Saturday, 16 April 2011

Interview with Stella Tooth (Stellartist)

Having worked as a print journalist and TV news pr, Stella Tooth has recently undertaken a major change of career and she is attending a two year Portraiture Diploma at the same school where the pre-Raphaelites studied. In this interview, Stella, who describes herself as "a tonal painter who is falling in love with colour", talks about her painting technique and her sources of inspiration and she explains her interest in conveying feeling and reflecting the way our faces and bodies record the lives we lead. Stella has found friendship and support of like-minded artists in Flickr groups as Lots of Landscapes and Julia Kay's Portrait Party. As she says, "Julia's movement has helped atomised artists around the world to realise we are part of a shared endeavour".
(In the photo, Stella Tooth is accompanied by Martin Beek and shows the portrait he made of her.)
Zoraida de Torres: Tell us a little about yourself
Stella Toth: I am currently a student on the two year Portraiture Diploma course at Heatherley's School of Fine Art in Chelsea, where the pre-Raphaelites studied. I began the diploma in September last year, having completed a part time portfolio course at the same institution. Having worked as a print journalist, and then news pr at both the BBC and Sky News, the hope of a new career in art represents a major change of direction mid way through my life. Although it sometimes feels like a great leap into the dark, I have to admit I'm having fun seeking the light! At Heatherley's I draw and paint from life and examples of my work can be found on 

Z: Tell us about your art
S: The human form is my inspiration - particularly the face. I enjoy the way light reveals its colour and shape and how our faces and bodies record the lives we lead. Beauty is something that cannot fail to please the eye, but I am more interested in truth and conveying feeling.
I mainly draw in charcoal and graphite and paint in oils. And my hope, at the moment, is simply to increase in competence, try out different techniques and perhaps, in time, to find my voice. At that stage I hope my work will appeal to others.

Z: Tell us about your technique
S: At the moment I am trying something new - instead of creating an underpainting, I am drawing with charcoal and fixing it prior to painting. I find it quite liberating knowing that the lines of my careful drawing will be visible as I paint so I can concentrate on how I apply it.
I would say I am a tonal painter who is falling in love with colour. My technique is smooth but I am drawn, more and more, to try a more energetic, expressive technique a la Lucien Freud.

Z: Tell us about the reaction you have had to your work
S: I started putting my work online in September via Flickr, Facebook and my website. It's mostly viewed by friends, including ex colleagues, and JKPP artists who are unfailingly encouraging, supportive and offer much valued constructive criticism. One or two have kindly asked if my work's for sale, which has definitely sent my spirits soaring!

Z: Tell us about who inspired/inspires you
S: Since September I have been studying art history and learning more about the British milieu in which I am working. Focusing on those artists that I most admire in terms of having relevance to my art, I would once have said Robert Bevan (his portraits) and Harold Gilman were those who most inspired me but, more and more, I am looking for inspiration to Euan Uglow, Lucien Freud and Tai Shen Shierenberg.
I have read many wonderfully practical art books of late, including Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Colour, Harold Speed's Oil Painting Techniques and Materials and my former teacher Ian Rowlands' Life Drawing. My favourite art website on the moment is Google Art Project, where you can examine great art around the world close up, and Stumble Upon, which helps you discover the best of the web in the areas you have an interest. I also enjoy the Ancient Artist blog about developing an art career after 50. In addition, I watch a lot of arts programming on Sky Arts and enjoyed most a recent series called Art in Progress which captured a specific moment in an artist's creative life.

Z: Tell us (briefly) about you and JKPP
S: My fellow student at Heatherley's, Maureen Nathan, recommended I join JKPP as a way of being able to draw at home when there is no access to the life model. I had no idea back then what a gift she had given me in membership of a worldwide community of like-minded artists who offer each other encouragement, support, inspiration - and friendship. I have very much enjoyed meeting familiar faces in London and Oxford that I had only previously met online. Julia's movement has helped atomised artists around the world to realise we are part of a shared endeavour. I am now looking forward to trying something entirely new, becoming an active member and occasional contributor to Maureen's Lots of Landscapes group.

To find more about Stella Tooth and see her work, visit:
Stella Tooth on Flickr
Stella Tooth - her website


  1. Thanks Zoraida, it's great to find out more about Stella.
    Stella, I didn't realise you're now on a 2 yr course, that sounds fantastic, I'm jealous :-)
    I hadn't heard of all of those artists, I like the look of Tai Shan Schierenberg's paintings. Thanks!

  2. Great to see the interviewer interviewed, and learn more about her! I'm also following up to look at some artists I was unfamiliar with.

  3. Wow.. for some reason I wasn't aware of this blog till now. I love hearing about what inspires people, and learning about their journeys as artists.

    Great to know more about you, Stella! You've done some impressive things,and beautiful work and have a wonderful perspective on the portrait party...

  4. Thanks all - and to Zoraida for asking me. I only recently discovered Schierenberg Cecca but love the dramatic angles of his portraits.

  5. Text is edited on Sept 2012 (just adding links)