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Meet the artist: Cécile Boswell Brown

PUBLISHED: 14:46 12 September 2015 | UPDATED: 14:46 12 September 2015

Cecile Boswell-Brown

Cecile Boswell-Brown

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

This Sevenoaks-based artist is a long way from where she grew up in South Africa but that early influence has shaped her work today.

Cécile Boswell Brown works in a frame barn on the top of a garage near Sevenoaks, where she has been based since 2006.

She has no qualms about not living in London, although she admits the art scene there is “buzzing” but, as she has children, says it is good to be out of the metropolis. Also the advantages of Kent are its proximity to London, making it easy to get to exhibitions - and “my studio is in a very beautiful garden,” she adds.

Cécile grew up in very different surroundings on a farm in Zimbabwe and went to Rhodes University in South Africa, where she studied for a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art. Here, she says, the teaching was very old-fashioned and she was taught to draw like the masters.

For her final year, she had to draw with a pencil “and was not allowed to rub out” but, she admits: “I am grateful because now I can draw, but at that point it seemed quite boring. By the end of the year I chose painting (over graphics and sculpture) and I’ve painted ever since.”

Cécile’s art has been enriched by her experience of living in many very different places, including Chile for four years and Hong Kong for another four, where she found Chinese 
painting fascinating, particularly the rice paper and ink work.

Right until coming to England she made a living from her art, including creating some large works which were hung in the new large buildings being built in Hong Kong.

Her main commissions, however, were in Zimbabwe where she created a Stations of the Cross for Mutare Cathedral.

She also created big oils showing African planting and harvesting tobacco for the tobacco floors, but says her most exciting work was a large African market scene she did last year for the South East Open Studio.

Now in the UK, Cécile has had to do a lot of teaching, but has recently remarried and devoted more time to the family: “I never let myself stop, but it’s difficult to keep juggling.”

I asked her if there had been a particular epiphany whereby she had decided to become an artist. She tells me: “I must have been about 11 or 12 and I was on the Mozambique coast: we used to go on a dhow to an island and there was a Portuguese artist there who he inspired me. I was a sickly child, not allowed to run around, so I would spend my time drawing. That was probably the inspiration.”

Cécile works to themes so, for example, might do four or five London themes together because she works with oil and it has to dry, but also because she works quite fast.

“As soon as I’m pleased with it, I stop. I don’t draw anything out, I do draw in paint, but not pencil. I plan these on the canvas as I am going along. And I work also from sketches.”

Her work is largely figures in a landscape or in a cityscape, but I had been first been attracted to a still life featuring some bottles, which Cécile had painted as a demonstration for a class on Cézanne.

The critical moment for a painter is knowing when to stop and Cécile admits this is difficult, as sometimes she goes on and on. “The big square African market scene took about a year and involved layers and layers of painting,” she says.

“My mother used to stop me painting, but in watercolour you can’t carry on. I like doing quick 20-minute watercolour sketches on holiday.”

For Cécile, formal training is important. “At the end of the day you have got to have contrast, light and dark, thickness of paint, transparency and opacity of paint, you need all this.”

She loves and indeed uses all forms of media, commenting: “Pastel is lovely because it’s like a bridge between drawing and painting.”

Her advice to a young artist is never to stop. “I draw all the time, you have to keep doing it. It’s not the end product that matters, it’s the process.”

Studio visits are welcome, so for a taste of something slightly different, do make time to visit Cécile’s studio.

Get in touch

Studio visits are welcome. The studio is at Fairways, Back Lane, Ightham TN15 9AU, call 07971 572985 for an appointment.

Cécile’s work will be on view at the Kent Painters’ Group on 30, 31 October and 1 November at Sevenoaks School.

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