TOAST Magazine

WORKSPACE / HARRIET HOULT

ARTS & CULTURE

Harriet Hoult is an abstract painter with an instinctive approach to her work. Here she tells us about her studio in west London.

My studio is in Petersham, between Richmond Park and the river. It’s a half brick, half wood building hooked onto the side of a house. It’s in a beautiful spot, surrounded by garden and trees. It has a clear plastic roof which natural light pours through. Doors either end open onto the garden, which is lovely in summer as I can get a completely through-breeze. The studio feels very connected to the outside, but it’s a very private space, tucked away from the world.

I paint against a single whitewashed wall on which I stick paper and canvas. The wall and the stone floor are covered in coloured marks and splashes of paint. Tools and bicycles hang on the opposite, wooden wall, but next week I’m clearing this to make additional work space so that I can have more paintings on the go at once. My paints and brushes are on shelves either end of the studio.

I work mainly in acrylic – tube paint and spray paint but I also use collage, oil pastels and watercolour. I paint abstract forms using a lot of colour by building layers of marks made with brushes, my hands, leaves, a saw – whatever I draw inspiration from in the moment. I tend not to plan. I have an image in my head as a starting point and I make some marks in the direction of that original idea – then I feel my way to what the next set of marks will be. It’s a moment-by-moment evolving process.

I’m painting every day at the moment, so I get to the studio by nine. I start by just standing there, getting into the space, looking around, looking at a piece I was working on the day before. Sometimes I can stand there for 20 minutes, tuning into the environment and the piece of work in progress. When I feel ready, I make a mark and the process starts to unfold. I stop for the occasional snack and drink a lot of tea.

A lot of the sounds of nature enter the space but I otherwise tend to paint in silence. Occasionally I will put some music on, but I couldn’t listen to just anything. There are certain tracks that work and they’re generally mellow and evocative (James Blake, Retrograde. Leonard Cohen, Suzanne). Very occasionally I’ll listen to an episode of Desert Island Discs – I find them inspiring portraits of humanity.

A cat called Goldie sits outside all day and sometimes she comes in. A few times I have invited people here, but it’s important they have the right energy because it’s a very sacred space for me. Recently two little girls from next door came in and painted for an hour. One painted a beautiful multi-coloured heart.

My last studio was in a more urban setting and that affected my work. I worked with more fluoro colours there, whereas in this greener space the work – its colours and shapes – is softer. I’ve had a few studios over the years and when I move to a new one I can’t get back what I was creating in the old.

My ideal space would have a big table in it so that I could run workshops where people can come and do their own thing; people who wouldn’t otherwise have a space to do that, or people who are lacking inspiration and can draw it from other people. I have met so many people who want to explore painting or creative expression but who don’t know how to, or who don’t have the space to do it in. I’d love to create that space in a very informal, unstructured way.

www.harriethoult.com

Photo credit: James Wendlinger

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