spotlight

Meet Hastings-based abstract landscape painter Louise

We catch up with Louise Body to discuss fisherman’s smocks, juggling work and home life, and her previous career as a wallpaper designer. 

Q: Have you always been creative since childhood, or did you discover your talent later?

A: I have always loved drawing and painting and growing up in a creative household. It was encouraged from an early age. Both of my grandmothers were artists and both my parents went to art school.

Q: Can you tell us about where you grew up, has that had a bearing on your artistic practice?

A: I was born in Southend-on-Sea but grew up in Surrey. I moved to Brighton when I was 17 to complete my Art Foundation and that’s where I lived on and off for the next 10 years. I now live further along the coast in Hastings which is where I have lived for the past 16 years. Living by the sea for most of my life has inspired my work through subject matter and the colours that I use in my work. 

After completing my Art Foundation in Brighton, I went on to study a Fine Art degree at Nottingham Trent University. Honestly, I found my degree uninspiring and de-motivating because painting was very unfashionable at the time (early 1990s).

It made me question if painting was the right direction for me. Luckily I had the support and encouragement from my family and a strong sense of knowing I was an artist which had been instilled in me from my paternal grandmother.

Q: Have you ever done any other jobs before you became a full-time artist?

A: After my Fine Art degree I travelled around Mexico and India. I painted full-time but struggled to make a living from selling paintings (pre-internet!). One of my other passions was textile and surface pattern design and in 2003 I set up my own company designing and making wallpaper. The business quickly grew and my wallpapers were then made in a UK factory and sold worldwide. I closed the company in 2020 to pick up where I left off almost 20 years ago to paint full time.

Louise Body with her wallpaper designs

Q: What’s a typical working day like for you?

A: I get up at 7.15am and see the kids off to school. As I've got older I make sure that I build some kind of exercise into my routine, so I then go for a 5k run (Tuesday and Thursday) or do 20 mins of yoga before I disappear upstairs to my studio. I have always had a studio outside of my home but since lockdown (March 2020) I have been working from the top floor of our home. If I stick my head out of the roof skylight, I can see the sea. I work all day in my studio until 4pm when my kids get home from school. I am very focused when I am in work mode.

Louise Body pictured on Hastings beach, East Sussex

‘I have a denim boiler suit that I work in if I know I’ve got a full day of serious painting.’

Louise Body

Q: Do you listen to music or the radio whilst you work or do you prefer silence?

A: I listen to a variety of podcasts, I like the Art Juice podcast, Off Menu, Fortunately with Fi and Jane, Jules and Jims Joyride, and Adam Buxton

Q: Do you have a favourite painting outfit? 

A: I have a denim boiler suit that I work in if I know I’ve got a full day of serious painting, but I also like to paint in my fisherman’s smock as it has useful big pockets.

Q: What materials do you use?

A: I use acrylic paint because I like that it dries fast and you can build up layers quickly. I also use an acrylic medium to create translucent layers. I paint onto either board or canvas. 

Q: What piece of equipment can’t you do without?

A: My brushes! But less obviously, I have a piece of glass that I mix my colours onto and scrape them off with an old wallpaper scraper that I've had for years.

‘I love walking, being in nature and swimming in the sea so the landscape, the coast, and the sea are recurrent themes in my work.’

Louise Body

Q: What are the main themes to your work?

A: I love walking, being in nature and swimming in the sea so the landscape, the coast, and the sea are recurrent themes in my work.

Q: Do you have a current favourite piece of work of yours?

A: I have 3 paintings that mean a lot to me because they taught me something and moved my work forward in some way. They are: Making Space (pictured below), Where the Boats Come and Safe Journey.

Q: What other artists inspire you, do you have any art heroes? 

A: I love the work of Paul Klee because he was the first artist I knew about and was inspired by as a child. I love the simplicity and colour palette of Milton Avery and the graphic lines of Eric Ravilious. I am also drawn to the later, abstract work of Prunella Clough.  

Q: Are there any contemporary artists whose work you follow?

A: To name a few; I like the wood block prints of Tom Hammick, the Australian painter Megan Grant, British painter Susan Absolon, the expressive coastal paintings of David Mankin and the drawings of Danish artist Per Adolfsen

Q: What art do you hang on your walls at home?

A: I have paintings inherited from my grandparents and drawings/paintings by my grandmothers. I recently bought a large print from King & Mcgaw by Christina Fedyk and I have various small paintings by contemporary artists that I have bought through the Artist Support Pledge initiative.

Q: What was the last art exhibition you went to see? 

A: ‘Mixing It Up: Painting Today’ at the Hayward Gallery London.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? 

A: I'll have a bit more freedom then as my children will be older but I would like to be painting, perhaps in a studio with a sea view or in the countryside. I would like to have more exhibitions in galleries and perhaps find a gallery or agent that would represent me so that I don’t have to navigate the art world on my own!

Q: What have been your career highlights or most proud moments?

A: Over the years I have been lucky enough to collaborate with some well-known brands. 2009 was a good year for me when Dr Martens released the ‘Louise Body for Dr Martens’ range of boots and shoes, and Paul Smith launched a small collection of ‘Louise Body for Paul Smith’ women’s clothing. I felt very proud to have my Paper Tiles designs on the fashion runway of the Armarni theatre in Milan for the Stella Jean fashion show, and to have my wallpaper design Garden Birds included in V&A’s wallpaper archives.

Q: What are the challenges in being an artist now?

A: To be honest I find being an artist now far less challenging than it was 20 years ago. The internet and social media has transformed how artists show and sell their work. Perhaps now you have to shout louder to make yourself heard through all the noise, but I think there are more opportunities for more artists now.

Q: How would you describe the life of an artist in less than 5 words.

A: Intense, privileged, emotional, exciting, solitary. 

Q: Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

A: My grandmother always used to say 'never miss an opportunity'. She meant to go to the loo if you were out and about or just leaving the house, but I always felt there was a deeper meaning... It is something that I still say and think of her!

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