Meet Louise Dear, a London-based artist imbuing a classic art nouveau style with a delightfully vibrant and experimental color palette. Dear’s mixed-media paintings layer sumptuous and sexy portraits – reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe – over epic explosions of color, framing the contrast between wild and refined beauty. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions (as well as take a virtual trip to her studio), and she proved to be just as bright and bubbly as her paintings.
b.b: Bam, a blank canvas suddenly materializes in front of you, and you feel a sudden urge to paint it. Where do you start? What’s your process start to finish?
LD: I work on panels of aluminum. At first, I scratch it, then turn the music up, sprinkle it with water and throw paint at it. Whatever I have on hand and usually in as vibrant and clashing colours as possible. I love the way the water disperses the oil based paints and they move and evolve on their own. I also throw metallic, glitters, stickers and sequined shapes. This part is random and needs to be left to dry for several days. I am always intrigued as to how they will have evolved on my return and what beautiful abstract shapes will have been created. This stage is quite chaotic and the next is very ordered. Measuring ruling and masking the panels, I rub in exquisite oil pigments and guilt creams for form stripes to order and define the chaos. Fine lines of 24-carat gold leaf are also overlaid, so fine they are not instantly noticed until set alight by a shard of sunlight. Once the background has been transformed, I select an image to project onto the panel and this is produced using enamel paints applied with a beautiful sable brush. This stage is quite energetic as many of the works are quite large and I work standing up, almost dancing as I arch and crouch creating a swooping curl of hair or curve of a seductive shoulder. I feel as though at this stage the image is simply a vehicle for the marks.
There is now the foundation of the piece and the work itself will donate the following stages as well as what background should be added to define the form, be it simple and seductive gold leaf paneling, bold contemporary stripes or more intricate and complicated patterning. Also what flowers, figures, and creatures will be overlaid and what symbols are needed for the particular message I am trying to convey.
I work on several different paintings at once due to the drying time needed of each layer but also the mood needed in creating each stage. The first layer is fairly chaotic, often created in the evening with the music up. The stripes need an ordered mood, the image a flamboyant, flirty mood where I have to get myself into the mind of the seductress I am trying to convey. The flowers and frivolity, which adorn the works, are drawn on with a marker pen and then quietly filled in with gloss paints and glitters in a quiet, gentle and contemplative mood, often whilst listening to the play on radio 4 or classic fm. My works are as multi layered as we are.
b.b: Who (or what) are your biggest role models and inspirations?
LD: My Mother is my main role model. She has lived a very full and colourful life. We are great friends and she continues to inspire me. Artistically, Takashi Murakami and his factory of super flat imagery. The photographer David LaChappelle’s plastic hyperreal scenario’s and the trussed up, big bottomed beauties of Lisa Yuskavage, rendered in such subtle, seductive, soft focus tones. The main inspiration in my paintings, my model, my muse, is my beautiful daughter Lama. I have painted her hundreds of times and those of my works that are not actually of her, portray her. Aspects of her moods, her emotions, her expressions that I love and know so well.
I Love You Madly
b.b: You’ve had a pretty adventurous and exotic life; how have your experiences shaped who you are as an artist?
LD: I was brought up by a pretty adventurous and exotic Mother and have inherited her intrepid gene. It’s natural to me to take risks and leap into the unknown. It’s a way of life and all my experiences have shaped me and continue to feed my artistic practice which is an integral part of who I am.
b.b: After being formally trained as a fashion designer, have any of the principles you have learned inspired or influenced your paintings?
LD: Oh, yes. I was taught to draw stylized models that I could beautifully hang clothes on and how to portray fabrics accentuating the drape and the folds and these skills inevitably infiltrate my works.
Dreaming of Mandalay
b.b: How did painting become your creative expression of choice?
LD: I’ve always been a maker of everything…clothes, furniture, lego models…I was an exhibition designer for Lego for several years in my twenties. When I had my daughter I returned to education and went to Uni to study Art. I found myself sculpting, mainly in metal, and the metal sculptures turned into metal paintings mainly due to my practical nature. I have been painting on metal ever since.
b.b: In order to seduce your viewer, what do you think is the most important aspect of your paintings?
LD: The eyes instantly. Then the whole expression…the curve of the cheek or tilt of the shoulder, but really the thing as a whole. The voluptuousness and colour of the materials, as well as the intricate layering that draws the viewer in.
All That You Are
Belle (My Brighton Belle)
b.b: Based on the photographs I saw, I couldn’t come to any definite conclusions on the state of your studio. Is it important to you to maintain some degree of cleanliness, or does getting a little messy help stir your creativity?
LD: I LOVE my studio tidy! I’m a Virgo and I like it all just so and everything where I can lay my hands on it instantly in the floury of an inspirational frenzy. Yet it becomes chaotic as I work and I drop paper, utensils, paints and glitters to the floor as I go. Luckily I have the perfect ‘glamorous assistant’ Paris, who pops by every few days and clears up.
b.b: What is the most memorable experience in your vast history of travel (if you can’t pick just one, two is also acceptable)?
LD: Oh I have many a story to regale and could bore you for hours over a bottle of bubbly or two. But to pick just one would have to be the naming of my daughter, Lama. I was several months pregnant and visiting my sister in Hong Kong en route back from Australia. It was my 28th birthday, we’d partied all night, and as the ferries had not yet begun, we took a SanPan back to Lamma Island where my sister lived and I’d been staying for some weeks. Half an hour into our journey a storm blew up. It became quite rough, choppy and pretty frightening. Then the electrics failed on the boat and we were plunged into darkness. Being pregnant, I was sober of course and terrified. But my sister, fuelled with drunken bravado, to distract me, said ‘So what are we going to call this baby then?’ It was a lovely discussion and soon turned my attention from our hair-raising situation. My daughter is named Lama, after Lamma Island a place I love and spent a very happy time. And Sea after the Ocean that I swim in daily and connects us all, no matter how far apart. This name also gives her the same initials as mine LSD which my rebellious nature has always enjoyed.
b.b: When do you find you’re most productive in studio?
LD: When I’m left to get on, on my own. Mostly late in the afternoons and into the early evenings. If I’m on a roll and don’t have to break off to feed anyone, I can happily work late into the night.
b.b: Do you have any interesting quirks or techniques (unless they’re trade secrets!) you would be willing to share?
LD: I’ve explained my process in a previous question and I’m happy to share. I don’t have any trade secrets as I’m happy for people to try and replicate what I do. They often do, mainly students, and send me the results. Nothing is ever quite the same. I can’t make the same painting twice leave alone anyone else.
b.b: If you could live anywhere in the world, what would your first choice be?
LD: Today Brighton (UK) tomorrow…the South of France… ideally both.
b.b: What are you up to now? What’s the next big project?
LD: I’m in the process of creating my largest painting to date. It’s a huge, 5 by 3 meter commissioned work for a new restaurant, ‘Timmy Green’ due to open in the autumn in London. The painting is so large that I’m creating it on individual panels that will be bolted together on site. It’s quite a feat of engineering and I’m loving it.
Running alongside this and in complete contrast, I’m working on some of the smallest works I’ve ever made. This project is called #loveyourselfie and I’m asking people to send me their ‘selfies’ which I’m making into small original works on paper. These are turning out to be exquisite little jewels, covered in gold leaf, glitter and gloss. All the gorgeousness of a large painting but in miniature and very personal.
It’s working really well creating these extreme pieces, as the large commission is physically challenging, so when I need to take a break or let the paint dry, I can rest up painting the delicious miniatures.
Pom Pom Posy
Frisson … Blush
What Now My Love (for Daisy)
Frission … Love