Becoming a painter and finding your voice is no mean feat and takes years of experimenting, practice and training. I have been passionate about art since a very young age and I applied to do a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the age of seventeen, but I did not get a place and I convinced myself that I was not an artist. With both my mother and older sister, having been to art college and got their BFAs, I felt inferior to their talents and chose to study languages. However, my secret desire to be a painter never went away.
Later, in 1989, when our eldest daughter was born with multiple disabilities, both physical and intellectual, I had to give up all hope of pursuing any real career, creative or otherwise. Then in 2008, at the age of twenty, our daughter moved away to an adult care home nearby and after twenty years of being a full time carer, I was suddenly free at the age of forty five. Such was my state of exhaustion, it took me a whole year of complete rest with few responsibilities, to get any degree of energy and motivation back. The big question was what to do with the next part of my life. I was fortunate in that I did not have to take a day job to get by and I resumed an artistic activity by training and becoming a professional photographer, as well as taking adult drawing and painting lessons.
My series of goddess paintings, as I call them, grew very slowly out of an exercise we were given to do in class. We were a group of five and our teacher asked us to choose one of four paintings to reinterpret. We voted and chose to study The Splash by David Hockney, 1966.
Our teacher asked us to imagine we were standing inside the painting and to sketch the view from different angles and then to create a new painting inspired by these sketches.
These were my scribbles …..
One of the other paintings she had suggested was Le Rêve by Henri Rousseau (The Dream, 1910), a post-impressionist Naïve artist. This is one of my favourite paintings, although it has to be said that I have many favourite paintings, and I have had the privilege of seeing it many times at the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris.
So, I decided to combine elements from The Splash and Le Rêve and this was the result, My Splash ……
This was the first painting that, although inspired by other work, grew out of my imagination and it also established a palette of colours that I continue to use today. For several years after this exercise, I changed styles, technique and subject matter with each painting that I made. I was searching for an elusive style and theme that I could call my own. The colours from My Splash that I think of alternatively as Hockney, California or Miami colours, and the jungle motifs took root in a corner of my mind and grew slowly. Then one day, they would no longer be ignored and demanded to be painted.
In 2019, I decided to combine the jungle motifs, my colours and the idea of Nascita di Venere by Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1484–1486, which I had seen when I was a student in Florence (Italy), at the Galleria degli Uffizi, home to so many masterpieces. I have always loved life drawing classes, that is to say drawing nude models, and I had taken classes for two years before I started painting. Drawing bodies is notoriously difficult, more so than drawing objects or plants, and I am no great draughts women, but I am endlessly fascinated by the human form.
I took my courage in both hands, as the saying goes, and tried to recreate with paint, but on a small scale A4 canvas board, the idea that I had in my head. Venus I In The Jungle is the result ….
She hangs in our kitchen and is not for sale, but this giclée print is available (40 x 30 cm) in my shop.
Here is some video footage, shot in 2020/21 in our previous home, of various stages of the painting first of Venus I briefly, then the second in the series Eve In The Jungle, also 30 x 20 cm, on canvas board.
As you can see, I first drew my image free hand onto tracing paper, to allow for easier rubbing out and starting over, then transfered the drawing, painted a base coat over the white canvas, called an imprimatur, then blocked in colours with paint and drew details with Posca acrylic pens and ink.
This is Eve In The Jungle, which a good friend has bought, but giclée prints are available too in my shop.
Virginie, who bought Eve, says:
« I first chose your painting for its palette of bright colours .. it made me think of the cheerfulness of the naive style. Then what touched me was the power, tranquility and simplicity of this woman: Eve. She is not afraid of her environment, which is both beautiful but also wild.. she is peaceful.. hence the symbolism of her power.. she is an integral part of this nature.. and we all come from there»
After these two small paintings, I decided to go big, just to see if I could do it and I do enjoy the expression:
“Go Big Or Go Home”.
I have just recently completed the fourth painting in this series, so I now have two very large (100 x 80 cm) Venus paintings, numbers II & III. I shot a lot more video footage for these larger paintings, which I will show you in my next blog post.
Coming soon – The Making of Venus II & III.
Thank you for visiting.
By signing-up to my newsletter, you'll be the first to know about my new articles and paintings.
You have successfully joined the subscriber list.
I'm here to share my love of art, to share my art and to show that there can be many different lives in a woman’s life. It is never too late to pursue your dreams.
© Henrie Richer, 2021 - . All rights reserved.