Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An interview with Benoit Philippe

Q – Could you introduce yourself briefly to the readers?

I am French and I moved from Paris to Swindon with my family more than ten years ago. I paint in oil, watercolour and pastel. I am also one of the organisers of the Swindon Open Studios 2009.

The harvest is done - oil painting (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Q - How did you become interested in art?

Art runs in the family. My grand father and father were painting as well as my brothers and sisters. It was natural for me to start drawing and painting and I could try my hand on oil painting early, as I had all the material readily available. I started oil painting at the age of twelve. Two years later, I participated in my first group show and carried on ever since.

Q - What inspires you most as an artist?

I am inspired by light and colour. What I try to do when I paint is to “draw with light”. I like to take an ordinary scene and show that it is something interesting and beautiful. When you live in one place for a long time, you stop looking at your surrounding and you forget to see the beautiful simplicity of the world around. I want people to see my paintings and rediscover their world.

Summer walk - pastel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Q - What is your favourite medium or media? Why?

I paint with oil, watercolour and pastels, depending on the subject and the type of effect I want to achieve. Oil painting is quite forgiving and offers great textures and effects. Watercolour allows both rapid execution and a wide range of techniques, from spontaneous flows and merger of colours wet on wet to tightly controlled strokes.

Cardiff art gallery - Pastel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

I also like pastels to because this medium bridges the transparency of watercolour and the brightness of oil. The dry pigments offer infinite variations of texture and shades and are perfectly suited to depict light effects. Pastels are just a feast for colourists.

Q - Could you tell us some more about your work?

For the moment, I paint landscapes and still life. With oil painting, I combine studio work and sessions outside. Plein-air painting allows me to capture the sense of space, light and to feel the mood of a place. Scenes come to life with instinctive brush strokes during an intense session of a few hours. The work is then brought into the studio where colours are modelled and glazes enhance the first impression captured outside. I also combine studio and outdoor work with watercolour.

Morning break - Oil on panel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Q - How would you define your style?

My painting is figurative and influenced by colourist and impressionist artists. I have however developed a personal style over the years and I cannot imagine better compliment than hearing someone telling me: “I saw the new paintings in the gallery; I immediately knew they were yours.”

Q - What are your influences; artists from the past or present who inspire you?

I have been influenced by several artists, in particular French artists or artists well-known in France. This is probably due to the numerous hours I spent in art museums in Paris, studying paintings by impressionist painters like Monet, Sisley or Pissarro. But I could add to these artists Turner, Henri Moore, René Magritte, Alberto Giacometti and living artists like David Curtis or Ken Howard. I try to remain open to all forms of art and I am always curious to discover what past and present artists have produced.

On the beach at De Hann - oil on canvas board (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Q - How do you choose the subjects of your works?

I keep an eye open. More precisely, I keep a painter’s eye open and I can visualize how a scene could translate in oil, watercolour or pastel. You need to keep a fresh eye. One place which has no interest in summer can become staggering during winter… Sometime, your best landscape is in your back.

Heavy snow - Oil painting (18 x 14") by Benoit Philippe

Q- How do you prepare yourself for an exhibition or a show like the Open Studios?

The first point is to have sufficient number of works framed and ready. As I have put together a number of exhibitions, I have a good number of paintings. The other point would be to start early on the promotion. In this case, I am behind because I am one of the organisers of the Swindon Open Studios 2009 and I have been working of the promotion of the event, rather than on my own promotion.

Chrysanthemums and apples - oil on canvas (46 cm X 38 cm) by Benoit Philippe

Q- Did you take part in the Swindon Open Studios in the past? What did it bring to you?

This is my first open studio. I will participate in a wonderful space in the Swindon central library. As we will be eight artists exhibiting there, it should be good fun. I also plan to paint over the week-end so that visitors can see the painting in progress.

Q - Are there territories (media, subjects, etc.) you want to explore in the coming years?

I would like to do more figure paintings. I would also like to work on a really large format.

Q - As an artist, what would be your dream?

Having my own permanent studio would be a plus. For the moment, I have to set-up each time I want to paint and this is less time to paint.

Dig this! - Oil on canvas (40 x 40 cm) by Benoit Philippe

Q - Could you share one thing that you have learnt in your own art practice that would be useful to other artists?

Work from nature: do some plein-air painting or set-up a still life in your studio. I work also from photographs, but I learn a lot each time I paint from nature. Invest in a pochade box that allows you to do small paintings in one hour or so and therefore paint on a regular basis, everyday if possible.

Visit Benoit’s website and make sure you also visit his blog My French Easel, where you can read articles on painting techniques, art history, art museum and exhibitions… and much, much more.

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