22 May 2017

interview with an artist

ChloĆ© Harmsworth 

Picture courtesy of the artist
If you are a regular visitor to these pages, which I hope you are! You'll know that we like to champion local talent that we feel deserves a wider audience. We've concentrated predominantly on musicians and today's interviewee has a link to that genre, through her album artwork. So grab a coffee and sit back and enjoy our interview. On and when you can please go and visit her site and if you want a commission then there are details for you to follow. Welcome to the Sketches pages, Chloe Valerie Art.


Sketches: Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is ChloƩ Valerie, I am an artist and editor who lives in St Albans.


Sketches: What made you become an artist?

I’ve just always done it. Apparently, as a child, I had no sense of time as I’d while away hours on one drawing/painting, making us late to everything! It’s part of me and I’ve always had the instinct to do it. I find it very calming and satisfying, and I love the pleasure it gives people when I give them something I’ve created for them. It’s definitely one of the most genuine, fulfilling and happiness-inducing things in life.

Sketches: How would you describe your art?

It’s quite tough to describe your own work!

In terms of form, my art usually consists of ink or pen drawings. I create custom portraits of people and their loved ones, as well as colouring sheets for events, although I have also created illustrations or paintings for musicians to use. Other things I like to do, which have been just for my husband or myself so far, is to create little cartoons and abstract acrylic paintings. So a few very different forms there!

Example of a custom made portrait - courtesy of the artist

In terms of theme/style, I’d say that my illustrations are almost cartoony, but very much nature-focused: I seem to always come back to trees, leaves, birds, woodland creatures… My human characters often cross the line into nature – perhaps because nature is also another big passion of mine. For my custom portraits, the style is more realistic, of course, but hopefully with an interesting twist on it.

I’ve also been told that much of my imagery, such as for Said the Maiden’s album ‘A Curious Tale’, has a dark, creepy, fairy-tale feel to it, which is a nice description, I think! There’s definitely an odd dreaminess about it…(see below).

Chloe valerie
Artwork for Said the Maiden's first Album: courtesy of the artist

Sketches: Which artists influenced your art?

Merho! You won’t have heard of him, probably, but he’s a Belgian cartoonist. I’ve been reading his comic books ‘De Kiekeboes’ since I was little, and I can definitely see that his style has influenced me. I liked how he could create lots of different characters using different eye and nose shapes etc., and so I experimented with the same as a young teenager. I used to draw caricatures of all my friends and make up my own characters in my version of his style!

Another big influence that has become apparent to me over the last few years is Magritte (another Belgian!). I adore his surrealist style and the way he portrays elements of nature, in what I call his ‘blue sky style’, and I’ve noticed that my weird nature images and acrylic paintings have a hint of him within them.

I also love Ralph Steadman, in particular, his illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson’s writings. His brand of craziness is particularly attractive to me. Every now and again I do have a Steadman phase!

Finally, I can’t underestimate how much Tove Jansson has inspired me, with both her illustrations and writings for her Moomin series. They are just magical. 

Sketches: Is art your full-time career or a hobby?

Alas, it is only a hobby right now, as I haven’t quite cracked how to make more money from it! Being a freelance editor is my full-time career at the moment, which is good as it pays the bills! Hopefully, the benefit of working for myself will be that I can squeeze more time in for my art – but it can be hard to create art to a schedule, as you never know when inspiration will hit (or when work deadlines have to take priority!)

Sketches: Where can people see/buy your art? 

On my website: chloevalerieart.weebly.com and also on Facebook and Instagram at Chloe Valerie Art. I don’t have a shop yet, as currently, my work is custom-made, but people are welcome to email/message me to let me know what they’d like. My email address is chloevalerie86@gmail.com 

My ambition is to exhibit some of my work, so watch this space!

Courtesy of the artist

Sketches: How would you describe your art in one word?

Curious?! Quirky? Imaginative? Nature-y? I’m not sure that anything can be described in one word, really, but I’d love to know which words other people would use describe my art. What do you think, Gavin?! ;) - How would you describe Chloe's work? Leave a comment at the bottom, we'd love to know. 

Sketches: Can you see your art changing or will you keep to the same style and format? 

I imagine that when it comes to painting, my art will change as I explore more techniques and ideas, especially as I always want to try something new (or traditional!). But I think I will always do my pen drawings too and that my style for those possibly won’t alter much.

chloe valerie

Sketches: What projects have you got in the pipeline?

Well, I recently created my fifth colouring sheet for the Woodland Trust, and I hope to do more art for them this summer. I’d also like to start painting in my new garden, trying out some new things and getting long-awaited ideas on the canvas finally! I’m particularly keen to create a series of paintings and some more colouring sheets and portraits.

Extra Questions:
1) What does art mean to you?

It’s therapeutic and something that quietens and concentrates my mind and body. It’s a great way to express whatever is currently occupying me, and it is a lot of fun too!

2) Are there other formats you'd like to get into?

I was never really taught how to use different paints at school (can you believe it?), so I’d like to learn how to use watercolours well, as I’ve only had minor success with it in the past. I really admire people who can do beautiful, impressionistic landscape paintings in that medium, so I’d love to do my own. 

3) What's your work environment like? Do you draw/paint in silence, do you have a studio etc.?

It’s usually at a table in our living room, whilst my husband is making dinner or watching TV! If I’m on my own I’ll listen to music I know really well, such as Florence and the Machine, Biffy Clyro, The Cure or The Smiths, just to have some lovely background sound. I dream of having a light, airy studio in a converted barn/stable/attic, where I could work on bigger canvasses. Ha! Maybe one day!

My thanks to Chloe for her time and allowing me to showcase some of her work. I hope you found the interview informative and interesting. As we stated before please if you can go and visit her page (links in the interview). Thanks as always...more interviews to come in the future. 


5 May 2017

travel trumps guide to great missenden

A Little Village with a Big Heart

Great Missenden is a small village located in the heart of Missenden Valley, as part of the Chiltern Hills. This quaint, picturesque village may be small but at its heart, the village boasts a museum dedicated to a famous ex-resident and one of the world's most popular and famous writers; Roald Dahl, (click on the link to learn more). If that wasn't enough the village is also a great starting point for a walk or cycle ride and is less than an hour from central London! Welcome to our latest (new look) Travel Trumps, the second in our Chiltern Hills series. 

A Quick Question

This is our fourth Travel Trump, with a new design, and I was wondering if to try and turn these into a series of cards that could be sold as a pack of mini guides. Does this sound like a good idea? I'd love to know your opinion. So please get in touch through the various social media channels. Thank you, until the next time. 

21 April 2017

one day in dorset

Beyond,(Beyond) the Back Garden  

When you get the chance to explore some new territory, it's very hard to turn the offer down, even if it's a day trip. I didn't turn the offer down and glad I went. Although in hindsight, it would have been better to spend at least the night away, unfortunately, we didn't have that choice. So we endured over six hours of sitting on a coach to Dorset. At least two hours of which was being stuck in London traffic. Boy, it's awful. How a taxi driver has the tolerance to drive around the capital's clogged up streets amazes me. They are either amazingly patient or just plain stupid! 


Searching for Dinosaurs

The Jurassic coast, our destination, is a 96 mile stretch of coastline that starts close to Swanage, at Old Harry Rocks and weaves its way down to Exmouth, or more precisely Orcombe Point. During the Jurassic period, this part of the world was part of a tropical sea! You certainly can't say that now! Strangely or stupidly I've swum in the sea here, on a number of occasions, and it's bloody cold! Even in summer. Sea swimming is actually quite enjoyable and liberating until you get a mouthful of salty sea water, and then you curse and get out.  This trip thankfully didn't involve taking a dip in the sea, this was purely tourism at it's most basic. See a place, take photos, walk a bit, jump back on the bus and then repeat the process. Welcome to our day in Dorset.

Poole to Corfe Castle 

We started in Poole, and soon left! A quick glance out the coach window across the harbour was enough for the driver and the group. I actually quite like Poole, although I've never really had the chance to explore it properly. One day, one day. We moved on to take the chain ferry across Poole Harbour to the Purbeck Peninsula. I once got caught up at this ferry crossing by a traditional gipsy caravan, who had been refused entry onto the ferry. They decided to have a sit-down protest until the police arrived, who after an hour or two eventually managed to move them away. It's not often these days you can boast that you got delayed because of a horse and carriage! 


This time we got on the ferry without any fuss and weaved our way towards the majestic Corfe Castle. I may have mentioned this place before on these pages, it's worth mentioning again. Perched on a steep hill the remains of the castle dominate the landscape. It's worth investigating if you can. Climbing to it's highest point you get a real sense of its once splendid grandeur and what a fortress it must have been. The village is rather pleasant too, especially in the off-season. You can find a tiny museum that's worth a look. It's tucked away beneath the church and is a mini historical treasure trove. We didn't have much time, so a quick explore, some photos and back to the coach for the main event. 

Durdle Door

Head down the coastline a further 10 miles or so from Corfe, you'll come to Durdle Door arch. As far as I can remember, I've never visited this natural wonder before. I'm glad I have now. This archway in the cliffs is one of the UK's great works of natural art. The cliff tops to access it are just as spectacular, as was the sunset. 

Durdle Door is part of the Lulworth Estate and can be accessed from Lulworth Cove. We were dropped off at the other starting point, Durdle Door Holiday Park. This is closer and slightly easier to access the attraction. Whichever drop off point you choose, have your walking boots and be prepared to scale steep ascending and descending paths to get there. We walked back across the cliff tops to Lulworth Cove and found it an exhilarating experience. 

Sitting on top of the steep cliffs looking down on Durdle Door, you can only marvel at the beauty of the landscape and the English Channel. Helped by fine weather and unseasonably warm temperatures. It really is an inspiring place to visit and was the perfect finale to our day. Little did we know at the time that another 3-hour coach journey awaited!  


One Day in Dorset

The UK has countless wonderful places to visit, Durdle Door should be high on anyone's wanderlust list. Visiting the Jurassic coast may require a bit more thought and planning, but it won't disappoint. It's a magical place, where nature is the ruler and you can only sit and admire its beauty.  Whether it's one day in Dorset or three you will come away in wonder at just how pretty this part of the world is. 

Have you been to Durdle Door or Corfe Castle? I'd love to know what you think.  


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