ARTIST Q&A: STEPHANIE REW | EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE TALENTED BRITISH FIGURATIVE PAINTER

Published: 13 September 2018


This week for our Thompson's Artist Q&A, we caught up with Stephanie Rew to learn more about the person behind the painting. Rew is an established figurative painter known for her elaborate depictions of strong, elegant female subjects. Often her compositions will involve elements of luxurious fabrics such as silk kimonos and scarves, which are technically difficult to paint with such accuracy, but a lusciuos delight indeed for the beholder.

Above:Stephanie Rew in her studio

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Thompson's Gallery: Do you have any studio rituals or superstitions?

Stephanie Rew: I do have a routine that I tend to follow when working, which could be seen as a ritual. I listen to fast and loud music when starting a painting, in the middle part of the process I listen to the radio and the finishing touches are done listening to classical music or in silence. I find audiobooks distracting.

I hang my work upside down from time to time as it helps to see any areas that need more work - I also have a mirror in the studio that I use to see the painting in reverse which does the same job. I am not a very superstitious person in general but I have been using the same piece of wood as my palette for 15 years now – I use a piece of glass on top as my mixing area which I change regularly, but the base and the piles of paint are very old. There is part of me that believes if I get a new palette my paint fairies will leave with the old one.

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TG: Does your process have any established pattern, ie sketching beforehand or resisting pattern in total?

SR: After setting up a photo shoot I will decide on the images I will work from. From then I will do a very quick portrait oil study in one colour to get a feel for the tonality of the piece and areas of high and low contrast. I will then produce a well finished pastel drawing. This helps me get to know the face I will be painting better – to understand the form and features and get a decent likeness. Any mistakes I have made in the preparatory sketches will be fixed in the final painting, which is initially drawn out in thin washes of oil paint and built up in layers of thicker paint applied quickly in one or two sessions. Once dry, I will go back to refine areas, painting indirectly and finishing with a series of glazes.

When I think it is nearly finished I leave it for a week or so then look at it again, taking notes and watercolour studies in my sketchbook to see for any final corrections. The whole process from photo shoot to varnishing is approximately 6 -8 weeks.

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TG: Do you ever experience 'painter's block'? How do you overcome it?

SR: I do get stuck for inspiration every once in a while, I find this tends to happen after preparing for a big exhibition. I find the best way to get over a blank spell is to just paint for the sake of it. Ideas can come from the process itself, as long as you don't pressure yourself to find the next thing. I like to paint landscapes at these times to clear my head of past projects. Drawing is also a good way of keeping creative without confusing the brain with colour.

If this fails then I just take a break from the studio for a few days, or do my bookkeeping which will always, without fail, have me running screaming back to the studio!

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TG: What has been your favourite painting or subject to paint in the past year?

SR: I have been really enjoying pushing the chroma of my work to its limits recently. I've been experimenting with combining negative space with strong cadmium reds, this makes painting the flesh tones more challenging but I have enjoyed learning more about colour working this way.

I have also been working with a new model, Siam, which brings its own inspiration. She has worked as a fashion stylist before and has a huge dress up box. This took my work in a direction that was unexpected. 'La Tulle Noire' is one of my favourite paintings of this year as it has a touch of Hollywood glamour and was a joy to paint from start to finish.

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TG: Artificial intelligence can now produce paintings, some of which sell to human buyers - what do you make of this?

SR: Art, in my opinion, is about depicting and celebrating humanity and our existence. I'm not convinced a computer can do this – yet.

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Above: Yellow Scarf by Stephanie Rew Oil on bronze leaf panel

We hope you enjoyed our exclusive mini-interview with Stephanie Rew. Be sure to get in touch with your next artist request! Email enquiries@thompsonsgallery.co.uk with your favourite creator.