Josephine Chisholm - artist profile

Josephine Chisholm

Josephine Chisholm - Credit: Archant

From the frivolity of Winchester’s Christmas Market to the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station, Josephine Chisholm takes you on a journey across the continents with her vibrant works of art

Mousehole in January

Mousehole in January - Credit: Archant

That artistic inspiration is omnipresent is a credible concept. We are after all, inescapably surrounded by landscape, architecture, humanity and climate; any of which can be developed to stimulate creativity. For our environment surely provides an endless source of subjects to be exploited.

Yet ideas remain dormant without a catalyst, hence the crucial and multi-layered role of an artist. Painting skills are vital, of course, but a successful artist will possess many more talents besides. Vision is required to identify potential material; imagination enables the capture of a style while determination to succeed ensures a continual learning process, commissions and sales.

For Josephine Chisholm these traits form the core of her personality and, along with vitality and enthusiasm, are responsible for her ability to source inspiration from whomever she meets and the many places she visits.

“People interest me and I love architecture. City scenes are great. I always look up to the top of buildings and am generally nosey when walking around the back streets.”

Piccadilly evening

Piccadilly evening - Credit: Archant

This Winchester artist does not confine herself to the bustle of a metropolis, however. She enjoys interpreting the calmness of the countryside too. With beaches, cafés and trains all being treated as opportunities to transcribe her experiences.

Such vivacity is reflected in the brightness of her canvases. And it isn’t only a feast of primary colours that radiates charm. Josephine’s images are uplifting, and the energy I sense in her work creates a feel-good aura that ensures the viewer cannot help but absorb her appetite for life.

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“A lot of my sketches are done in bars and cafés,” she shares. “I always have a chance to get out a small paint box or crayons. I’ve even used wine glasses and ashtrays for swishing out my brush! I enjoy watching people both abroad and here in the UK. I’m lucky to have a reasonable visual memory and can get a likeness of what I’ve seen down pretty fast.”

Josephine’s early medium preference was watercolour, but visiting exhibitions and discovering Matisse and The Scottish Colourists prompted a change of direction.

Grand Central Station Commuters

Grand Central Station Commuters - Credit: Archant

“I thought I must try brighter colours. Then I found acrylics and gouache paint. My colours became stronger and that appealed to me. Painting with acrylics was also more expressionist and I began to have a good response to that.”

Ken Done is another artistic influence. Indeed, admiration between the two artists is reciprocal: “I enjoy looking at Josephine Chisholm’s work and she clearly shares my love of colour,” the award winning Australian, favoured for his distinctive and gregarious style, declares.

Josephine, however, is determined to avoid being tied to one approach.

“I have love affairs with each medium and find some subjects are better in watercolour rather than acrylic or oils. But sometimes I might start off with gouache, which is quick, then go into acrylic, which gives a contemporary look. I like to use oils quickly to show expressive brush marks. Recently I thought about using pastels again, they’re tactile and very messy.”

This spirited artist has a choice of two studios. A large, purpose built garden structure is used for bigger pieces.

“I’m starting to enjoy working on a larger canvas. Standing at my easel and using the whole arm to make marks is very liberating. I once did a commission for an 8’ x 2.5’ canvas.”

And when she is not revelling in this quiet space, which looks out onto her allotment, she favours a room in her home which she shares with her husband, Julian. It boasts a view of their back garden and generous storage space which houses endless sketch books.

As we discuss the process of painting, she explains her approach: “I finish a painting in a day if it’s not too detailed, but if there are lots of people that can take a bit of time. I like to work on several paintings at once; the variety gives me breathing space and you can come back and look at something with fresh eyes.”

Her tools of the trade vary as she continues: “I sometimes use palette knives and a printing roller. It depends on my mood, and textural backgrounds may not suit all subjects. I like variety and don’t want to get stuck in one box.”

Having enjoyed Josephine’s company for an hour or so I’m finding both her enthusiasm and passion contagious. All aspects of life, it seems, stimulate her. Travel offers new material and her ambition to, “carry on painting till I drop,” is as commendable as it is plausible.

Indeed, studying the work of this productive painter is akin to embarking upon a cultural journey across the continents, a sentiment with which Ines Graham of the Minster Gallery in Winchester agrees: “Josephine’s solo show was a great display of her joie de vivre. She captures with the stroke of her brush and wonderful sense of colour, the atmosphere of the Christmas market on a cold winter day, the warmth of the seaside, the hustle and bustle of cities like New York, Paris and London and the vibrancy of a market in southern France.”

Aware that original artwork may be too pricey for some admirers, Josephine provides other opportunities to purchase her work.

“You have to diversify so I publish small greeting cards as well as glicee prints. These are high quality and enable people without large budgets to have a signed picture on their wall. I also exhibit at galleries and the Winchester Christmas Market. Dealing with the public is enjoyable, especially when you’re helping them to buy presents.”

“I sometimes think my way around a place I have been to,” she clarifies when I express curiosity about her use of aerial angles. “I like to imagine what that view would look like from being high up. Hence a lot of my pictures are bird’s eye views.”

The equilibrium created between realism and imagination is also intriguing.

“I never go totally abstract but it’s easy to get a likeness of a scene. I want to put my own interpretation on it though, to make it recognisable and attractive without it being like a photo.” This balance works. Grand Central Station, Piccadilly and Mousehole, for instance, each capture a unique moment that I have not been part of though the images and atmosphere remain instantly recognisable.

When we finally veer away from art to discuss other interests, I discover an abundance of activities which fill Josephine’s time. Dinner parties, dancing, opera and travel are all frequent pursuits. I’m convinced she approaches each with the same degree of vigour.

Creating the opportunity to peruse Josephine’s paintings is highly recommended. Her talents are such that her work graces homes in the US, Europe, and Australia. An aptitude for utilising colour has helped develop her reputation. But, more than that, Josephine is an artist with an appreciation of life who has a gift for expressing that passion on canvas.

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