Laura Wickstead on abstract shapes and the role of art
"My main objective is to create something that someone would love to have in their home. My view is that art exists to be enjoyed and to enhance its surroundings.”
What three words would you choose to describe your art?
Rustic, soft and organic.
Why abstract shapes?
I am very drawn to shapes in art as they are a neutral subject that can become whatever the viewer wants them to be. I really enjoy hearing people interpret the shapes in my work… they are always so varied and imaginative. Abstract shapes are also quite freeing for me as an artist as I’m not trying to copy anything. I’ll use a loose inspiration such as a vase and recreate my own version of it from my imagination. This creates something completely unique and special. Is there something you want to achieve through your art? I'm quite pragmatic when it comes to painting. My main objective is to create something that someone would love to have in their home. My view is that art exists to be enjoyed and to enhance its surroundings. So when I’m creating a piece, I imagine a room and think about what the piece would bring to it. That might be a splash of colour or an interesting shape that complements the other shapes in the room. I love interior design and the collective elements that come together to create a well-designed space. A beautiful room can instantly uplift someone’s mood. If a painting or a print of mine can contribute to that, that’s what I’m aiming for.
The mural you created for The Hoxton Hotel is brilliant, how did the project come about and what was the brief?
That's really kind to say, thank you! One of their interior designers got in touch with me on Instagram to see if I was interested. I’d worked large scale before, but never on a wall mural (it’s 9m x 4m so pretty big!). I knew I’d regret it though if I didn’t step up to the challenge.
The brief was quite simple, they wanted a version of my previous work in the colour palette of coral, pastels and blues. I didn’t see the furnishings beforehand and when I painted the wall the place was still under renovation. So it was amazing to see how well-matched the furniture was when it reopened! Interior designers have such amazing vision - I knew that I’d be blown away when I saw it all come together and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a dream to work on from start to finish and was a really special project for me.
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve always been a creative person, painting and drawing since I was young. That never stopped and as I became an adult I started to paint things for friends and family. This led to commissions and these led to local art fairs. However it wasn’t until I relocated to London three years ago that I found the confidence to start calling myself an artist. I just thought, if you start calling yourself an artist and keep producing paintings then people will eventually see you as that. As someone who is self-taught, I didn’t have any contacts or qualifications, but I thought I’d see if the work could speak for itself.
It’s really exciting to see that effort and belief in myself starting to pay off and open doors. As a woman, one of the most powerful things you can do is trust in your own ability!
What is the Laura Wickstead process behind creating a new piece of art?
I'm usually inspired by a colour palette I’ve spotted somewhere which I then pair with organic shapes. I start sketching these out and trialling some options in my sketchbook. I’m always listening to something – painting is the perfect pairing to podcasts (I save my favourites for when it’s time to pick up a paintbrush!).
Some pieces can be really quick – something magic happens and every swipe of the paintbrush makes sense. Other times it can be a bit more a puzzle to work out. I find inspiration everywhere. It can be really annoying sometimes as all I want to do is read a magazine but by page two I’ll have seen something that sparks an idea and I have to go and act on it!
Lifting our heads out of the COVID cloud, what do the next 5 years hold for you and for your work?
Just to keep doing what I’m doing really! I’m utterly grateful that I’ve reached a point where people are interested in my work and are purchasing it - to me that is the ultimate success. I’d also love to work on a set of prints that could be sold in lovely independent homeware stores. I think it’s important to offer affordable prints - art shouldn’t be exclusive. That’s the beauty of The Motherhood Prints - it showcases an array of wonderful artists at an accessible price point.
You created a beautiful piece for The Motherhood Prints. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
To participate in this initiative was a really exciting opportunity and was an interesting challenge to reimagine shapes to suggest motherhood. I knew immediately when I started sketching ideas that intertwining shapes and the suggestion of bonding through overlapping elements would play a key role. I find the idea of unity and the unspoken bond between a mother and child such a special idea so I wanted to explore that in an abstract way. I also went for earthy tones to really represent the power of nature that is motherhood.
And finally can you share with us two women that inspire you and why?
Seeing the theme of these prints is motherhood, I’d definitely say that my mum is a huge inspiration. As a mother, she’s been a huge influence in my life and has always been there for me. The sacrifice but enjoyment she’s given to motherhood has been evident throughout my life. Our relationship is now based on friendship more than anything which is such a special bond that can be created between a mother and daughter. She’ll always be my inspiration, especially when it comes to selfless love.
On a creative level, my friend Emma is a big inspiration. We met at university where I was studying English Literature and she was studying Architecture. In the last 9 years, she’s become a qualified and successful architect and even took a leap of faith to move to New York a couple of years ago where she’s flourished. Her work really hones to my interests but I know that the shiny spaces we see as finished products took her a lot of graft and skill to create. It’s amazing to see her succeed in her field and gives me the confidence to take risks too. Her work ethic and creativity is a big inspiration on my work.