I actually came to know Mary Fedden’s work in a round about sort of way. Truth is, her name was so frequently mentioned as an inspiration or influence by so many of my favorite British creators that I simply had to learn more.
Turns out she’s one of Britain’s finest and best-loved contemporary artists, one who painted daily right up until her passing in 2012 at age 96. She’s most well known for her distinctive still lifes, characterized by a bold use of color, odd and inventive perspectives, and flat picture planes.
She made the ordinary extraordinary with her signature näive yet sophisticated style, elevating the beauty of favorite subjects such as fruits, feathers and plants. Her extensive body of work spanned over seven decades.
Born in Bristol, England in 1915, Mary hated and dropped out of Badminton girls’ school to attend the Slade School of Fine Arts in London at age 16. While there, she studied under Russian scene painter Vladimir Polunin, who had worked with the Ballets Russes and with Pablo Picasso.
After completing her studies, she briefly designed sets for Sadler’s Wells before returning to Bristol to work as a teacher and portrait painter. Polunin’s influence was evident in her opulent palette, reminiscent of the sumptuous colors of the ballet’s sets and costumes.
With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Fedden served in the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Voluntary Service, where she was commissioned to create murals for the war effort. She later worked as a driver for the NAAFI in Europe.
Thought we’d brighten your week with some of Vanessa Bowman’s lovely still life and landscape paintings.
Vanessa lives and works in Dorset, England, and graduated from the Winchester School of Art with a First Class Honours Degree in Printed Textile Design. She comes from an artistic family — both her father and sister are also painters.
She works entirely in oils, thinning her paints to achieve the fluidity of watercolors. She loves celebrating the beauty of everyday objects. As a keen gardener and ceramics collector, it follows that her own flowers and found treasures often appear in her still life paintings.
I grow flowers which aren’t usually found in shops – dark, almost black flowers in Tulips and Centaureas, a beautifully marked hellebore in an unusual shade of green and dark Nasturtiums, jewel like Dahlias, fiery Crocosmia, Cosmos with their frond-like leaves and many more.
She begins her days by taking a walk with her dog, gathering her thoughts as she immerses herself in her beautiful surroundings, noting seasonal changes and checking her garden to see what’s in bloom on the way to her studio. Gentle hills, hedgerows, and regional flora and fauna appear in her landscape paintings — charming depictions of idyllic country life.
Typical of her landscapes is a detailed foreground of seasonal blossoms or berries that invite the reader into an intimate portrait of the Dorset landscape.
Her still life paintings center around the colors and shapes of her chosen flowers:
I am drawn to flowers as my main subject matter as I am captivated by the variety of colour and detail they offer. I am fascinated by the elements of colour and shape each flower offers, from the simplicity of a snowdrop to the complexity of, say, a dahlia, with its jewel-like colour and complex petal formation.
The other day, in my ongoing quest for art that makes my heart sing, I stumbled upon the work of UK-based artist Vanessa Cooper.
Can you see why I instantly fell in love? Why shouldn’t doggies be treated to a variety of scrummy cakes and a homey checked tablecloth?
Dogs aren’t the only ones who receive special treatment at the dining table. Vanessa also includes lots of cats, the odd budgie, goat, or whatever stray she might happen upon. I love her sense of whimsy.
She’s a Hampshire native who studied at Portsmouth University. She started painting in her teens and her style is defined by her bold use of color, striking compositions, and charming details.
For your viewing pleasure today, the still life paintings of California artist Youqing (Eugene) Wang.
Originally from China, Mr. Wang studied and taught fine art and graphic design there before moving to the United States in 2001. After earning his second MFA in studio art from Florida State University, he began painting and selling his work full time.
He works primarily in oil, and most of these pieces were created as part of a daily painting practice begun in 2008. These small format paintings are less than 11×14 inches.
In my painting, I am mainly concerned with capturing the light, order and beauty of simplicity of common objects, as well as their cultural significance. My work reflects an imagination that “feels” the joyfulness of still life or landscape from inside out. Subjects I paint come from my own personal experiences and observations. I hope to transform the simplicity of common objects into paintings which are emotionally rich and expressive.
His work does indeed heighten one’s appreciation for objects we often take for granted, and sometimes cease to really “see.” But truly, that’s what a good artist does, right? Makes you stop and look with new eyes and marvel.