Soraya French is a well known Iranian artist known for her vivid use of colour in watercolours, oils, pastels, acrylics and mixed media in a variety of subject matters.
How did you first get into painting?
Painting has been a big part of my life since childhood in one form or another. We moved house a few times when I was young and the first thing I used to do was to make friends with the local stationers/art shop. Old habits die hard. I have many friends amongst art manufacturers in the UK, Europe and across the pond.
I still have my aquarelle pencil box from when I was 7 years old and my dried up Gouache set from my teenage years. I never dreamt art would become a career.
Who are you inspired by?
I first fell in love with the works of the Impressionists when I was in my teenage years. My student flat in Cambridge was covered with their posters. A little later on, I found the Fauvist and Nabis movement made a huge impression and opened my eyes to the magical world of colour! I found the sublime colour and light in their work awe inspiring. I also love many of the Scottish colourists both past and contemporary; Ivon Hitchens, Keith Vaughan, Richard Diebenkorn and Gerhard Richter are some of the abstract painters I really admire.
What is a useful tip you pass on to your students?
Be inspired but don’t become a paler imitation of the artists you admire. Individuality and authenticity are hugely important. Paint what you truly love, not what you think may sell. Your emotional connection with your subject matter will resonate with your viewer.
Which brushes do you use?
I am a brushaholic and have a large collection of some weird and wonderful brushes which I use for one reason or another. Most of the brushes I can’t do without are from Rosemary; a set of long flat Ivory brushes in sizes 10, 8, 4 & 2 plus a couple of Riggers. Kolinsky Sables (series 33) sizes 8 & 10 and of course my soulmate the flat one stroke (series 222) sizes 1” and 2”.
When did you first use rosemary’s brushes?
I have got some ABS brushes which I must have bought over 20 years ago. I met Rosemary 13 years ago after she had launched her own brand, and have watched her business grow into the truly well-deserved global success that it is today. I have used her fantastic brushes ever since.
How do you choose your subject?
I love any subject that allows me to indulge in my passion for colour, texture and pattern. I also find people in everyday life situations and their interaction with each other absolutely fascinating. My travels are also a major source of inspiration.
I often come back from teaching abroad with enough source material to last me a decade to get through! But I am lucky if I can manage to paint even a fraction of them because of my hectic schedule.
You work with all mediums, do you have a favourite?
For me painting in mixed media means the absolute creative indulgence; it satisfies every need I have as a painter. I can enjoy the unpredictable and exciting process of working with transparent acrylic inks and watercolours as well as the texture of the heavy body acrylics. There are jewel like colours in a variety of soft, oil and wax pastels too. My array of Golden gels and pastels help me create every type of texture under the sun, what more could I ask for?
Tell me more about the society of women artists?
The Society was formed at a time when women were not considered to be serious contributors to the field of art and had great difficulty in obtaining a public exhibition of their work.
Since 1857, the SWA has provided a great platform for showcasing the paintings of some of the best female artists in Britain. I am absolutely honoured to be their Vice President and very proud to have been elected to step into the role of their President from Mid July 2017.
You teach workshops all over the country, where can people find more information?
Details of my studio workshops and painting holidays abroad can be found on my website www.sorayafrench.com. I also teach at Dedham Hall three times a year. For more details regarding workshops around UK and forthcoming exhibitions I can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should students expect attending one of your workshops?
My studio is based at Project workshops which is a very unique and amazing creative oasis set in rural Hampshire and overlooks a beautiful garden. My students can expect to find a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a very passionate tutor who will guide them through their creative process with a great deal of patience and enthusiasm. My husband Tim, provides a welcome interlude at mid-day with his fabulous lunches too! Many of the artists return time and again, which I hope means we are doing something right.
What are your plans for the future and your career?
So far so good! Who knows what the future holds? I am a one day at a time kind of girl. Art is interwoven into every aspect of our family life, so there will be no retirement on the horizon (ever) and I hope that with the support of my family, I will be able to embrace more artistic adventures that may come my way. One thing I know is that I will always be painting and so the journey continues…
Images courtesy of Soraya French.
For more information about Soraya French and her workshops, please visit her website at: www.sorayafrench.com