A Painter of Folklore and Legends!
I have always had a very vivid imagination (the bane of many a teacher!), which was probably fuelled by my parents’ outlook on life and beliefs. They had both been born and brought up in India, soaking up its rich and colourful culture and they allowed me and five siblings a lot more freedom than most children were given, both in a physical sense by not curbing our adventurous spirits, but also in allowing us freedom and encouragement to explore all forms of spiritual and religious beliefs.
I had always loved art and been encouraged at school by various teachers, but at my senior school, the art teacher was into the non-representational contemporary art of the 50’s. As I had always been able to draw accurate images, mine were ‘rubbish’ that anyone could do, but the messy blobs on the next person’s paper were ‘inspirational’! But traditional representational art, as opposed to what is seen as ‘real art’ by the hoi polloi of the contemporary art world, has always been run down and with that teacher’s scorn ringing in my ears, I started believing her and stopped painting.
It wasn’t until my youngest daughter was at nursery and relishing my freedom, I spotted a local art class at the church hall and joined them. This was twenty years ago and after that first class, where we went out and sketched the trees in the local park, I suddenly found myself looking at everything differently. Suddenly I saw light where I had never seen it before, the beautiful colours in old bricks and the wild flowers poking out from unusual places. Just the act of attempting to draw and paint had somehow changed my vision and made me see things that until that point had gone unnoticed. All my old drawing skills returned along with my enhanced ‘vision’ and developed into my paintings. I joined the local art society, learnt different techniques and eventually found my favourite medium to be watercolours.
Ten years later, I spent a magical two years on an Art Foundation course, as a mature student in a local college. I found out on the first day in, that the project that we had all been set, i.e. bring in a box of objects that interested us, would be used throughout the rest of the year. Suffice it to say, that mine was rather boring to work with, being full of objects I thought would be considered ‘arty’! I chose to finish that first year in fine art and our tutor came out at some point, telling us that he preferred not to see anything more appearing, that he couldn’t have seen walking or being carried down the street. All the students burst out laughing, as they all knew the comment was aimed at me. My jugs & other boring objects had morphed into some rather fantastical beings!
So when my final year arrived, I was well prepared. The project set was to bring in things that related to our lives and how we saw ourselves. So I built a model of myself as an elf, took a photo of my face, stretched it, tinted it green, printed it onto a piece of stretchy white t-shirt and stuck it onto the model’s face. A motley array of different brown wools became hair, then clothes made of oddments and green papers and belts made from vines and seed heads. I sat the elf on a platform fixed to a pole, on a load of fluffy cotton wool clouds and a cuckoo saying, “cuckoo land”. The fine art tutor’s face on seeing it was priceless, but he gave in with good grace – and a lot of eye rolling! So I had a great year of making the most of my imagination and dragons and elves flourished and I ended up with a distinction in Graphics and Illustration. This is what I wrote as an introduction to my ‘self portrait’.
“I was brought up in a very large happy family, living on remote farms with the freedom to roam and explore. In an atmosphere rich with beliefs in the “other worlds” of spirits, fairies, dragons and hobgoblin; folklore and legends enough to stir any child’s imagination.
Memories abound of the ancient oaks in the nearby wood, the feel and smell of the damp moss between my bare toes, the burbling stream and the whisperings in the cool quietness.
Fairyland, with its mushroom rings where the ‘little people’ gathered at dusk; building little houses; leaving gifts of food and drink in acorn cups; lying in the primrose dell waiting to be transported to that ‘other world’.
A self portrait would have to include my imagination, which is based very much on the magic of my childhood, that as an adult I have managed to retain and which continues in my art.”
Ten years later, my art continues to include my love of nature and the mystical. I have two apparent styles of painting, but even with the more traditional illustrations, some of the images that appear, have been discovered hiding and pulled out. Having been the family genealogist for some years now, I hope to start a series of paintings based on our ancestors, an eclectic bunch of sea captains, explorers, politicians, writers, actors/actresses, spiritualist, dramatists and your good old down to earth, ag labs! Should be fun seeing what appears!
Visit Simone Hull’s own website to see further examples of her work.