It may come as no surprise that a Glaswegian who studied in Edinburgh should find herself wholly in sympathy with Scottish painting's well-known love of the colour and the light of southern places. Nor is it surprising that Venice has been a favourite subject in recent years. Isobel Johnstone draws a great deal, and finds pastel a convenient medium. It is quick and good for intense colour. Sometimes pastel is a starting point for acrylic paintings where a smooth ground allows transparent effects. Oils are generally used for larger studies of Venice, as well as for London subjects, portraits and still life.
Isobel's first paintings of Venice were of rooftops, but she soon moved to working at canal level, which was much more of a challenge because so many artists had already achieved so much from this perspective. An element of threat lurks beneath their seductive patterns. Pastel is ideal for working on the spot, and that it can also suggest something of the fragile materiality of the city.
In the city, architecture and engineered forms provide both structure and permanence, which contrast with the more fluent forms and seasonal changes in nature.
Drawing and painting from life is a way of touching base and of understanding complicated form, as well as a reminder of shared humanity. Portraits need extraordinary attention to particularities. A likeness may be achieved quickly, but can be difficult to hold as the painting progresses. On the other hand, a still life with flowers is never really static because the flowers change each day, and this traditional subject is full of surprises.
In the 'archive', a broad selection of older work is arranged in reverse date order to provide a reference collection, to give a glimpse of the background and context to the works in the main part of the site. It includes, for example, the first paintings of Venice made - unusually - from a rooftop altana near the Rialto, and the on-the-spot pastel sketches of the canal entrance into the Palazzo Grimani that formed the basis of the Watergate oils and prints which were worked up in the studio. The effect of the seasons on the leafy view from a first-floor window was a favourite subject from a previous studio in Notting Hill, which led in its turn to a preoccupation with the shape and texture of the full canopy of mature trees in leaf.
To view examples, click on one of the 'thumbnails' above or on one of the subjects listed in the left margin. The artist is happy to arrange a viewing in her Hammersmith studio, by email or by telephone 07798 894 222. Other recent work may also be seen at the Rowley Gallery, 115 Kensington Church St. London W8 7LN. Prices range from £250 to £350 for framed pastels, from £250 to £900 for paintings, and from £35 to £70 for unframed prints and drawings.
NB. This site is being rebuilt and updated. Please bear with us during this process. Any incomplete details, links that don't work, inconsistent sizes, etc. will be put right over the next few weeks.
Copyright © Isobel Johnstone 2016. Page updated 11 September 2016. Website designed by Mike Sixsmith.