With everyone from Vogue.com to Michelle Ogundehin talking about her pastel nude drawings currently on display at Liberty London, Hester Finch is the one to watch in the art world. Based in south east London where she lives with husband and kid no. 1, Hester juggles work as an artist and motherhood with alluring aplomb. We caught up with Hester to find out more…
Tell us what you do and how you came to do it…
I am an artist, based in London, working predominantly in oil paint and soft pastel. I graduated from the Ruskin School at Oxford University in 2002 and followed this with stints working variously in the art world, as a historical building conservator and in a hospice. I have been developing my artistic practise since 2008.
What do you do now?
Although I have always painted a variety of subjects, from landscapes to portraits, my focus since 2014 has been on the nude. Specifically a series of headless female nudes, titled The Portrait of a Lady and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. More recently, since I became a mother and now pregnant to my second child, I have been working in vibrant colourful soft pastel which is a quicker medium than oil (at least in the way I use it) and the women have, for the most part, reclaimed their heads. They are still, however, penned into domestic spaces with looming shadows.
We guess there’s no such thing as a typical day, but what do your days involve?
I am lucky through the support of my husband and our parents to be able to have three days a week childcare. This has allowed me the ideal balance as both artist and mother and my week is split between the two roles.
So after a 7.30am start and having packed the kid off to his grandparents/nanny/nursery, by 10am I settle down to work in my studio which I have at home. At least once a week, my life model will make the journey from Camden down to south east London and will sit for me. Sometimes we work in silence, sometimes with music, often cackling over our week’s latest escapades (being just 25, hers are infinitely more interesting than mine). I have also started filming myself whilst I work using the time-lapse function on the iphone – a fantastic tool for capturing the artistic process. When I do not have my model, I work back into my drawings, or focus on my commissions. Or as is the case recently whilst I wait for this baby to arrive, I have been using my own pregnant body as a subject.
Admin inevitably takes up a large part of the working day: from packing the latest series of drawings to be sent to my gallerist at Partnership Editions, to the now crucial task of updating my Instagram account. Instagram has become the playground of the art world, and is used by a vast network of artists from the keen hobbyist to the most famous – all engaging with each other in a democratic and mostly supportive fashion. It is also, crucially, a space where sales are now made and a fantastic place to find emerging talent and to begin building an art collection. My works on paper are sold by Partnership Editions who found me via Instagram and who were in turn discovered by Liberty London where there is now an in-store pop-up space of Partnership Edition artists, including myself. There’s no doubt that Instagram is a game changer in terms of the audience you can reach and the valuable feedback you receive about the work you produce.
I used to be a real night owl especially when I had a deadline, but these days, my working day must end at 5pm when the kid returns. I have no regrets about this though, my career has never been stronger than since becoming a mother.
What inspired the colourful pastel nude drawings and oil paintings that are currently on display at Liberty?
My female nudes are created very much from a female and feminist perspective. They were begun in the lead-up to my marriage and reflect my experience of being a woman, from the prospect of the mundane domestic environment, to the dehumanising effects of objectification and the uninvited male gaze. They are psychological spaces made up of a deliberate jarring of beautiful colours with distorted subject.
What do you love most about your work as an artist?
There is no greater satisfaction than the pleasure of creating a piece of work that you are happy with. The best way to describe that excitement is akin to when you first meet a person you are attracted to. Of course, the next day you might wake up and feel completely differently about that painting or drawing, or indeed man, but in that moment it’s totally thrilling.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Early on in my career, the biggest challenge has simply been consistently making enough money to allow me to paint. This comes with time and developing networks, and I have often supported this through part-time work elsewhere. As life becomes busier and my responsibilities have extended beyond my own needs to those of my family, it is now a question of finding time to follow through on all the ideas that buzz around my head.
As well as kid no. 2 on the way, what are your plans for the rest of 2018?
The new baby will necessarily dominate the rest of 2018. However, there will be ongoing projects with Partnership Editions including some workshops and events at Liberty London. Heading into 2019, I will begin to work towards a solo show with my other gallery Jessica Carlisle.
To see more of Hester’s work or find out more visit her website here.