PROFILED

Front Cover Artist

Haidee-Jo Summers

Name: Elena Steers

Age: 45

Lives: Exeter

Medium: Soft pastels

Cover Picture: The Baby Shoes

Who or what inspired our beautiful cover painting?

With The Baby Shoes, as with most of my paintings, I took an object that wouldn’t usually be considered a thing of beauty, and tried to bring out its charm in a painting. Objets trouvés I think is the term for what I am doing.

I like the idea that the shoes were for a special occasion and a little girl proudly showed them off with her party dress. But sentiments alone aren’t enough to capture my interest – there must be an interesting reflection or pleasing shape to make something paintworthy.


Front cover artist

‘The Baby Shoes’
on this issue’s front cover


Front cover artist

‘Pearl Nautilus’
46x59cm, soft
pastel on Colourfix primed board.

Do you mostly paint still lifes?

I have tried some landscapes but they really elude me - there are so many fantastic artists out there who are doing landscapes well, that I am happy sticking to what I am good at! I am interested in the life of an object before it has reached me, imagining its story and how something humble can nonetheless be useful or treasured.

I am currently painting old books - you can have a bit of fun with the titles - and vintage machines like old telephones and clocks. The Internet is a fantastic resource, especially for the self taught painter. There are so many generous artists out there who put up their paintings, photos and ‘how to’ videos to help and inspire other artists.

How long have you been painting?

I was always drawing as a child but never painted because I was afraid to ruin my drawings with the paint! I eventually became braver and started to use gouache and oils. I messed around with painting into my early thirties but then found it hard to find the time with a baby and a job and a home to look after.

I started again seriously just over three years ago when a friend and I attended an art workshop on the spur of the moment. It was painting portraits in pastels and I had never tried either: to be honest I was just hoping that I would end the day with a picture that resembled a face! The pastels really captured me and I went out straightaway and bought my own set.

I kept going with portraits as I was determined to master them, and once I had got the hang of painting the faces I realised that the background was just as important, so set about learning to paint fabric, surfaces and objects.


Front cover artist

‘Ollie’
A portrait of my son at 14.
41x30cm, soft pastel on pastel paper


Front cover artist

‘Little Red Oil Can’
20x25cm, soft
pastel on Colourfix primed board

Are you a professional or amateur artist?

I still consider myself an amateur because I don’t earn a living from painting: although I have started selling the occasional painting, I still work almost full time so only paint in my spare time.

What mediums do you use and why?

Soft pastels are my first love; they are such incredible colours, blend beautifully and I can work in one layer, which I like as I can be a bit impatient.

I am teaching myself to paint with acrylics at the moment, which is completely different, but it is nice to use a brush for a change. A lot of patience is required to go back to the beginning with a new medium: it can be frustrating to start a painting not being sure how it’s going to turn out! Pastels are a fairly straightforward medium for anyone to try as you don’t need a vast array of thinners, thickeners, glazing mediums and varnishes to go with them - just a good range of colours and the correct surface to work on.

The only other thing to remember is to not inadvertently smudge where you have already been - that’s a lesson quickly learnt though!

Front cover artist

‘Marble’
31x25.5cm, soft pastel
on Colourfix primed board


Front cover artist

‘My Hero, Big
Ben and Mr Smith’

30x60cm, acrylic on board

Do you paint from life or from photographs?

I spend hours setting up and photographing my still lifes, sometimes with a light box and sometimes with natural light.

I like photography as a tool because the light remains constant – in my conservatory studio it is impossible to control the light and I often take many hours to complete a painting. So I will usually work from the photograph but have the objects close by for reference.

Have you exhibited your work?

I have had one or two paintings up at local art society shows – I belong to the Exeter Art Society and it’s good to learn from fellow artists and exhibit alongside them. I also managed to get a small (really tiny) exhibition space at a local National Trust Property, A la Ronde.

It couldn’t have been a better setting, as the house is full of interesting objects similar to those in my paintings. I haven’t had many opportunities to observe people’s reactions to my paintings but the visitors’ book at A la Ronde was full of lovely comments which I did appreciate.


Front cover artist

‘Locomotives’
20x51cm, acrylic on canvas


Front cover artist

‘Cook’s Bouquet’
46x61cm,
pastel on Colourfix primed board

How long have you been a member of the SAA?

I joined in the spring of this year as so many people had mentioned that it was a great society. I haven’t been a member long enough to have explored everything yet but it’s always inspiring to see what other artists are doing.

Do you sell your work, and if so how do you feel about parting with a favourite picture?

My favourite painting is the Little Red Oil Can and when it sold I was just happy that someone else loved it too. I’m glad that it’s giving some enjoyment and I still have a photograph of it for my folder.

I have only sold a handful of paintings so far but I am relaxed about selling work. It would be nice to find a gallery that would represent me but at the moment I am busy trying to master acrylics!


Front cover artist

‘The Wedding Photo’
30X30cm, pastels

If you’d like to see more work by
Elena, visit her blog at
www.pastel-painter.blogspot.com


PROFILED

Front Cover Artist

Haidee-Jo Summers

Name: Elena Steers

Age: 45

Lives: Exeter

Medium: Soft pastels

Cover Picture: The Baby Shoes

Who or what inspired our beautiful cover painting?

With The Baby Shoes, as with most of my paintings, I took an object that wouldn’t usually be considered a thing of beauty, and tried to bring out its charm in a painting. Objets trouvés I think is the term for what I am doing.

I like the idea that the shoes were for a special occasion and a little girl proudly showed them off with her party dress. But sentiments alone aren’t enough to capture my interest – there must be an interesting reflection or pleasing shape to make something paintworthy.


Front cover artist

‘The Baby Shoes’
on this issue’s front cover


Front cover artist

‘Pearl Nautilus’
46x59cm, soft
pastel on Colourfix primed board.

Do you mostly paint still lifes?

I have tried some landscapes but they really elude me - there are so many fantastic artists out there who are doing landscapes well, that I am happy sticking to what I am good at! I am interested in the life of an object before it has reached me, imagining its story and how something humble can nonetheless be useful or treasured.

I am currently painting old books - you can have a bit of fun with the titles - and vintage machines like old telephones and clocks. The Internet is a fantastic resource, especially for the self taught painter. There are so many generous artists out there who put up their paintings, photos and ‘how to’ videos to help and inspire other artists.

How long have you been painting?

I was always drawing as a child but never painted because I was afraid to ruin my drawings with the paint! I eventually became braver and started to use gouache and oils. I messed around with painting into my early thirties but then found it hard to find the time with a baby and a job and a home to look after.

I started again seriously just over three years ago when a friend and I attended an art workshop on the spur of the moment. It was painting portraits in pastels and I had never tried either: to be honest I was just hoping that I would end the day with a picture that resembled a face! The pastels really captured me and I went out straightaway and bought my own set.

I kept going with portraits as I was determined to master them, and once I had got the hang of painting the faces I realised that the background was just as important, so set about learning to paint fabric, surfaces and objects.


Front cover artist

‘Ollie’
A portrait of my son at 14.
41x30cm, soft pastel on pastel paper

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