Compelled to express the spirit of the Dorset landscape, Phyllis Wolff uses her experience, memory and imagination to arrive at her distinctive artwork. Obsessed by colour she injects a sense of joie de vivre into each piece. Phyllis arranges colours, preserving the beauty and freshness of each but also providing rich contrast. Just like the Scottish colourists she has a preference for vivid colour and fluid handling of paint and has clearly been influenced by the French Impressionists and Fauvists Monet, Cézanne and Matisse.
Phyllis first started painting and drawing as a very young child and began life drawing at Epsom Art School at the age of 13. ‘I was very lucky to have that firm foundation of years of evening classes. I regularly won art prizes at school, receiving books on Gauguin, Chagall and Matisse.’ She went on to study at Goldsmiths College and St Martins School of Art. ‘We were taught to question and analyse rather than painting techniques, stretching canvases or drawing from the model.’ Phyllis’ first breakthrough commission was for a 28x9ft oil on board mural for Shaftesbury town council, The Translation of Edward King and Martyr, which she restored ten years ago.
‘In this view of Melbury Hill lots of colour and directional brushmarks add to the joy
reflected in the painting.’
‘This reflects the busy bustling colour of my flower beds. I want to make the painting
burst with energy so the more vibrant the colour, the better.’
Her garden has also become a rich source of inspiration. Phyllis has painted over 30 pictures of her ponds, which she and her husband have built together; each one is painted with fresh spontaneity, often capturing fleeting movement. ‘To me, the relationship between the artist and the subject is very powerful and important; you have to love what you paint.’
‘A restricted palette of harmonious pink,purple and magenta
contrasts with yellow to give a warm glow.’
Creating a rough outline with oil paint diluted with white spirit, Phyllis uses a colour sympathetic to the landscape. She doesn’t plan the composition and lets it happen rather than trying to control a painting. Mostly she prefers flat hog brushes and sometimes sable riggers for finer drawing and texture. She uses a knife or rag to scrape off the paint. ‘I sometimes use retouching varnish, or quick drying medium to get the paint to dry if I need to cover paint quickly.’ To achieve her magical medley of flashing colour she has learnt to work around the whole picture, building up layers of colour on colour simultaneously, going round and round until complete. 'Colours only work in relationship to one another, not in isolation. One has to keep working over the whole canvas.’
San Sebastian Harbour, iPad print
‘This scene is made up of blocks ofbackground colour with outlines applied over
the top. Again I consciously chose complementary colours with a strong blue
sky and the use of vibrant orange.’
Just Waterlilies, oil on canvas, 75x75cm
‘My garden pond can look so different at different times of the day. I have captured the
fleeting movement of the fish as glimpses of their colours become apparent when you look
into the painting.’
For over a year Phyllis has been exploring the creative possibilities presented by the iPad. ‘It has provided much fun, infinite drawing opportunities and influenced my painting style. If you want to push your creative boundaries, try out new things, it is fantastic. ‘After downloading several drawing tools I soon discovered that it really does present a quick and useful way of drawing. It slips into my handbag and has become my portable studio – it’s great for when you are on the go. It doesn’t take too long to master and the stylus is easy to control’. When finished she just emails the pictures over to the printer. ‘It is a great way of producing affordable prints.
Mount Teide and Two Red Roofs, iPad print
to give added vitality.’
‘The use of complementary colours gives an immediate impact. Obviously the colours have
been enhanced and are not how they naturally would look but this creates more life.’
Phyllis Wolff attended St Martins School of Art and Goldsmiths College and taught at Kingston School of Art. She is represented in private and public collections, and exhibits widely in the United Kingdom and abroad. She continues to undertake commissions. Phyllis exhibits regularly at Highgate Fine Art and at galleries in Old Brompton Road and Fitzrovia in London. In 2004/5 she exhibited at Hutson Gallery and participated in several mixed shows at New Grafton Gallery, Barnes. Phyllis’ work is often in mixed shows in the south-west. Phyllis offers visits to her gallery, studio and garden classes at her home near Shaftesbury, for those who wish to use their iPad as a drawing and painting tool. Her book Colourscapes contains a whole range of her pictures. During 2013 Phyllis is exhibiting at The Minster Gallery, Winchester, telephone 01962 877601, www.minstergallery.com and is participating in the Christmas exhibition at the Quest Gallery, Bath, telephone 01225 444142, www.questgallery.co.uk.