Stephanie Forrest is the newest artist to join the Bussey Building community. She is a painter, print-maker and graduate of the highly acclaimed Royal Drawing School. She spoke to us about drawing as a fundamental part of her work, and the paintings and objects that inspire her.

How long have you been based in Bussey Building?

I got set up here in January. It’s been great starting the new year in a new place.


How did you find out about the studios here?

A friend of mine put the word out that his wife was looking for someone to share her space. It came at the perfect time as I was having to move out of my studio in Hackney that same week.

Do you share the studio?

That was the plan, but just when I was set to move in, Betty (Alzbeta Jaresova) was offered an opportunity in Marylebone and I decided to take the space on by myself for a while which has been a luxury.


Have you met many other residents since moving in?

Yes, a few. Mostly in the kitchen. And Ocki Magill (of Blue Shop Cottage), who used to have my space a while ago, introduced me to Ines Fernandez de Cordova, a wonderful artist who has her studio just opposite me. There’s definitely a sense of community which feels good to be joining and I hope to meet more people along the corridor.

Please tell us a bit about your work?

I’m a painter and printmaker. I’m mostly interested in light and movement. My subjects are often in motion, be it dancers, swimmers, fireworks. Drawing is a fundamental part of my practice, all my work begins with drawing, from life, from memory or works of art. I tend to draw quite intensely on something sustained then re-work the same subject from memory in the studio, directly onto the plate or canvas.

With a background in Art History, were you always making your own art while studying?

Yes, that’s always been the case. When I was studying for my BA at the Courtauld I went to a lot of evening classes at the Royal Drawing School and holiday courses at the Slade. Again, in Edinburgh, I was painting at the College of Art whilst doing my MA in Curating & Criticism at the university. They have always fed into each other – the academic and the practical – but not directly. I can’t think my way into making art. It has to be more intuitive for me, painting has its own criteria.

What is the process like when making a work, what sort of influences do you look to?

I don’t have a consistent process. Most of the time I’m desperately scrabbling about with stuff in the studio and chance upon ways of doing things. These test pieces usually end up being the most fresh and exciting things. As soon as I get a technique down, the work can become slick and lose that sense of discovery. A lot of my monoprints were made on the kitchen floor, rolling ink onto scrap pieces of perspex and using squeegees, sponges, earbuds, flour – whatever was to hand – to create the images.

As for influences, I’ve spent a long time with Poussin’s work this last year and he’s definitely having a big effect. The paintings never used to speak to me, but looking at his choreography of colour, the composition of his figures, the troubling, sometimes chaotic energy beneath the surface – they’re so strange and inventive, they just keep giving.

Can you tell us about your interest in Japanese prints?

There are some incredibly beautiful early C20th Japanese prints of twilight which I love for their atmosphere and mastery of blue. There’s a particular group of twilight landscapes by Kawase Hasui and Hiroshi Yoshida which play with light reflected in water. They’re incredibly simple but so effective and the idea of collaborating on a series like that really appeals. My series of blue night swimmers are very much influenced by these prints.
Kiyochika’s kōsen-ga, or ‘light ray’ prints of fireworks over Tokyo are also amazing. They’re very nostalgic. Bonfire night makes me very nostalgic! I made a large group of monoprints after the fireworks last year inspired by them.

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I love anything that’s fluid and a bit unpredictable. I want to start making my own inks. In the meantime, I’m going through bottles of Rohrer & Klingner Antique Inks from Cornelissen’s and cheap Chinese brushes.

Do you make paintings full time or do you work elsewhere alongside it?

Full time would be the dream but I appreciate the variety I get by working part-time and contributing to something outside of my own practice. For almost 10 years I’ve been working for another artist; managing the studio, exhibitions and projects, and it’s a really inspiring and supportive place to be. After the Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School I’ve been able to reshape my role and make my own work the primary focus, but it’s always a balancing act.

What do you listen to while painting?

That’s tough. What I listen to changes all the time and depends so much on the work I’m making. I love listening to Cerys Matthews’ Sunday Blues Show on 6Music.

Otherwise it’s a total mix; Fela Kuti, Bonobo, Kiasmos, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins, Kokoroko, Our Native Daughters, The Cinematic Orchestra’s Late Night Tales Album, Kate Bush, David Lang, Max Richter, Nils Frahm.

When I’m drawing specifically to music, I find John Cage’s Percussion Works really stimulating and a great album I found the other day – Paddle to the Sea – with Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, that’s great to draw to.

Follow Stephanie on Instagram, or see all her work on her website.