Creative Kent
© Kent Life http://www.kent-life.co.uk
Kent is simply bursting with creative talent, but what is it about the county that inspires our artists? Kent Life went out to meet some of our leading local talents and find out. . .
STONEY PARSONS
Stained glass artist, painter and teacher Stoney Parsons lives and works in rural tranquility near Tunbridge Wells. She has made windows, glazed doors, roof lights and light boxes for hospitals, public buildings and private houses all over the world, and also teaches this skill at her studio, and at West Dean College. Her large abstract oil paintings are inspired by colours, their interrelationships and how they affect us, a subject which fascinates her. She also paints landscapes. Tel 01892 750099 or visit www.stoneyparsons.co.uk
“Natural light coming through a window is a living thing. It alters continually, so when you’re working with glass you’re manipulating this ever-changing source of colour. It’s vital that your design looks good in its context. You have to consider the architecture, the space, how much light it’s receiving, the window’s direction and so on, plus the style of the building and what the room is to be used for. For instance red would be ideal for an office, where people need to be energized, whereas blue would be more restful, suitable for a library or a sitting room. A client’s brief can range from something very specific, say a company logo, or I might have a free reign. Teaching’s extremely rewarding: I believe that everyone’s creative, and there’s nothing more empowering than discovering your own talent.”

BRENDA BURGESS
Brenda is artist-in-residence at Leeds castle, previously occupying that post at the Museum of Kent Life, and is a portrait sculptor (in bronze and ceramic) and painter who exhibits at countless venues, including the Royal Academy and the Mall Galleries. Living with her family in a hamlet outside Maidstone, this artist also teaches children, via art-and-drama-related workshops at the castle. Tel: 01622 734851 and see her work at www.brendaburgessarts.co.uk. Workshop details at www.leeds-castle.co.uk
“In a portrait sculpture I always try to encapsulate the person’s personality – take part of what’s inside and show it on the outside. Sometimes I’ll see a youngster on the street whose expression fascinates me, and I long to capture it artistically; I even find myself staring at people at bus stops, drawn by an unusual ear or eye or jaw-line! My oil paintings are very textural, calming and atmospheric, inspired by natural subjects, for instance shells, flowers or folds within cliffs. I love teaching, particularly that moment when you really make a connection, and feel that reciprocal rush of energy and enthusiasm. For our young school visitors Leeds castle can be an enchanting place, and we build on that magic by introducing subjects as eclectic as Tudor history, wildlife and wallpaper, each arts workshop culminating in them making their own sculpture.”

LEE HEALEY
Cartoonist/illustrator Lee Healey is best known for characters such as The Drunken Bakers in Viz magazine (written by Barry Farmer), and The Sporting Swine in Maxim. He’s also worked on numerous other publications, including The Dandy and his artwork has been praised by the New York Times. His corporate clients value his intuitive humour when he makes bespoke cartoons and cards, and he designs greetings cards and produces all kinds of illustrations. Now living near Longfield, Lee recently moved from South London. Tel: 01474 704437 or visit www.leehealey-cartoonist.com

“The friendliness of Kent people bowled me over – first day I came here people smiled at me in the street, a welcome contrast to the cold anonymity of London, and certainly conducive to an artist’s creativity. Since I was a child I always had a pen in my hand, loved drawing and sketching, and created my own comic books. I originally worked in animation, and in the early 90s freelanced for magazines that began in the wake of the Viz bandwagon, getting more work than I could handle until the bubble burst and I diversified into other areas. For cartoons, I work from a script of dialogue, and then use my imagination to inject some snappy humour. I love what I do – still get a buzz from seeing my work in print.”

TONY BOARDMAN
Tony, from Strood, is a jeweller, silversmith and goldsmith, who specialises in making bespoke commissioned items, as well as in repair and re-modelling work. After training as a jeweller at the Kent institute of Art and Design (now UCCA) the absence of apprenticeships meant the only way he could learn the trade was by taking unpaid work-experience jobs. Now many years later he’s as happy to restore centuries-old antiques as creating the heirlooms of the future. Tel 0774 8915553 or visit www.tonyboardman.co.uk

“I love the thrill of the end result, realising I’ve created something unique from a piece of sheet metal or wire. Much of my work is one-off commissions, but sometimes I might make a run of pieces to my own design. I also do a lot of repairs to antique jewellery: for instance someone may want the stones taken out of an antique brooch so they can be re-modelled into a fashionable pendant. Recently I helped to repair a beautiful old mace, whose silver ‘hand’ had snapped away. Nowadays there’s a growing market for one-off commissioned pieces, particularly wedding rings – people want something a bit unusual, or they might want such an item adapted to fit against the shape of a jewelled engagement ring. Repairs can be a challenge, but creating items from scratch is an art.”

ANTHONY FOSTER
Doing murals as diverse as The Last Supper, a Lord-of-the-Rings fantasy, or the giant canvas of two leopards guarding a pair of doors on the ocean, Tony is never short of exciting projects, and his murals and super-large canvas paintings are all over Britain, with others in America, Italy and Denmark. This Folkestone-based artist has depicted local history on the walls of Wetherspoon pubs and as a portraitist, he likes to do his own paintings of famous people to exhibit or sell, but is also happy to take portrait commissions. Life drawing is another of his favourite pursuits. Tel 01303 251790, 07940 372079 or visit http://anthonyfoster.co.uk
“I always yearned to paint big things, something on a grand scale that blended with a building’s architecture. I love the idea that you can be ‘captured’ by something: say, the other side of a room could be a courtyard or a bazaar. It’s important to me that a mural’s not too painstakingly perfect: seeing the odd brush stroke or a bit of charcoal imbues spontaneity to your work, really shows the painter’s passion. One fantastic recent commission was for a series of 120 large paintings for ski chalets in the French Alps. I thrive on the variety of my work, and love working with clients. I don’t like the business side of things – I’d always rather be painting!”

NATASHA SMITH
Artist, designer and shop owner Natasha has exhibited her paintings in New York, Frankfurt and Singapore and sells them all over the world, though she lives and works in West Malling. Originally trained in textile design, she used to make cushions, throws and scarves that were hand dyed and devoréed. Now her homeware shop serves as a gallery for her paintings and the dinner services she’s designed, and also sells tableware, lighting, clocks, cushions and glassware, sourced from around the world. Tel 01732 849696 or visit www.natashasmith.co.uk
“Colour is the most important aspect of painting for me,” she says. “I’m inspired by natural things and places and I also do abstract cityscapes. I find that colours that co-exist in nature always blend perfectly on a canvas. I work with acrylics and enamels, and have developed a unique method of applying the latter, using heat sources rather than brushes. My shop is the antithesis of a frosty, snooty art gallery: we’re welcoming and friendly, everything is clearly priced, and we love customers who wander and ponder. My greatest compliment was one rainy morning when a lady came in and said ‘I just have to buy that painting – it’s brightened up my day!’. Selling my work to Middle Eastern Princesses is great, but nothing to the thrill of creating paintings that enliven people’s homes.”