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BEAT video – a star is born!

I’m incredibly honoured to have been asked to take part in the Ealing Art Trail promo video which has been shown at open air cinemas across West London over the summer. That’s me studying my prints, and painting in the studio and sorting cells for my next screenprint. Why not come and see me in reality at BEAT, Ealing Art Trail? There are 54 open artist studios across the borough across 2 weekends. 9-11 & 16-18 Sep. Find me on MAP 3 VENUE 52.
My address: 2 Castlebar Road, W5 2DP. Check out the website for more details.

BEAT : Borough of Ealing Art Trail 2016 from james lewis on Vimeo.

Fashion and Art come together

The Swann Gallery host a Fashion and Art Summer Party at Bluedog and Sought
Iona Stern. The harbour market Olhao, Portugal. Oil on board.

Fashion and Art Summer Party at Bluedog and Sought 5 Park Street Woodstock OXON Saturday 7 June 12 noon onwards. Art work by Iona Stern and Catwalk show by Lisa Redman well known fashion designer.

Painting in Southern Spain

Away from the coast, Southern Spain is a land of mountains and white towns. The light is dramatic and harsh.

Nearly every year we go to Ronda, in the mountains of Andalucía, to see my good friend Jane. We have been friends since we were eight years old at a prep school called Arden Hurst in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire. Jane and her husband Pete moved to Ronda over twenty years ago to set up and their holiday villa business.  With their clear vision and work ethic, their company Real Ronda is now the foremost holiday villa company in southern Spain. I was so delighted that  they chose to use one of my Ronda paintings on their website.

This year we could only make a flying visit, but despite this I managed a full day painting. Their house is in an amazing position with views down the valley looking towards Seville. The whitewashed walls of the villa framed by dramatic umbrella pines, which hover like menacing clouds overhead.

When I paint outside from life, I work incredibly fast. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not. I find that when painting in the field, probably not unsurprisingly, my brushstrokes have more energy. One of my biggest failings is to fiddle with the paintings once I get home and the result can end up looking overworked. This time I have decided to use the two paintings as starting points for future works. This follows a discussion I had when painting with a fellow artist Lucy Powell. Lucy has trained with the highly respected teacher, Robin Child and kindly shared some of his wisdom with me. Where I want to get to is to paint a feeling rather than just a place. So in this blog I am showing my starting point with my two recent paintings painted at the home of my friend Jane in Ronda.

Umbrella pines behind white villa in Ronda

Looking towards Seville from Ronda

Looking towards Seville from Ronda

Maybe you’ll be interested in seeing my ‘feeling paintings’? Watch this space to see the development from my works while painting in Southern Spain.

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Paintings accepted at The Swann Gallery

Four of my paintings have been accepted by The Swann Gallery in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. I’m really excited as the gallery shows many established artists like, Moira Huntly, Jeffrey Pratt and Rory McLauchlan.

Iona Stern at The Swann gallery, Woodstock

Me at The swann Gallery, woodstock

The gallery owner, Susannah de Sherburne, offered me some very helpful direction for my paintings. The first piece of advice was to stop using too many technique and tackling every subject. She feels one of my strength lies in street and cafe paintings. She said that it’s obvious I enjoy capturing movement, light and life. Painting in the street is demanding but also very rewarding. It makes me feel part of that world, wherever it is. My goal is to capture the changing life around me – deliveries, people chatting, rushing to work, browsing, relaxing and light shifting.

Olhao old town-Painting by Iona Stern

Street life in The Old Town, Olhao, Portugal

Two of the paintings are from my trip to Portugal. The town of Olhao has managed to escape from mass tourism and the old town retains a totally unspoilt charm. The cobbled streets and pastel stucco buildings glissen in the light. For the flower shop, where the light struck the building, i used large brushed and thin paint. The shadows of the cafe are in thicker, dense paint.

Flower Shop, Olhao, Portugal. Oil on board

Flower Shop, Olhao, Portugal. Oil on board

The gallery has also taken two other paintings: a Still-life with lemons and an interior of the studio in Chelsea.

Still-life-with-lemons. Painting by Iona Stern

Exploring the curves of lemons, leaves, fish and jug

What inspired me with this painting was the shapes of the lemons. I wanted to echo the curves with those of the succulent, jug and fish pattern of the material. The strong outlines around the lemons help push them out of the painting into the foreground.

Studio at Christmas

It was the week before Christmas and I was struck by the view through the old warehouse studio window. From our window one can look directly into the window of the adjacent building. This facing window has many beautiful lights on show. They cast a warm glow, which mixed with the winter light hitting the London brick, created this effect. I wanted to capture this light asthe backdrop to the studio interior.

The paintings can be seen at:
The Swann Gallery
1 Market Street, Woodstock, Oxon OX20 1SU

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Clay modelling with the medics

I want to say a big thank you to The Medical Arts Society and in particular my friend and neighbour, the sculptor Sally Joyston-Bechal, for inviting me to join their group for a weekend clay modelling from life.

Iona Stern with clay model

As an artist and painter, I am used to creating the illusion of depth and space in two dimensions but this is the first time that I have worked three dimensionally. The course was held at The institute of Fine Arts in East Finchley and included the model’s fee, superb tuition and the cost of firing.

Our goddess of a model was reclining on a mattress with her back supported by an old chest and cushions. I found the structure of this back support as interesting as the model herself. The contrast between the box shape, soft cushions and rounded flesh made fluid shapes and the basis to create a strong composition.

What I enjoyed most was the feeling of clay beneath my fingers, the molding, pushing, slapping and scraping. It somehow felt primeval – as if I was joining my ancient ancestors, creating the most fundamental art in the most human way.

I went along with the aim to produce a contemporary work – with influences from Henry Moore and Lynne Chadwick – but when I was actually there in the studio, I felt that I shouldn’t run before I walk – especially when I’ve not really walked yet. What i did discover was that my interest was drawn to the structure of the model’s support as much as the model herself, with the planes making up the whole. Of course two days is such a short time to complete a model. I felt as this stage was the start and would have welcomed far more time to finesse, simplify and lighten.

The experience taught me to look in a different way and should I be fortunate enough to be invited back to clay model with the medics, I will start to explore angles, planes and curves.

If you would like to look at my two dimensional paintings, you can see my work at ionastern.com/portfolio

Iona Stern_ clay_model

Ready for firing

You may need sight to see but an artist must have vision to paint.

Surprisingly there are a number of artist’s who have lost their sight. The most famous of these is Claude Monet, who would in this day and age be classified as blind, or if not blind, certainly partially sighted. It’s common knowledge that he painted his vast water lily paintings when his sight had all but gone.

As an old art college friend, (Chris Burke, the illustrator and satirical cartoonist) said to me,  “Monet’s paintings got better the worse his eyes got.

Then there are other artists whose sight has cruelly diminished…
The contemporary artist, Sargy Mann, lost his sight. Now completely blind, he still produces wonderfully artistic works. He achieves this with ingenuity, determination and the help of his artist wife. If you’re interested in seeing more of Sargy Mann’s work and reading about how he works, see his page at Cadogan Contemporary.

Sargy Mann

Well what about my story?
Twelve years ago I was a successful advertising creative director, running my own marketing and design business in the heart of London’s West End theatre land, with offices opposite the Ivy restaurant.
I was also then, as I am now, passionate about art and painted and drew at every opportunity..
Then out of the blue, I started to trip up street kurbs and found myself walking into chairs at pavement cafes. At the same time, my night vision just went.
As I’d always had 20/20 vision, I hadn’t had an eye-test for years. “Maybe I need some glasses?” I thought.  So off I trotted to the optician on Longacre, looking forward to choosing some funky frames. He looked into the back of my eyes, patted me on the head then said, “I think you need to see a specialist.”

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa.
This would be a shock for anyone, but as an artist and designer, it was a real blow.
The Flower shop, Olhao
As my sight worsened, so did my ability to get about, to walk unaided and to attend meetings. I could no longer art direct photography or go anywhere unless softly lit. But the worst aspect was trying to appear fine. How could I let anyone know how bad my vision had become? My job and the company depended on me carrying on as normal.
Eventually I realised that I couldn’t keep up the pretence any longer and so I started to work less days until I left altogether. What has sustained me is art. And I have found that as a painter, diminishing sight increases the urgency to ‘put down my vision’ on canvas.
Remarkably there are some artistic advantages to having reduced vision: I don’t have to screw up my eyes to focus on shape and form rather than detail. The detail just isn’t there anymore.  I’m only too aware of contrast, light and shade. No one needs to point out tone to me. What’s dark is seriously dark. What’s light can be almost unbearably bright. It can make for exciting work.

You may need sight to see – an artist needs passion, determination and above all vision to paint. See my paintings at ionastern.com

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Painting landscapes – looking for pattern

Whilst painting with Tony Rothon, one of the most helpful pieces of advice that he passed on was to ‘look for the pattern’. These simple words, delivered in his quiet and considered manner, has since given me much food for thought.

When in Olhao, southern Portugal and working on a large canvas, Tony suggested that I look at the work of ‘Patrick Heron’ – especially his late garden paintings. Formerly a textile designer and writer on art, he developed an abstract style using unusual colours and intricate patterns.

Oil painting of boats waiting for the approaching tide by Iona Stern

Waiting for the approaching tide. Painting by Iona Stern

The late garden paintings were painted at his home, Eagle’s Nest, an imposing stone house perched on a cliff near St Ives. Staying recently with friends in Cornwall, en route to St Ives, we drove past this windswept house and garden. Having seen the house and its setting suddenly made perfect sense of the wonderful Patrick Heron paintings and prints that we saw later that day at the Westcott’s Gallery, St Ives.

'Red Garden Painting' Patrick Heron

'Red Garden Painting' Patrick Heron

Another artist I’m excited about is from the Scottish school, Christine Woodside.

In the Cotsworlds, the John Davies Gallery, is soon to be holding an exhibition of her work. From pouring over the beautifully printed catologue featuring her recent paintings from Scotland and Spain, it appears that pattern is very much part of her landscapes and still life.

Landscape painting by Christine-Woodside

Landscape painting by Christine-Woodside

This is what was said by Robim Wilson about Christine’s last exhibition:

“Venetian exteriors have been painted many times but Christine has a fresh eye. Her buildings are sharp, fractured hallucinations. The pattern of their arches,roofs,doorways and shutters is melodic. The painting is assured, rythmic and generous. She has observed meticulously the foundations of the old city walls and then waved a magic wand.”

I can’t wait to see the paintings and hope to cover Christine Woodside’s exhibition at the John Davies Gallery, Moreton-in-Marsh. 12/11/2001 – 03/12/2011

To see more of my paintings or to contact me, visit my website at: http://ionastern.com