Pictures of light & life

PUBLISHED: 15:50 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:23 20 February 2013

Pictures of light & life

Pictures of light & life

Rachel Crow meets the Herefordshire artist whose people and places combine character and colour and a stroke of quirkiness.

The walls of Fiona Fields home in the centre of Hereford are dotted with her works. Full of light and luminosity, the watercolours capture the essence and character of both person and place: from the intense, serious stare of the elderly composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; the confident yet preoccupied expression of her son, the well-known countertenor and soloist Sebastian Field as a young boy; or the light streaming through the medieval stained glass windows of Hereford Cathedral, bathing it in an ethereal light.

Although Fiona works in many mediums, it is her watercolours for which she is best known and through which she has caught a snapshot in time of many people and places across the county.

As colourful as her paintings with bright red hair, vibrant clothes and eclectic jewellery, the artist perches on the edge of an armchair upholstered in contemporary animal print fabric, a stark contrast to the otherwise traditional decoration.

The surroundings mirror her approach to her work and in particular her portraits: while they nod to the traditional, the vividness of the watercolours shows a modern touch and influence.

I like to make the paintings slightly more than just copies and images, she explains. I like to almost use an Impressionist technique so that you get a sense of colour and life. I dont like static drawings and hard edges. I always use light so that it is not still but has an almost surreal quality.

Fiona quotes Hereford-born artist John Ward, a Royal Academician who died last year, as a particular inspiration in this respect. He has been my inspiration for many years. He was such an amazing artist who managed to capture the light and life in people.

Drawing from an early age, Fiona gained a scholarship to art college before deciding to retrain as an art teacher, whereupon she moved to study at Hereford.

Over the years, the mother of three has taught widely around the Three Counties, including at the former St Michaels School, Hereford College of Arts, Hereford Sixth Form College and the College of Technology, Gloucester Cathedral Junior School and Worcester School of Art. But all the while she has also completed numerous private commissions.

When at art college in Hereford we all did a fine art piece for our final year and mine was bought by a local school and put in their foyer. From that I became known and have since done many portraits, she says.

A recent commission included painting the three young children of journalist, columnist and political sketchwriter Quentin Letts who lives at How Caple. Fiona was approached by Quentins wife, Lois, to paint their children as a birthday surprise for him after she heard of Fionas work through her mother who was taking painting classes.

Fiona completed the portraits of Claude, now 12 and Eveleen, 11, in 2004 and earlier this year the Lettss third child, Honor, six, sat for her.

Fiona is very good with children, especially Claude who fidgeted more than the girls, says Lois. She is good at getting down to their level and does children with some psychological depth; she is capable of getting into their heads.

Eveleen was a serious little girl and I think Fiona captured that, whereas with Claude she got his faraway look. I look at it now and see a frozen moment of how he was at six. At the time he was a little boy who was always living in his head. Now he is a lot chattier.

Honor is a little mischievous dynamo and Fiona caught that too, the spirit behind her.

As well as portraits, Fiona has built something of a specialism in painting Hereford Cathedral, almost by default. With a musical as well as artistic bent, both Fiona and her son Sebastian have sung for many years for both Gloucester and Hereford Cathedral choirs. Through this connection, she was commissioned by Lady Cotterell, founder chair of Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust and her husband, Sir John Cotterell, to paint the brochure image for the opening of the Mappa Mundi library in 1996.

Fiona has since painted numerous scenes of the cathedral and its choristers, including a Christmas card image for Medici that remained in their top ten bestsellers for several years, the Three Choirs US tour brochure and the Cathedral book cover for the millennium edition.

Asked if she has a favourite painting Fionas unable to single one out. I think it was Picasso who when asked that said I havent done it yet and thats the way I feel. In my mind Ive never achieved perfection, Im always striving to do something better.

Fiona Field can be contacted on 01432 264111.

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