which is kind of lovely, because it's encouraging all the insects. I think this is happening more and more in different town parks. And so when they all die, you get all these lovely seed cases. And I just love the shapes. They're quite sort of architectural in a way a bit like the winter trees, but this is a summer version. So you get like, all these lovely plants and seed cases and, they're just standing out there and I love taking the photographs of them. So, they tend to work into to my work, especially a lot of my work lately.

Q. Why do you enjoy painting Trees and Flowers & I have also noticed that some have a hidden number within the piece as well?

so probably they're really an aesthetic element if you like they don't mean terribly much but because I use collage and a lot of that's text and, but also I kind of think, of modern day landscapes you often see signs and symbols and they are a reminder of man and his impact on our landscape. So, in a way, it's a reflect that everywhere you go now you see some sort of sign or symbol.

Q. You also find inspiration around you in Cambridge, can you describe why these windows inspired you?

I can't go far without seeing, our buildings, and all these lovely sort of distressed walls, windows, doors and all that. So that really inspires me as well. I've used a lot of photography and collage in that way.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

What I really love is although I have a sort of theme, and I'm working on certain things, like the architecture, or the nature and trees but I just love the unexpected, because I never know how it's really going to pan out. And it's that surprise, that really gives me the buzz and not knowing really how it's going to look or what if I do this or add that and, and that's what really motivates me, I just love to hack to get that complete surprise, the unexpected.

Q. What have been your highlights or biggest achievements so far?

After I completed my degree, I made a website and I was contacted by Wetherspoons to do a commission for them for their new premises in Huntington. And I'm absolutely overwhelmed by this and think, because they'd seen a few of my pieces on the website and they wanted something similar, but they the only thing was they wanted something much larger. I'd never done that before my pieces were quite small. So, I said yes, I'll have a go and of course, making it so much larger on canvas was completely new to me. But yeah, it took me a few weeks to do it, but and they wanted something in like some of the work I've done with sort of people in history they wanted to do like historical theme of on Huntingdon's, so they gave me lots of then and it was up to me to choose what I did. And I chose one on Samuel Peaks and I did one on Oliver Cromwell and all the sorts of relevant sort of historical pieces like buildings and other artefacts and things. It was like a collage painting, bit like what I've done before but and I still do them. But this was much larger canvas. So, there were two big canvases which yes, they're now in place in this Wetherspoons in Huntington. When they are open again you can go and see the work in place that was really quite something. They had a sort of opening evening and they'd frame them beautifully.

Then more recently, well, last year because we haven't been having any exhibitions as such, I thought I'd try and enter an open call like a national thing. And I entered the IMG discerning eye. Last September, I think it was, and I had three pieces selected. It was an online exhibition last year in November, coming up to Christmas and normally it would be in the male galleries in London. So that was a bit of a shame not to have that. But still, to actually take part in the exhibition was wonderful and I sold a piece. So I was very, very pleased. So yes, I should definitely enter some more open positions. As I've never sort of thought about that before.

Q. How would you describe the life of an artist in just 3 words.

Frustrating, quite magical

Q. What advice would you give to younger self about starting a career as an artist?

I think looking back, um, I've always sort of regretted I didn't sort of go to art school earlier. But then again, I think, you can't rely on that, as a career in Art can be quite a difficult one, it's some reliable, but I think even if you have to have your plan B, to earn a living, and so on, you can always have art as your interest on the side. Your work is more authentic, because you're not making work to make, to sort of please somebody else. And I think that could be quite a big thing. If you were reliant on your artwork, as your main income, you'd probably have to do very different work, because you'd have to paint what other people wanted, or might work a certain way, and I think you can be totally authentic. If you're not relying on earning a living out of it, you can do exactly what you want. What makes you tick, what makes you happy? Yeah. Do what makes you happy is important and not to be influenced by any other factor then.

You can view Lorraine's collection online or from the 12th April at our gallery in Finchingfield, until next time....

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