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Introduction. Profile. The Joy Kirton-Smith Collection. News Archive.

Joy Kirton-Smith.

History & Background.

I spent my early years in the Black Country near Stourbridge, where I was born. My family later moved to the Worcestershire countryside, where I attended the local village school in Old Fleet on the banks of the river Severn. During this time my father and two elder brothers ran a family business in painting and decorating. This was a big influence to me as they were always adventurous in trying out new materials and innovative styles. Their influence in my informative years was significant in my subsequent attraction to art, with particular regard to the development of flux and backgrounds that are unique to my style of painting.

My formal introduction to art came many years later. Once again I returned to a classroom setting. On this occasion I attended Halesowen College where I obtained an A-Level in fine art. After completing my A-level I continued attending the college as a member of their workshop group. During this time I became fascinated with the drawing techniques that could bring vibrancy and movement onto canvas and paper. The masters of the Italian Renaissance, particularly Michelangelo, remain my main inspiration. I have also studied in great detail the original drawing techniques of Rembrandt and the Flemish school in the Rjyksmuseum, Amsterdam.

I have had many successful exhibitions throughout the UK and Europe and was recently a finalist in the Fine Art Trade Guild’s ‘Best Artist’ category.

My work has been published as fine quality limited editions of which over 40 have been produced – most of which sell-out upon publication.

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Ideas & Inspirations.

As mentioned earlier I am greatly inspired my masters of the Italian Renaissance. The history of art is a reflection of life at that time. The romanticism of the artists and the sculptors in Florence was occurring at the same time as Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets in Stratford and London. The classicism of this era remains the main inspiration for my paintings.

I am always in search of new reference to support the development of my work. For this purpose I love travelling and have gained valuable experience from such diverse places as Venice and the Mardi Gras Carnival in New Orleans. Another great influence on my work was living in Grand Cayman for a year. Here, I used to watch the beautiful sunsets and their colours reflecting on the blue sea. These remain in my memory and my paintings today. Also, my recent trip to Prague gave me the first hand experience of gothic and medieval architecture, which is another great influence on my work. Travel is such an important aspect of my life. Wherever I go, there is always something to bring back as a reference.

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From Palette to Picture.

I work in all media, on all sorts of backgrounds from canvas to rice paper. The basis of my style is drawing. To this extent I have been inspired by the techniques of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in their studies of human anatomy.

Although the basis of my work is drawing, my techniques and media are diverse – I use watercolour pastel, charcoal and oil – sometimes together to form a mixed composition. On other pieces I will use a variation or a single media. The base for my work also varies – canvas, paper and board being my favourites. Collectors of my work will recognise watercolour and pastel on paper and heavier oils on canvas. I put together the original composition and then develop the work around the drawing.

Most of my paintings share the common theme of form and movement – my characters almost dancing from a background stage. These constructed backgrounds create the atmosphere from which my theatre emerges. Watercolour washes or sweeps of oil on canvas are the artistic technique I use to create the stage – the characters painted and drawn out of this background.

Reference has always been so important to me – classic architecture, costume and theatre are great sources of inspiration. My collections of reference from my travels have become so immense that I am finding it difficult to find a space to work. It can be very frustrating when I can’t remember where I have placed a vital piece of reference.

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A day in the Life of...

I work from home and some days tend to spend part of my day searching for reference material hidden in amongst the clutter of my studio. I will work on a number of pieces at any one time, often spending hours developing a theme or working on the detail of a particular character. It is important to refresh works by constantly returning to evaluate and improve, or the hardest thing – complete a painting. It is so easy to overwork a piece if I am not completely satisfied.

My studio faces south, which ensures plenty of natural light, and is adorned by a beautiful patio and garden. My garden is my only distraction from my work. When I am not working in my studio, I relax by tending to my plants, flowers and fishpond. I love sitting on the patio with my sketchpad creating new ideas for my paintings.

At the end of my working day I look forward to feeding the wild birds and squirrels that frequent my garden. As a result of this habit, we seem to have more and more creatures visiting us each day.

My working day usually lasts from 9-5pm, when my husband returns from work and we relax with a good bottle of wine and a visit to a nice restaurant.

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