Following the successful launch of the official Pagani Supercar UK showroom in London, The Foxley Docket team sat down with fellow motoring enthusiast, Anna-Louise Felstead
1. To begin with, introduce yourself to our readers and give us a little bit about what you do.
I am an English artist who lives between London and Wiltshire. I received 1st class (hons) at Central Saint Martins in illustration before obtaining a Master of Arts in Communication Art & Design from the Royal College of Art in 2003. I paint a number of different subjects, but for many years have travelled the world painting historic and modern race car scenes and portraits on location at Concours d’Elegance and race events such as Pebble Beach, Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Goodwood.
2. How did your passion for art and painting begin?
When I was very young, my late father told me that people don’t look like stick men, and made me draw bodies with a neck, wrists, ankles etc. In short, he didn’t want me to draw like a child, but how I saw things in real life. He would come back from the office with large plain white diaries and I would fill them up with sketches from life and my imagination. I then went to St.Bede’s prep school in E.Sussex when I was eight years old and remember seeing the art department for the first time. It looked huge to me with balsa wood planes hanging from the ceilings and an attaching CDT and pottery centre – I remember wanting to spend every spare moment in there. My teacher Simon Wood recognised I had a talent and spent years pushing me to develop. We are still friends today.
3. In your opinion, what is integral to the work of an artist?
For me, nothing inspires me as much as looking at other artists’ work. If ever I’m struggling creatively, I visit galleries, museums and flick through my art books. I think it’s vital to have a niche as well in such a competitive market. Mine has always been painting on location, capturing what I see as it unfolds which, soon after college, helped build a strong collaboration with the MoD and Royal Navy. I almost fell into painting race cars afterwards as a racing driver friend called James Wood convinced me to paint at the Monaco Grand Prix Historique in 2008. Nearly all the paintings I did that weekend sold, with one of the buyers inviting me to Monza for another race event where the same thing happened… I’ve never looked back.
4. How would you describe your style of painting?
I work on location so my paintings are vibrant due to the quick drying undiluted pots of ink I use and they have a quirky, cartoon like quality despite being full of detail. When I paint on site, I am experiencing movement, sounds and various types of atmospheres be they manic or still, so this translates into the painting giving my images a fresh feel. My objective is to capture the character of my subjects, injecting them with personality, and over the years I have learnt to incorporate this into images painted from photographs.
5. Which style of art do you most identify with?
I identify with many different forms of art, be it abstract or representative. Although I paint cars, I don’t really consider myself an automotive artist as I paint many different subjects in a number of mediums like my screenprinting, line drawings and cityscapes. Due of this, I can relate to a variety of styles depicting various subjects. Having said that, I love figurative work and architectural landscapes.
6. Which artists are your biggest inspirations and why? What is it about their work that stands out to you?
Linda Kitson was the official Falklands War Artist and she was a huge inspiration to me when I was at Central Saint Martins. She was commissioned to report what was happening as a journalist would but through image and an I find it interesting that an artist has the ability to edit and exaggerate their subject to tell a story in ways that photography cannot do. Her work inspired me to contact the Royal Navy to see if they’d allow me to document life on board a ship, which they did. Raoul Dufy has been another big influence on my work as has Howard Hodgkin. I love the colour, playfulness and fluidity in their paintings. To me, they inspire joy.
7. Your work certainly has its own aesthetic style, covering a range of different subjects. What inspires your paintings?
I was always interested in creating work documenting real life ‘behind the scenes.’ I began by drawing people in dentist chairs having their teeth tended to, then models being prepared backstage at London Fashion Week. I enjoyed sketching scenes of the Royal Navy queuing in the canteen of HMS CORNWALL or HMS ILLUSTRIOUS or mechanics changing an engine of a car in the pitlane. These scenes were more interesting to me than a painting of a model on a catwalk or a ship at sea. I think what inspires me are unusual scenarios and I love how my work allows me into worlds that I wouldn’t ordinarily find myself in. Visually, I like marrying mechanical objects and people together in my paintings, enjoying the relationship between the two.
8. Your work has been exhibited all over the country. In your opinion, what has been the highlight of your career thus far?
There have been so many incredible highlights throughout my career. Having spent months creating artwork for the MoD, the Royal Navy took me for a one hour flight in a Harrier Jump Jet in 2005 which is an experience I’ll never forget. Work wise, I was very proud to be invited to exhibit my car paintings at the Le Mans museum by Count Louis Jean de Nicolay in 2012 during race week, and then in more recent years it’s been exciting seeing my paintings being used on fabric and products. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have driven, raced and rallied classic Alfa Romeos, Porsches, Lancias and Formula Fords in Italy, France Sardinia, Finland and in the UK. I’ve taken part in the Tour Auto once and the Monte Carlo Rally Historique twice, all through the contacts I’ve met whilst painting at events across the globe which is a huge privilege.
9. At these exhibitions, have you had any particularly memorable responses to your work?
When I was painting Bill Marriott’s Talbot at Pebble Beach in 2010, I was tapped on the shoulder by a man asking me to paint his Austro Daimler. After accepting the commission, I realised I had been speaking to Dr.Wolfgang Porsche. He was lovely, and spent a long time chatting to me whilst looking through my portfolio and even sent me a Christmas card that year which was a nice surprise!
10. You recently attended the official opening of the UK Pagani showroom in London. With this being such an exclusive event, how did you find the experience?
I was lucky enough to be driven up the hill in a Pagani at Goodwood Festival of Speed this year, then I was driven around Monterey in a friend’s La Ferrari this summer. Having painted and raced classic cars since 2008, being exposed to these modern supercars is a completely different experience. I was invited to attend the Pagani opening to paint the new Huayra on location and during this time I spoke to a lot of press at the event and car collectors at the dinner including Horacio Pagani. It was a glamorous occasion and an interesting evening with car enthusiasts from all walks of life who share a common passion.
11. With part of your expertise lying in Cornish scenes, do you have any favourite locations to paint in? Any that inspire you more than others?
I moved to Port Isaac in North Cornwall after watching a programme about Rick Stein at his seafood restaurant in Padstow. The lifestyle looked so idyllic and I realised I could be based anywhere as long as I had a sketchbook, paints and computer equipment. The landscape and scenery there is so powerful and dramatic I used to spend my evenings painting boats in the bay or scenes of tourists drinking on the platt. A few months later I opened my own art gallery there called ‘The Peapod’ which was a huge success but very seasonal.
I find I usually get inspired when I go somewhere new and see with ‘fresh eyes.’ South Africa is another favourite location, when I was there in 2007 I was incredibly inspired so was hugely prolific and painted subjects like people in church in the Khayelitsha township, fishermens ‘wives gutting fish in Simon’s Town, tourist scenes in Camps Bay and scenes of vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
12. You also have your own range of signature bags and scarves, available from www.caracella1947.com – how did this collaboration come about?
Simon Jordan, the founder of Caracalla 1947 approached me a few years ago and asked me to create the lining for an ‘Anna-Louise Felstead’ limited edition Monza bag. I designed the fabric with paintings of a Lagonda, Aston Martin, Allard and Austin Healey and D-Type Jaguar. The bags are made in Italy and are wonderful quality with my signature etched into the leather.
The scarf collaboration began after meeting two fellow members of The Chelsea Arts Club who had started a separate art scarf company called This Way to Heaven. They commissioned me to come up with a car design which was printed on 100% cotton fabric with hand rolled edges as scarves, sarongs, neckerchiefs and pocket squares.
13. Your fashion work has featured in the windows of Catherine Walker, London, with your paintings featured in the London Fashion Week. What inspires your approach to fashion, and how would you describe your style?
I have two styles of clothing, one is a very relaxed baggy jumper and jeans look when I’m based in Wiltshire painting or gardening. The other is my smarter London style. I tend not to follow trends and wear what suits my body shape, I also like colour. My little sister Binky from the reality TV show Made in Chelsea is ten years younger than me and I used to dress her up for art and photography projects – she now now takes me shopping and suggests I try new various new styles. They don’t always work, the ripped black jeans she made me buy recently looked ridiculous and went straight to the charity shop!
14. In 2005, you were commissioned by the Ministry of Defence to paint their aircraft carriers, harrier jump jets and helicopters. What happened, and how did you react to it?
Painting for the MoD was an amazing experience. They sent me to sketch the launch of a Type 45 ship in Glasgow and paint the marines on landing craft exercises in Poole. I was flown onto HMS ILLUSTRIOUS at sea in a Sea King helicopter to document life on board and painted their Harrier Jump Jets coming in to land on the flight deck. My work was used for PR and promotion purposes and resulted in three solo exhibitions, one of which was onboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS during the International Festival of the Sea in 2006.
15. In 2013, you moved to New York City. What inspired the move, and how did you find the change of scenery and culture?
I flew to NYC in 2012 to see a friend and was stranded for an extra week due to Hurricane Sandy hitting during my visit. During this time I was based in Brooklyn which had power. Everyone was off work and I was socialising with hipsters, fashion designers, musicians, artists – a very refreshing scene to Chelsea, Mayfair and Fulham so I decided a change of scene might be good for me. After obtaining an O-1 visa, I moved to Manhattan in 2013. It completely changed my work, I started screenprinting at The Art Students League of New York where I exhibited my scenes of the city and began painting large abstracted cityscapes under an alias Anna Wilson (www.annawilsonart.com). I became more experimental with my style and both American and UK clients started commissioning bigger works, some of them car based which would feature their entire collection on one canvas.
16. How was your artwork received by the American public?
I find there is much more of a ‘can do’ vibe to New York, it is a hugely creative city with a strong ‘go for it’ attitude. My clients allowed me creative freedom and I was able to continue attending US based car events such as Pebble Beach and Lime Rock Park for whom I designed their 2014 poster which I signed at the event alongside Sir Stirling Moss.
Anna-Louise is available for commissions. Please contact her through her website below.