Eleanor Watson is a London-based artist who has exhibited widely in London, New York and Amsterdam. In 2017, she was the winner of the prestigious Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award - an award that brings an emerging artist to Derbyshire to produce work inspired by the county’s landscape, history and people. 'Dear Reader' was the title of her solo show where Eleanor produced a series of paintings exploring the lives of Derby's famous female figures.
Her paintings depict a variety of interior, garden and landscape scenes, which are full of mystery and ambiguity. They are often deliberately uninhabited, save for a few domestic objects which serve as clues. Armchairs, lampshades and paintings are invitations for the viewer to speculate on the lives and characters that might occupy these spaces.
We met up with Eleanor in her light-filled studio in Lewisham
Eleanor: Tea with milk
Tell me about an ideal day for you.
Eleanor: It would be a spring or autumnal day because that means the studio would be temperate. It would be great to start with breakfast on the roof terrace at home followed by cycling to the studio.
I usually like to potter a while before I start to work. It gives me a chance to take in the studio and assess what I have to tackle for the day.
A day of engaged and focused painting would be ideal.
Do you have favourite place to visit for inspiration?
Eleanor: It would either be the Queen’s House by Inigo Jones or the South London Gallery. I go to the Queen’s House for the architecture and am especially fond of the cantilevered stair there.
The South London Gallery is always an inspiring visit and the fact that it’s nearby is a bonus.
What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
I’m into true crime podcasts and having my headphones on while I’m painting.
In terms of audiobooks, I just downloaded one by Murakami. If the audiobook is 40 hours or longer, that’s even better because I can just sink into 1 story for a couple of days whilst working. You can encounter the characters for longer that way.
What tool, digital or analogue, can you not live without?
Eleanor: A pencil that never runs out.
Brushes are no good without paint. That statement could go on my tombstone.
"I'm into true crime podcasts and having my headphones on while I'm painting."
If you could invite 1 person to dinner, whether dead or alive, who would it be?
Eleanor: I strongly believe that I shouldn’t meet my heroes, especially if my heroes happen to be male 19th-century painters. There is a high chance they would be chauvinists and that wouldn’t be pleasant.
Jane Austen would be amazing or maybe even Shakespeare so I could find out if he actually penned his works himself.
What are you currently reading?
Eleanor: I normally have a few books on the go. I’m going between a volume of short stories by Thomas Mann and ‘The Festival of Insignificance” by Milan Kundera.
There is a lightness in the way Kundera writes which I really enjoy.
Imagine it’s a late night and you have a deadline. What’s the takeaway craving? (We are not promoting working late.)
Eleanor: Chips and curry sauce would be a convenient solution.
"There is a lightness in the way [Milan] Kundera writes which I really enjoy."
Is there someone that you like to follow on Instagram?
Eleanor: There is an account called @themerchantbanker. He makes work with brilliant colour choices.
Any advice for a younger self or for someone entering the field?
Eleanor: Sometimes the art world can be harsh and judgmental. Often, those judgements reflect more on the person judging than the person being judged.
Take your time to feel confident in yourself and your subject matter.
Quickfire round! Pick the first choice in each question that comes to your mind.
Hip hop or Jazz? Jazz
Red or Blue? Blue
Picasso or Matisse? Matisse
Kitchen or Living Room? Living room
Brick or concrete? Brick
Spicy or Non-spicy? Spicy
Summer or Winter? Winter
Museum or Library? Library