Artist Interview: Lucy Springall

I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Lucy Springall.

 Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Lucy, I became familiar with your work very recently. Your bright paintings and collages of deconstructed pool scenes were what first drew my eye. What inspired these vibrant pieces?

Until recently I lived 5 minutes from Brockwell Lido in South East London and found that going there always gave me an enormous sense of wellbeing. Being by the poolside reminds me of childhood summer visits to Finchley Lido (no longer in existence) and the escapism of holidays to sunny destinations. I think UK outdoor pools and lidos are really special places and really wanted to try and do some work inspired by them. I didn't want to just paint them as they were but rather try and capture the different common elements you find at the pool. I was also admiring a lot of work with strong graphic design elements at the time so I tried to use this to arrange the various imagery. As well as taking photographs and drawing on location I also researched well-known artists that had used the swimming pool as a muse for their work. Hockney is an obvious inspiration but I particularly took inspiration from Claes Oldenburg's Pool Shapes (1964) and the simplicity of his design. 

 Bunting by Lucy Springall

Bunting by Lucy Springall

 Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Until last year your practice explored physical and mental health themes, I'm curious to know what your art practice involved and what caused you to change direction?

Yes thats right. It was and still is a theme close to my heart and I hope to eventually incorporate some of these elements into my more recent work. I guess, looking back, I've struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. My way of dealing with it was to run from it and to work harder and faster in order to chase an elusive 'happiness'. It caught up with me in early 2010 in the form of a physical burnout and then again in 2013 as a period of extreme anxiety and depression. What surprised me was how physical the illness was, it was like my fight or flight response was switched on all the time for 6 months! When I recovered and returned to full time work I felt passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness and also raising the awareness of just how much of a physical illness it is. I started doing art again at about the same time and undertook a 2 year part time fine art course at City Lit, the second year of which is developing your own personal project. I started to look at 'self-comforting repetitive behaviours' that we all use, such a foot tapping, pacing etc. through performative mark-making. My tutor encouraged me to go bigger and really exaggerate these behaviours so I got a life model in who luckily happened to be an artist and dancer herself and directed her to produce a series of large scale artworks whilst I videoed and photographed her. It was a really fun and freeing process and not one I'd ever thought I'd do! I really wanted to be a painter though so I tried to take the process back into more of a formal painting which was my final piece for the course. Around the same time as the course ended I was offered voluntary redundancy at work. I could see that the office was going to close and I really wanted to have more time for my art so I took the leap. I continued for a while along a similar theme with my art and looked at doing an MA but decided that as it was so early on in my art journey I wanted some time to explore other themes and experiment with other ways of working. That's when I started the swimming pool inspired work. It was tough as I had a clear why and message behind my previous work but sometimes you just have to follow your instincts. I'm now working on more botanical inspired pieces and I've found doing them so relaxing that I've realised the mental health theme carries through. This is something I'm really keen to explore with my work in the future - the relationship between nature, greenery and mental health.

 Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

 Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Do you have a preferred method of creating work or is experimentation key to your practice?

It's so early on in my art career that I've yet to settle into a preferred method of working. At the moment my way of working depends very much on the project I'm working on. I do tend to 'projectise' my work as I think its important to explore one subject or methodology for a significant chunk of time before moving on to another. Although it's important to allow time for play too, especially if you're feeling a bit stuck or have lost the joy in what you are doing. With my current work I'm enjoying the contrast between quieter calmer watercolour painting where I sit down to create, often with a cup of tea and a podcast playing, and more vigorous acrylic and oil painting which I do standing up or on the floor in quite a physical way. When I start a project I often, but not always, research other artists and do a lot of sketchbook work to feel out the idea. I've just started a one year (one day a week) advanced painting course and really hope that this will push my acrylic and oil painting to another level.

 Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

 Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Tell me about your studio or creative space.

I am lucky that I have my own studio space in Lewisham, SE London. It's within the Bow Arts run Leegate House studios and is part of the Leegate Centre in Lee Green that has been earmarked for demolition and redevelopment. As it's a temporary let the studios are relatively affordable compared to other studios across London. The old building does mean that the heating and ventilation is often a bit wild! I'm on the 7th floor and so have great views across SE London. I only moved in towards the end of last year and have been steadily making it feel like home. I got a plan chest from a friend of a friend which needed quite a lot of TLC so I took some time to restore it. I also have a steadily growing collection of plants that I use for inspiration. My studio is either super tidy or totally chaotic depending on where I am with a project! We have a shared kitchen where I make endless cups of tea which often go cold whilst I'm working. It's nice to be able to speak to the other artists in the studio and the Leegate community of small businesses are also really lovely.

 Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

 Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

What artists (living or dead) inspire you?

This is a tough one as so many different artists inspire me! Currently I'm inspired by the lush greenery paintings of Hurvin Anderson who uses both the Caribbean jungle and UK parks as source material. Jonas Wood is another one, particularly his large scale potted plant paintings - the plants have so much character! I also follow a lot of early career artists on Instagram - Tamara Dubnyckyi has a great sense of composition and space and Lucy Smallbone uses such luminescent colour combinations and mark making.

I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.

1. I previously worked as a Lead Exploration Geoscientist within the oil industry

2. My husband and I love to wild camp and we spent New Year 2017 halfway up a fell in a cave - it was freezing!!!

3. I'm a total water baby and will swim pretty much anywhere. I once swam(ish) in a Greenlandic Fjord where there were icebergs in the distance! 

Finally, where can people follow your work online?


My most recent work can be seen on Instagram @LucySpringallStudio. My website (in need of a little updating) is www.lucyspringall.com. I sell my work online via Etsy. I am also sporadically on Twitter @lucyspringallstudio 

Thank you to Lucy for agreeing to be part of my interview series. It’s fascinating to learn how an artist is inspired and how one project leads in to another. I’m also quite jealous of Lucy’s studio situation, I really miss the community of artists I had around me in a shared studio. Please take a look at Lucy’s Etsy store as she has many affordable original paintings for sale.

If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at claireleanneleach@gmail.com. 

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

Artist Interview: Hanna Varga of Ashleaf

I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Hanna Varga of Ashleaf.

 An Oak Leaf cast in Bronze by Ashleaf

An Oak Leaf cast in Bronze by Ashleaf

Hanna, this is the first time that I've featured sculpture in my interview series, tell me how Ashleaf started and what drew you to sculpture in particular?

Ashleaf was founded in 2015 by myself and another sculptor, Sam Dalton. This art practice branched out of the Crucible Foundry in South West London that Sam’s been running for over 20 years with Damon Rawnsley specialising in small high definition fine art bronze casting. At the foundry on occassion leaves were cast in bronze and silver for many years. Sam is a trained sculptor and also has a degree in Biological Science that informs his sculptural practice.

I studied fine art in Hungary and graduated in sculpture. I also completed a bronze casting training there at a small foundry to be qualified in the lost wax bronze casting technique. I started working at the Crucible Foundry 5 years ago as a sculptor/metalworker and soon afterwards working closely with Sam, we dedicated some time to pursue the casting of leaves in bronze and perfect this technique as best we could. Meanwhile, our interest in botanical art deepened and the potential of making botanical leaf sculptures that preserve the ephemeral by transforming leaves into a solid material was intriguing. Two years later we founded Ashleaf that exclusively focuses on leaves and translating their unique characteristics in bronze.

Where does the name Ashleaf come from?

Ashleaf does not refer to the species of leaves that grow on ash trees. Instead, it is a poetic interpretation of how leaves are cast in bronze. Leaves burn and turn to ash in the process. The impression of the leaf is preserved in a heat resistant investing material that surrounds the leaf. When the leaf burns, a cavity remains, where the molten bronze flows in and takes the leaf’s place, preserving its features in bronze. It is an adaptation of the ancient lost wax casting process in order to life cast leaves. Each casting is unique.

 Leaves by Ashleaf

Leaves by Ashleaf

 Leaves by Ashleaf

Leaves by Ashleaf

 Leaves by Ashleaf

Leaves by Ashleaf

What is the process from start to finish of creating a new sculpture?

The first phase of the work is collecting/gathering the organic material, the leaves. This involves visits to botanic gardens, ancient trees, plants growing in specific location, walks amongst trees in our local parks/commons as well as being onservant of our immediate local environment: the trees and plants that grow on our doorstep in the streets of London.

Once we have the raw material ready, we start the process of preservation by doing the waxwork. With our technique we can preserve the surface texture on one side of the leaf, the contour line as well as its shape and form. These are the three main features of a leaf we can preserve in physical material.

A thin layer of hot wax is applied to one side of the leaf in order to thicken up the leaf to 3-4 mm. This is followed by the ‘treeing up’ process that involves attaching wax tubes to the leaf (like branches) that will allow the molten bronze to reach the leaf. We process leaves in batches that is the most efficient and cost effective way. Several leaves then are attached to a wax funnel. This completes the waxwork.

The investment is the next phase of the work. We use a heat resistant investing material that is applied in a liquid form, like plaster sets to solidify and surrounds the leaves.

Once the investment is set, it goes into a kiln to be heated up to a high temperature. It usually takes up to 3 days to reach the desired temperature. Meanwhile the leaves burn and turn to ash, and the wax melts out, leaving a cavity that will be ready to receive the bronze. This is called the ‘firing’ in foundry terms.

On the third day the caster at the foundry starts to melt bronze in the crucible and when the molten bronze reaches the desired temperature, the investment moulds are taken out of the kiln. There is a careful control over temperatures of the metal that is going to be poured and the container into which it is poured into. These two need to correspond to one another flawlessly. This part determines the results of the casting.

Our bronze leaves are cast with a centrifugal casting technique that also jewellers use, that allows high definition details in small objects.

After casting, the bronze cools down quickly and the investment mould is ready to be broken up to reveal the freshly cast leaves.

At this stage, the metalwork begins. All that was leaf and wax is now solid bronze. We use various grinders, saws and chisels to remove the excess material that facilitated the bronze casting, but does not belong to the leaf. This is a labour-intensive process and often takes weeks to finish metalwork on a collection of bronze leaves.

Once the metalwork is completed. The bronze leaf is ready for the last stage of the work: the patination. Patination is the surface colouring that happens as apply various chemical substances to react on the heated or cold surface of the metal. Patination develops over time depending on the temperature and humidity in the air.

We sometimes choose natural greens, yellows and brown for the leaves. However, we also found various shades of blue striking and really enhancing the hypperrealistic qualities of bronze leaves.

 Leaf Sculptures by Ashleaf

Leaf Sculptures by Ashleaf

Your studio is in London and yet leaves and nature are your main subjects, where do you go to source new inspiration?

Despite living in London, the opportunities for coming in contact with nature are many. The street trees and plants of London are varied and provide a great source of leaves for us to use. Besides, there are numerous parks, commons and heaths, as well as Kew Gardens. We’ve never felt deprived of raw material for the fact that we are based in London that is a densely populared urban environment. It is a green city and one can find about 50 different species of leaves growing alongside the pavement on an ordinary walk from home to work. Also, we sometimes go on special trips out of London to find leaves from specific locations.

I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself. 

1. I bake sourdough bread daily at home that I really love doing.

2. I love reading, especially poetry and independent publications. I’ve just received a book that was published with the help of crowdfunding. It’s called Waymaking - an anthology of women’s nature writings. I’m really looking forward to reading this now. It’s such a wonderful feeling to hold a copy of a book I contributed to making it happen.

3. My favourite colour is blue.

Finally, where can people follow your work online?

Please follow us on twitter and instagram for daily work shots, musing, news and updates. We also have an Open Studio coming up on the 10th of November.

Thank you to Hanna for agreeing to be part of my interview series, I love hearing about the process of bronze casting as it is so different to my own art practice. It fascinates me to see how delicate leaves can be transformed into solid metal pieces of art to be treasured. Please follow Ashleaf on Twitter and Instagram using the links above to get a regular dose of nature and art in your feeds.

If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at claireleanneleach@gmail.com. 

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

An Exhibition Realised

While travelling back in 2016/17 I kept a small sketchbook where I recorded little drawings and doodles inspired by the varying landscapes that I was seeing. By the end of the trip I had amassed a small collection of handmade postcards which I could see being developed into a whole new series of travel inspired drawings. On return from my eleven month trip in July 2017 I approached a gallery and submitted a proposal for an exhibition of drawings which was accepted and pencilled in to the diary for July 2018. I had a year to turn eleven months worth of experiences into a collection of work that would fill a space all on its own.

I got to work using the postcards that I had made as a starting point. I had a sketch from a walkway at Iguazu Falls in Argentina, a muddy road in Paraty, Brazil, a forest landscape in Argentina’s Lake District as well as many more. As the months trickled away I found that my drawings were developing, they were getting more detailed and my focus became rugged landscapes; forests and woodland scenes were featuring heavily which matched up with the drawings I was doing on another project which focused on British woodland. I managed to utilise some handmade paper which I had picked up in Pokhara, Nepal just before returning home. I created loose inky sketches using Indian ink, watercolour and charcoal and based the drawings on the stunning Santa Cruz area of Peru.

 Three Drawings In Situ at The Sheep Shed Gallery

Three Drawings In Situ at The Sheep Shed Gallery

 The Exhibition Poster

The Exhibition Poster

Over a year I’d made 22 drawings for the exhibition which by this time I’d titled ‘From The Road’ a nod to Jack Kerouac’s novel ‘On The Road’. The exhibition deadline had given me focus which I sorely needed as I’d been out of practice with drawing. I framed the drawings myself and fixed the frames with hanging materials. The drawings were then taken to The Sheep Shed Gallery in Weyhill, Hampshire where they were displayed for two weeks. The main objectives for organising the exhibition were to provide a way to take all the ideas and memories from the trip and put them down on paper, to provide a project that would motivate me to draw after a long absence, to gain more exhibition experience and to build a rapport with a gallery. I succeeded in all these objectives which left me feeling fulfilled and grateful that after a year of work I could say that the exhibition was a success.

The feedback I received was positive, apparently upon seeing the drawings close up many couldn’t believe it was done in pen by hand. Aside from achieving my goals I was pleased to have sold one of the drawings and have interest in others. Exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery was such a pleasant experience, at the end of the exhibition I was offered a last minute spot on the gallery’s ‘red wall’ as an artist had withdrawn. If I hadn’t built a relationship with the gallery then this opportunity wouldn’t have been available to me and so I was very grateful for that. With one exhibition finished I was already back in the studio creating a small collection of brand new works for the ‘red wall’ which was displayed for two weeks in early September. I’d gone from having no real exhibition experience for a couple of years due to work and travel commitments to two exhibitions in a matter of months!

I look forward to exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery again in the future and to also finding experience exhibiting elsewhere across Hampshire and beyond.

If you’d like to see all the drawings that were created for the exhibition then please click here. Many of the works are available to purchase in my online shop; to see what’s available click here.

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️