An Interview with Joanna Lillie
Where did your artistic journey begin?
Growing up in a family of artists, my artistic journey started when I was very young. I have strong memories of playing in my dad’s workshop, the scrap wood bag being very intriguing. I used to select different off-cut shapes and create low relief arrangements which I would paint after they had been glued together by my dad. The smells of resin and sawdust from his workshop still evoke excitement and intrigue.
Could you tell us a little bit about your palette?
At the beginning of my painting journey, I was heavily influenced by artists such as Morandi and Gwen John. My colour palette was very muted and reserved. When I became more confident with my work and knowledge of colour theory, I began to really push myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to explore different effects and see where my style could be taken. I now respond to artists such as Matisse, Vanessa Bell and contemporary illustrators such as Dee Nickerson. Their palettes are full of bright energy and magic; I strive to achieve this within my work.
We’re interested in how you chose to represent happiness in ‘Sunflower Lady’. What made you paint this particular scene?
This painting is actually based on an old sketch of a friend sitting in one of our group feedback sessions at art school. These sessions were incredibly long, held in a white room with artificial light and no windows. By adding the colour and sunflowers, I was responding to what my mind was creating to make the situation more bearable and inspiring. For me, sunflowers are very joyous and hopeful and bring a sense of warmth to any scene.
‘Goldfinch’ struck us as reminiscent of William Morris’ patterns. Do you feel that pattern is part of your artistic style? Is this decorative focus something with which you associate?
Pattern is always present in my paintings. I am greatly inspired by beautiful ancient illuminated manuscripts, and of course patterns that can be found in nature. I like to explore ways of describing texture through pattern. I am most intrigued when patterns are irregular and spontaneous.
There is a lot of natural world imagery in your paintings. What drew you to this in particular?
I suppose growing up in Cornwall had a big influence on my subject matter. I grew up on a farm and spent most of my time making dens in the hedgerows and searching for wildlife. When everything feels overwhelming and disconnected, I use the natural world as a therapeutic escape. I hope that my paintings provide a similar transportive effect.
You appear to combine the two-dimensional with the three-dimensional. Could you tell us more about this choice?
I enjoy combining flat, stylised, patterned areas with figurative, carefully observed elements. The majority of my paintings begin with a sketch from life. When I start to paint it tends to evolve, resulting in part observation and part decorative expression. I also enjoy working physically in 3D, making stop motion animations with plasticine and little figurines from clay. I hope to work with 3D more in the future.
Title: Ashton Gate Flowers
Title: Sunflower Lady