Artist on File: Justine Lois Thorpe

Arriving at Justine’s house is like entering an Aladdin’s cave. Vintage objects, set off by peacock feathers, fake flowers and colourful fabrics, serve as a backdrop for her magnificent paintings. Everyone who visited the recent HVA exhibition in Harpenden will have been struck by her large abstract on an easel at the end of the hall, but Justine does not only paint abstracts. She is a versatile painter of landscape, still life and cityscapes as well. Fiona Gaskell finds out what is the driving force behind so much creativity.

Cornwall is an important influence on Justine’s work, and her upbringing there has given her a lifelong appreciation of the distinctiveness of the Cornish light and landscape. It is her ambition to settle there eventually. She spent this summer at St Agnes, painting on the beach and collecting material to act as a foundation for her future work. The sea is an important source of inspiration for her, and she especially admires artists Paul Wandsworth and Matthew Lanyon.

Her father plays a significant role in her art, from the early years when he encouraged her drawing to present-day support of her work by helping her to refine her art. He has been to art college and was a graphic designer in the past, so there is a strong focus on the visual arts in her family. Justine is a great collector, and the vintage fabric, fashion and second hand art books which she collects provide information which she can unconsciously use in her work. Ben Nicholson and Mary Fedden are key influences on her still life paintings.

“I love to paint large-scale landscapes directly overlooking the beach,” says Justine, “I aim to paint spontaneously, capturing the moment in a really loose and free way. I am not scared, and it seems to come to me naturally.” She sketches into oil on brown paper, painting thin so that it will dry quickly in the warm sun. She then rolls up the paper and takes it back to her studio for further work. Here she may paint on card, primed with gesso, or on canvas boards on which she can make scratching marks. Some paintings are completed within a week or two, while others take much longer to work into. There are usually several paintings on the go at any one time; some need to be built up in several layers and left to dry each time, while with others she has simply to stop, having already achieved what she was looking for.

“Colour is a big issue for me,” says Justine, “and I use a lot of jade and teal in my work. Although my paintings range from abstract to landscape, still life and cityscapes, I think that these colours reflect a theme that makes them a coherent whole. The emphasis is on fluid mark-making.” She has a passion for the sea and, apart from Cornwall, she has drawn inspiration from the south coast around Hastings and also from Aldeburgh and Southwold in East Anglia. Italy is another focus in her work, and she loves the houses in vivid colours to be seen in Burano. She has painted a series on Venice, again of course with a watery theme. Her Venice picture shownwas awarded the Green & Stone award by the Chelsea Art Society in June 2013 see

“Drawing and Painting is my life” says Justine. She regularly goes to life drawing sessions at the Prince’s Drawing School in London and to art classes such as Etching. She sees her work as a progression and is always pushing herself to a different level. Drawing every day is seen by Justine as important, and she is happy to doodle on card and to see where it leads her.

One of Justine’s proudest times was when she was commissioned to paint a series of four landscapes as a birthday gift to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from the tenants of her birth place and childhood home, St Paul’s Walden Bury in Hertfordshire.

She has sold work to the composer and conductor John Cameron, who, amongst many other notable achievements, arranged and conducted the original music for Les Miserables.

Her largest single commission was a 3m x 2m abstract painting for a successful Interior Design company in London, which was shipped to a client in Beirut.

One of her paintings has been accepted for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition which takes place from 14 – 24 November 2013 at the Mall Galleries in London. Her work will be on display at Art Expo in Radlett in October this year, and at the Affordable Art Fair from 24 – 27 October 2013.

With so much time and energy going into her art, it is surprising that Justine is also a Textile designer selling her designs to fashion chains internationally.

Visitors to her open studio in September could buy examples of her one-off silk scarves and cravats. These multicoloured scarves have patterns originating in photographic images of plants and flowers, which are then worked on to produce stunning designs.

Justine has found her involvement with HVA to be very helpful. Open Studios worked well for her, with visitors coming all the way from South London to see her work. Another visitor, who had been interested in her large abstract at the HVA exhibition in July, came to her studio to see more of her work. Many others came as a result of her entry in the brochure, which has a link to her excellent web-site giving up-to-date news as well as images showing the range of her work. /