Bright, colourful paintings of classic cars and fighter aircraft caught the eye of wheelworldreviews.co.uk editor DAVID HOOPER while he was on holiday in Cornwall. He soon got chatting to artist Anna-Louise Felstead.
WANDERING around the picturesque Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac last summer, I happened across a little art gallery. Anyone who has visited the West Country may quite rightly think there is nothing unusual about that, after all, the place is littered with them, but this little art gallery stopped me in my tracks.
There were three reasons. The first was the distinctive, bright and colourful style of the pictures, the second was the subject of the paintings and drawings – cars and aircraft, and the third, was the attractive artist and her little dog called Ruby, who watched her owner’s every move.
I spent several absorbing minutes browsing the pictures, trying to decide which I liked best. It was difficult, they were all good and featured some of my favourite things – classic Alfa Romeos, racing cars and Harrier Jump Jets.
The gallery was quiet and needless to say we soon got chatting. Busily printing and framing her pictures, was 31-year-old Anna-Louise Felstead, a former Royal College of Art graduate, originally from London. It was clear we shared a common interest, but the fact that she can draw and paint, and I can’t, meant that she had been invited to spend a few days on an aircraft carrier as a guest of the Royal Navy – one of my own long-held ambitions.
Anna-Louise spent much of her time sitting on the flight deck, painting the crew of HMS Illustrious working on her helicopters and her Sea Harrier jump jets. This, and an earlier trip on HMS Cornwall, where she focused her time and her brushes on the ship’s crew, resulted in her putting on a solo exhibition at the Naval Club, in Mayfair, in 2005.
A chance conversation at a cocktail party with a senior naval officer, also led to her being invited to fly in one of the aircraft she had spent so much time painting, the iconic Harrier. Her pilot was Henry Mitchell, based at RNAS Yeovilton, in Somerset, who had injured his leg after being forced to eject from a plane on a previous flight, and delighted in telling Anna-Louise about the experience. Anna-Louise said: “It didn’t do much to calm my pre-flight nerves, but I certainly made sure I knew how the ejector seat worked.
“I think he did his best to make me ill, but I wasn’t. We flew around Wales for around an hour, but it didn’t seem to bother the sheep on the ground – they were used to the planes.”
Sadly, Anna-Louise (31), has now closed her Cornish art gallery which was taking up too much of her time and preventing her from pursuing her love, and obvious talent, for painting. She’s now based at the family home, a beautiful thatched cottage in the little village of Wilmington, in East Sussex, on the edge of the South Downs.
Anna-Louise describes herself as a reportage artist and illustrator who loves to paint outdoors, on location. As well as trips to sea with the Royal Navy, her art has taken her backstage at London Fashion Week and to Cartier Polo tournaments in St Moritz and Dubai. On the automotive track, she has been to Pebble Beach in America and to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix Historique, and the Le Mans Classic, but closer to home she can regularly be found at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, or the Goodwood Revival, where she will paint pictures of the cars, Alfa Romeos are her favourites, and sell them to their owners.
Anna-Louise has even taken part in some historic racing and rallying at the invitation of grateful owners, so is no stranger to the world of competition, something which I think shows in the life she puts into her pictures, some of which almost have a cartoon, or caricature quality to them.
Her very first solo exhibition was at Colville Place Gallery, in London, when she was still a student at St Martin’s College of Art & Design.
Today, most of her commissions are by word of mouth. She has just completed a mural at Cafe Rouge, in London’s Euston Station, a commission from a company called Future Brand.
Anna-Louise said: “By the time I was invited to get involved, the design had already been done. All I had to do was transcribe it onto the wall.
“I was working behind boarded-up windows in artificial light, which is never the easiest thing to do, but the client seemed really pleased with the finished result.
She has just returned from a trip to Buenos Aires where Anna-Louise was mixing business and pleasure, visiting friends, doing some painting, and trying to get her own distinctive art established in Argentina.
“Over there, art tends to be either very cheap or very expensive, with little in between. I think there might be a niche for reasonably priced, decent paintings for people to hang on their walls.”
If you want to see Anna-Louise’s paintings for yourself, she sometimes stages exhibitions in London, some shops in Port Isaac still sell them, and she has paintings hanging at the Zander Bar in the Bank Restaurant, St James, London.
Perhaps the easiest way though, is to have a look at her website, www.alfelstead.com
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