A mixture of figuration and abstraction. Interview [Bernie Clarkson]

Bernie Clarkson Wins The Academy Studios Abroad Award

Bernie Clarkson painting

With the eighth annual Signature Art Prize newly announced, we speak to artist, Bernie Clarkson, whose talents landed her the Academy Studios Abroad award.

Academy Studios Abroad have sponsored the Signature Art Prize for the first time, offering the opportunity for a winner of the painting category to be flown down to the South of France to participate on their Landscape course, championed by renowned fine artist, Tod Ramos.

Clarkson says of the accolade,

“It was such a surprise to win the trip and exactly the sort of prize I would have chosen for myself.” Continuing, “Having the opportunity to work in a new environment will, I’m sure, be very inspiring. Recent graduates have been used to the support structures at university and suddenly these supports are gone, so having two weeks to work intensely with encouragement will be wonderful.”

Bernie Clarkson painting

Academy Studios Abroad hold a number of courses throughout the year including; The Portfolio Course, Horses & Bulls Masterclass, The Portfolio Course, The Lifesaver Course – which focuses intensely on life drawing and portrait painting, as well as the aforementioned Landscape course. Set in the sleepy village of Aubais, between Montpellier and Nimes, it’s the perfect setting for art lovers.

Clarkson will be presented with the opportunity to paint en plein air in all media in the iconic Camargue region of France. With rolling landscapes featuring saltmarsh, vineyards, and the incredible visions of the Junas disused quarry, the area is filled to brim with inspiration.

“I rarely work outside, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of working in a new way, experiencing the weather, setting up materials to be able to work comfortably and being up close to nature. Being with other artists and having lots of opportunities to talk about painting both professionally and socially will be another bonus and treat.”

Clarkson, who graduated from Newcastle University in 2012 entered her painting, ‘Looking Back’ in this year’s Signature Art Prize says of the award-winning piece:

“It’s interesting that the competition is called the Signature Art Prize because this painting is my signature piece. It took me a few months to paint and is probably a statement of where my work is at and the type of metaphoric terrain I want to incorporate in my new work.” Continuing, “The painting’s content embraces a lot of the elements which are important to me at the moment, a mixture of figuration and abstraction, autobiographical metaphors like the house and the chair and also, importantly, the paint itself, how it moves and gathers and how it can be used in varying degrees of viscosity.”

Speaking of her practice Bernie explains,

“My work always begins with a ‘found’ image, either contemporary or historic. It can take me a while to make use of the image but eventually I’ll feel the need to work with it and other images, for example an En Plein Airearchitectural background. I often prepare the canvas with a bright orange ground colour and then draw some outlines with black ink, as I love the accidents and mistakes the ink makes which then become part of the process.”

Elaborating further she says,

“I tend to work quickly and get the first layer of paint on in a few sessions however a painting this size probably takes me a week. From then onwards anything can happen, I try to keep my decision making lively and as any artist knows, you often need a bit of courage to change something drastically, as you know it’s not ‘right’. I’m a huge fan of Richard Diebenkorn and he was always seeking a paintings ‘rightness’.”

The Signature Art Prize is the only award of its kind that aims to create a platform for student and graduate artists to showcase their talent. The award was founded in 2007 by DegreeArt.com and has since seen winners and entrants to establish full time careers as artists.

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