This week Brighton Journal spoke to local fine artist and printmaker, Troy Ohlson. Troy layers paint, sculptural collage and textural impasto with delicate detail to explore the beauty of British countryside, coastlines and woodlands. She frequently works in watercolour to capture the character and expression of wildlife, bringing these scenes to life by contrasting expressive brushstrokes with intricate lines. She also designs handmade silver jewellery and copper statues for the home and garden. We discussed Troy’s recent projects, popular Artist Open House and favourite local walks. Keep reading to find out more about Troy and her wonderful work.
What are you doing today?
I’m twisting and hammering copper into Jewel Flowers and Copper Creatures in my little studio. I’ve just had my second Covid jab and I’m experiencing a few side effects, but happily less than the first one.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I create my art in my little glass roofed Brighton studio at the back of the house. Bird song and the morning sun pour in from the garden.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I’ve been working on an exciting commission for a secret present for someone’s other half. It’s so special that their partner loves my work so much that someone seeks me out to create their special gift! I’ve also recently created a range of 100% cotton tea towels of my art and designed the packaging. This is different to anything I’ve done before and it’s a thrill to see my work in this new context.
What made you decide to become an artist?
Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, images whirl in my mind; images of semi-abstracted views of what’s around me which I can’t wait to create on canvas or with copper or silver. It’s a great source of encouragement and delight that people respond to my work and take it home to enjoy and live with!
What are you currently working on?
A new painting and collage on canvas of the iconic West Pier. I’m excited about a new impasto technique I’ve created for the pebbles and surf.
What are the key themes in your work?
Colour, Atmosphere and Expression bring my work to life. Texture and collage play a big part in my work too.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
I would like people to notice the sculptural impasto, inventive texture and rich colours – that the expressive semi-abstraction stirs their memories and feelings to capture the essence of the subject.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
As both a painter and a printmaker, I blur the boundaries between the two, mixing media within each image; often adding collage, watercolour, acrylic, and pen and ink to my paintings, etchings, collagraphs, and fine art giclée prints. The influence of each medium plays an important part in determining the character of the final piece.
Enjoying the process of creation and allowing myself the freedom to experiment keeps my work fresh and exciting.
What equipment could you not do without?
This is a tricky one to answer; when I’m collaging my collection of unusual textures is most precious; when I’m sketching it’s my favourite pencils and pens stored in my son’s childhood pencil case; when I’m painting it’s my brushes and paints; when I’m creating copper sculptures and filigree jewellery it’s my treasure chest of ethically sourced gems, vintage buttons and jewellery tools… Perhaps the most important is my specially designed painting studio which we had built with its bespoke workbench, ingenious storage systems and the fabulous retro stool I sit on to work which my daughter helped me assemble.
Who or what inspires you?
The sea in all its shimmering splendour. I’ve lived by the sea around the world most of my life. Even before I moved to Brighton, I lived on the Gold Coast of West Africa, beside the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas, on the New England Coast in Connecticut and even in Jamaica – I’m drawn to paint magical atmospheric seascapes, dramatic skies and gorgeous golden beaches.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
My work is enriched by living in our fantastic vibrant city with its quirky arty culture, its shimmering pebble beach, the beautiful South Downs and gorgeous woodlands nearby. Even the wonderful wildlife that visits my tiny garden every day appears in my work.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
I do like to go for walkies with Boz our rescue Westie Whippet, we walk on the seafront, in the woods and on the Downs – it’s always lovely to finish a walkies in a pub or cafe. On the seafront we like Cafe de la Mer and one of our favourite local walks is along Dyke Road, through Dyke Road Park to our favourite pub The Good Companions – it’s Boz’s fav too as they always give him treats and cuddles.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
I fell in love with Brighton when I came here do my degree – there are so many galleries, pop up art shops and cafes exhibiting art, and the wonderful Artists Open Houses Festival twice a year. For 20 years I’ve opened my own house and studio as the popular and friendly The Trojan House.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
I would absolutely love to work with Gustav Klimt, especially to learn the stunning gilding techniques he was taught by his father who was a gold engraver.
What’s your favourite colour?
Blue – the light blue of the sun shining on the summer sea. It’s the colour of our kitchen and bannisters and always get compliments from visitors to my Artists Open House The Trojan House.