We want to know what really spurs our designers. Whether it’s an art movement or a taste for vintage interiors, an area of artistic influence is often behind our creative aspirations – even if it isn’t obvious from aesthetics alone. Enter Fee Greening, the London-based illustrator leading a new generation of dip pen and ink artists. Unlocking her love of medieval and Gothic art, she takes us on a trip through the Renaissance, the Pre-Raphaelites and beyond, as we get inside the artist and the art that drives her.
Which area of art or design has been most influential for you?I have very eclectic inspirations but I am definitely drawn to the Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelites and Gothic art the most. I’m also obsessed with William Blake and Hieronymus Bosch – anything fantastical but with a slightly creepy edge to it.
When did this first become a topic of interest?Definitely from a very young age. I was lucky that I got taken to a lot of beautiful Italian museums and churches, so I saw work by Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Bellini. As a child, I had a flair for the dramatic, stories involving historical rebels or doomed women; I was obsessed with Robin Hood, Boudicca, highwaymen, Lady Godiva, Eve, Giacomo Casanova. I think this interest in legends drew me to eras which depict a lot of myths, like the Pre-Raphaelites and the Renaissance.
What most draws you towards this area of the arts?The exquisite detail and technique. The jewel-like colours, the drama, the gore, all the theatrically romantic tales they depict. I love being able to read into the symbology of a painting and recognise stories and recurring characters by traditional colours they wear or their position within the piece.
Is there an early memory that has stuck with you?I remember seeing a Madonna altarpiece and trying to draw her, unsuccessfully, in a restaurant afterwards with blue wax crayons.
How has this interest informed your own work?Definitely my approach to composition and colour; I love to mix quite muddy natural colours with punchy lapis lazuli blue, olives and emerald greens. I also tend to draw things using a linear perspective, and I use colour wheels and golden sections when plotting out designs.
What led you towards traditional draftsmanship?Someone gave me a beautiful glass dip pen when I was young and I just loved it. They are tricky to draw with at first – you either drip ink everywhere or no ink comes off at all.
Do you feel there are stylistic similarities visible in your work?I draw a lot of stylised hands, jewels and the types of curiosities which reoccur within Renaissance paintings, symbolic flowers, shells, snakes, corals etc. I particularly love the pearl details you see in Sandro Botticelli's work.
Has this aesthetic bled into other areas of your life too, like interiors or fashion?I live in an old shop that my boyfriend and I are slowly renovating. I’d love it to look like Cezanne’s studio, all wooden ladders and paintings lent against the wall. It’s very dark, which is just how I like it, and painted in gloomy greys and browns, and there are lots of candlesticks, my trinket pots, old piles of books. Fashion-wise, I’m not walking around in a ruff but I do wear a lot of black faux leather and anything jewelled by Gucci.
If money were no object, what piece or artefact would you want to own?I would love a copy of The Book of Hours. It is a beautiful medieval illuminated manuscript that forms a heart shape when opened. I have multiple postcards of William Blake’s Pity which I keep in different spots in my studio and house so I should probably get the original. An Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach, the Elder of John Everett Millais, Ophelia would be pretty epic in a bathroom!
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