Felicity Osborne

Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist/maker?

I started drawing and painting at the age of 13 yrs in evening classes, in Leominster Herefordshire, and found a subject that I felt confident in. When finishing school I moved onto an Art Foundation course and Shrewsbury, then progressed to a BA (Hons) in Hull, specializing in sculpture. After this, I ventured into the world of ceramics, and learnt to throw, eventually setting up as a potter and selling domestic wares to local outlets and National Trust shops in the Bristol area.
A couple of years later I progressed to completing a PGCE in Art and Design in Birmingham and went into teaching secondary level art.
After a few years of full time teaching in Gloucestershire and then West Sussex, I moved to Hong Kong with my then partner, and had two children. Whilst there I taught English as a home tutor to local children, and had two boys of my own.
On returning to the UK I had a decade of working for an Adventure Travel company working with teenagers in secondary school teams. I eventually took redundancy and accidentally found myself pursing an art career again, working as an art technician at RGSW.
I have been thrilled to discover, almost accidentally, the delights of acrylic fluid art and family and friends started to ask for commissions. This eventually led to opening an Etsy store.
I love the immediacy of this technique, it's very much about working in the moment and working with the paint and using it's fluidity to create unique pieces which are truly one offs. You never quite know what's going to happen, and that's keeps it interesting!

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

Having, at one time or other, used most techniques in art, I can vouch that to achieve a high quality result in fluid art is as technically difficult as any other category of art. Acrylic paints are mixed with various mediums and many artists in this field have their own recipes. That's partly due to varying climates and humidity levels, as the medium used effects not just how the paint flows but also the drying time, which is a crucial factor. If the paints are mixed too thin to achieve a good flow, then flaking is a risk. Mix the paint too thick means too much paint may remain on the surface of the canvas and this can lead to the paint splitting as it dries. Allow it to dry to fast (in hot weather for example) and again cracks can appear. So paint consistency is one of the main factors to get right. So a lot of preparation time goes into mixing the mediums and paints prior to starting the painting. These are often left to stand so air bubbles can dissipate before use. There are a multitude of techniques for actually applying the paint to the canvas and these come with fairly unglamorous names such as 'flip cup', 'dirty pour', 'ring pour' etc. A technique I often use is the 'Dutch pour' where a layer of paint is applied to the surface, then other colours are blown over the surface using either, the mouth, straws, compressed air or a hairdryer. The canvas has to be a tight as a drum as if there is any slack the paint will run to the center, so canvas preparation is also an important factor. When applying the paint the canvas has to be perfectly leveled also. An artist can create a wonderful image, only to return and find that a few hours later half of it's slid off the side! However, once all the preparation and set up is perfected the actual image making process is quite addictive. Different paints respond to each other, so it's not just colour that comes into play but the density of different paints according to brand, colour and quality of paint. Paints with heavier densities can sink through others, whilst lighter density paints can rise and be a more dominating colour in the final outcome, but these mixes can also create effects and stunning detailed features. There are so many variables at play that every piece is totally unique. Various additives can also bring another dimension by casing chemical reaction and producing various effects. To try to control these effects is another challenge whilst creating an interesting, successful composition. within the time frame that the paint is still workable (which may only be forty five minutes to an hour. Overwork a painting and it can all turn rather muddy quite quickly, so the vibrancy can be lost. A large painting than has to remain perfectly level whilst drying, which can take from days up to a week. Occasionally I may add embellishments such a gold leaf at this stage or make minor adjustments with small details. Paintings then have to cure for two to three weeks before being varnished ready for sale. So, for a commission piece may take between 4-6 weeks from start to finish.

Where you do usually work from?

Initially I started work in my kitchen on the worktop, but I started to have clients request larger and larger canvases which was becoming impossible in a working kitchen with two teenagers and a dog. Also, it's a messy process and my kitchen was starting to suffer. So, I bit the bullet and started to get my cellar renovated and transformed from a dark, damp storage area into a cosy, warm, well equipped studio. It's the best place to be on a chilly winter day now!

Have you developed any unique or unusual techniques in your work?

There are so many techniques to try in fluid art and more are always being developed. I think it's one of the reasons I became hooked on it. I'd watch a video of another artists doing a 'swipe' or a 'wrecked ring pour' and want to try it for myself. So I have more to try and more to discover. Personally, so far, 'Dutch Pours' and 'Galaxy Pours' are the most popular with clients.

Tell us about a favourite piece of work and what it means to you.

I think one of my favourite pieces is a large 120 x 60 cms canvas called 'Firestorm'. It's a large vivid red wave across the canvas, that's not only bright but has a wonderful sense of movement. The consistency of paint meant that once the composition was finished the image stayed in place and dried with a lovely finish. This was also the first painting which was seen in House and Garden Magazine and will feature on a poster for Worcestershire Open Studios 2021. I've recently sold it to a local couple and the lady who saw it and bought it is also called Felicity! There aren't many of us!

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Most of my inspiration comes from the work of other artists in this field who generously share their techniques and results, but also from the materials themselves. I might achieve a certain effect in one painting and then feel I'd like to try it again but with different colours etc. Trying out different materials, mixes, mediums and additives brings a sense of experimenting in a lab to see how materials respond to each other.

What advice would you have for artists who are just starting out?

Have fun, experiment, go large, don't be too precious with materials as it'll restrict your creativity. Be bold and learn from your mistakes! Also, don't listen to the detractors, especially with abstract art. I occasionally have comments along the lines of "a child could do it", "you can't call that art" and "it's just decorative". Those comments always sting, but my life in art gives me credibility and for any one thoughtless comment I'll have 500 admirers, and clients who pay to have these pieces in pride of place in their homes, which is tremendously flattering.

If you sell your work, can you tell us more about how you do this?

The vast majority is my work is sold online, either directly through my Etsy store or through Facebook and Instagram. I also receive quite a few commissions either through people seeing my work on social media or locals and word of mouth. I managed one market at The Royal Porcelain Works pre Covid, and have participated in several virtual markets since then. My tip is to keep up with social media posts, even if you don't feel it makes a difference it does. People will often follow you for a while before seeing an item that particularly works for them.

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

Luckily for me, my studio in the cellar was just completed as we went into the first lock down and I was furloughed from work. This actually gave me the time I needed to get established properly and start scaling up my work. So, personally, it was a more productive time.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

My future plans are to enable more exposure of my work so viewers can see it first hand, rather than through photos. So much of the impact and wonderful details of a piece are lost even with good quality photos and videos. Worcestershire Open Studios this summer will be a great opportunity for that, along with an Etsy market that's being planned before Christmas. I'm also hoping to make some links with Interior designers and may look into doing limited edition prints.

See more of Felicity’s work on her Worcestershire Artists page.

External website links:

www.flowbyflo.co.uk