at the Ashdown Gallery, Forest Row
ingénu/e came across the work of Chris Forsey at the Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row, East Sussex. He has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and won prizes for his work, including The Matt Bruce award for colour and light and The Donald Blake award for contemporary watercolour at the Mall Galleries, London and was elected as a member of both the RI (Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours) and the SGFA (Society of Graphic Fine Artists) in 2010. His main focus is in capturing atmosphere and fleeting moments of changing light. Using dynamic composition and expressive mark-making while leaving some areas as vague abstraction, he encourages the viewer use of their imagination. His work can be seen at the Ashdown Gallery 9th–23rd October.
Tell us about your beginnings as an artist. Did you always want to be an artist from an early age?
Yes I always did. My Grandad encouraged me and I always tried hard with it at school. I studied Graphics at Art College, was offered job as an illustrator with a London publishing company and worked for many well known publishers and agencies on subjects such as historic reconstructions, dinosaurs, animals, children’s books.
You taught yourself watercolour painting. Can you tell us how that evolved? Did you go to classes?
I taught myself by going to exhibitions, the RI Spring show at Mall Galleries London was a favourite, reading books, playing with materials and seeking ways to make paint look exciting.
What artists inspire you?
When I started it was Rowland Hilder, and John Blockley, later David Prentice, Kurt Jackson and of course Turner, John Piper, and John Singer Sergeant. I like the freedom in painting, as an illustrator I worked in a very controlled way, and I painted watercolours for my own pleasure and I wanted them to be very ‘loose’ indeed, in contrast to the day job.
What else inspires you?
My main inspiration is light, weather, season and mood. I enjoy all seasons and always try to capture a moment of beautiful fleeting light. The winter is sometimes more inspirational because of the low sun and changing weather, back lighting or ‘contre-jour’ is my favourite.
You also work in mixed media. How has that evolved?
By accident. I like to play and used various combinations to see what happened. I first started using oil pastel under watercolour, then under and over acrylic and then combining that with ink. It gave a wonderful unpredictable result. The mixed-media paintings of John Piper were a big influence.
Tell us about your illustrations. Do you have a favourite commission story?
I painted a lot of illustrations of dinosaurs and was commissioned to do a big scene of a Diplodocus in a prehistoric landscape, it took a week and I sent it to the Art Editor in Tucson, Arizona. A week later he phoned and said, “looks great, but its not a Diplodocus, it’s a Tripodicus.” I was amazed, I said, “Marty, I’m sure it is the right Dino.” “No,“ he said, “I think you will find this one only has 3 legs!” I had painted it beautifully but I had left a back leg off, hence Tripodicus. I had to paint a 4th leg and mail it to Tucson, they photoshopped it on. Looked great in the end.
You also run art classes and holidays. Where are these, are they for any level of ability and what do you feel people gain from attending?
I run and tutor holidays in UK and Greece. Also I have just returned from leading a watercolour course in Sweden and have been asked to tutor in France in 2015. I prefer to teach quite experienced painters rather than beginners. The holidays and courses provide a very focused experience and the student can develop with the help of tutor guidance and working with fellow painters and a commitment of more than a few hours as at a class, there is a lot less distraction when that is your sole endeavour for a week.
What advice would you give to any aspiring artist?
Keep an open mind, look at many artists’ work, try lots of different techniques until you find an approach you like and then develop your own style of doing it. It is best to be an individual rather than a clone of another artist. Then work at it, maybe join an art group and try an open studio event to see how your work sells locally. It can be great fun and you get to meet some very interesting people and fellow artists.