Vanessa Foley at Charlton Hall: Q&A

Image source: Vanessa Foley, 2018 – One of Vanessa’s pieces, featuring a white-feathered peacock.

An artist inspired by the diverse natural landscape of the Northumberland countryside, Vanessa Foley, has teamed up with the designers at Charlton Hall to create a stunning wall mural perfectly juxtaposing the more eccentric interiors by bringing a touch of natural elegance to the Hall.

Now her piece has taken its prided place at Charlton Hall, we asked the Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based artist what inspired the artwork and her opinions on Northumberland’s newest, cheekiest wedding and events venue!


We asked Vanessa:

1.What are your greatest influences as an artist?

“As I’m primarily a bird artist my main influence comes from the birds themselves. I have such a great love and am in perpetual awe of these amazing creatures and have an intense desire to portray them in newer and better ways, this keeps me constantly inspired.”


2. Who is your favourite icon and how have they inspired you?

“I have a long list of bird artists that hold iconic status to me, but in particular the New Zealand bird artist Raymond Harris Ching stands out. There are many artists out there who paint incredibly well and whose work could be mistaken for photos. Although I’m in awe of the skill such artists show, I feel their work is more about the considerable skill of the artist and less about the bird, but with Raymond Harris Ching I feel the secret life of every bird in his paintings, the work is all about the subject’s character and personality with exaggerated poses, unusual interactions and even occasional speech bubbles that bring life and vibrancy to his unsurpassable work.”


3. What is the most challenging project you have worked on?

“I think that my feeling is that the piece I’m currently working on is the most challenging project. My aim as an artist is to constantly be improving, so with each new drawing or painting I’ll try to add new elements to the work, improve my technique or tell the story of my subject in a deeper way. I’m certainly not someone who feels relaxed and refreshed after a day painting, every single artwork is a struggle that leaves me exhausted but satisfied as I see small glimmers of progress slowly emerging.”


Image source: Vanessa Foley, 2018 – Vanessa perfecting one of her elegant artworks

4. How did you first discover your talent for drawing in such amazing detail?

“As long as I can remember I’ve always been very interested in drawing and painting. As a naturally shy child (and adult!) it was sort of the perfect escape from stressful situations. Although, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a little less relaxing now that art is my full-time job, I still do find the repetitive layering nature of my work and the intense focus on minute detail quite meditative.”


5. Where is your favourite place to be in the world and why?

“I have a great love of the English countryside and the Lake District in particular, I just love the quiet grandeur of the landscape and the fact it’s just an hour and a half drive from my home is an unbelievable luxury and one I never get tired of indulging in.”


6. Do you get inspiration for your work in lots of different places?

“I actually get a lot of inspiration from social media sites like Instagram. I have hundreds of incredibly talented, hard-working artists I follow in my feed and I get to see new work from them on a daily basis. I always find something new and inspirational in the work they produce.

But I get my main, and most important, inspiration from my extensive collection of bird art books. Although the internet can be a wonderful resource it’s no comparison to actually sitting quietly with a physical book. They are my constant companions and most treasured possessions.”


Image source: Vanessa Foley, 2018 – Another of Vanessa’s pieces, this one featuring a Buzzard perched above the city skyline.

7. Have you ever considered different mediums to pencil / paint for an entire piece in your work?

“I’ve definitely dabbled in other mediums and have a large collection of art supplies that I’ve bought and promised myself time to learn, but there honestly just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day! I guess when it comes down to it, I would really rather spend that extra time perfecting any skills I have than starting fresh and taking baby steps with a brand new medium.”


8. Are you able to still make art for yourself / your own pleasure?

“Although the majority of my artwork is for clients or galleries, in the last few months I’ve been lucky enough to be able to carve out a little time for myself to work on passion projects. My focus is still very firmly on birds in these pieces but they are birds that have stolen my heart and I just have to paint or draw. I’m hoping this new freedom will encourage me to be braver in my choice of subject and composition, although I’m sticking firmly to birds, without worrying about frightening off galleries or clients!”


9. How did you feel to be asked to have your work included here at Charlton Hall, so close to home?

“In short I felt absolutely honoured! To have my work featured at such a stunning building is pretty amazing in itself, but for my work to be featured as part of the gorgeously eccentric interior design is a dream come true. As the vast majority of my work is shown in America it’s very exciting that Charlton Hall is so close to home, I can’t wait to visit!”

Image source: Vanessa Foley, 2018 – A piece featuring a black crow.

10. Charlton Hall is wonderful, wacky and weird with some very eccentric rooms and ideas, How does it feel to know that your work will be surrounded by such quirky decor?

“Wonderful, wacky and weird is just my taste so I feel very excited to see my work in this setting! I often wish that I could push my work further in that direction but I seem to lack the confidence to do that, so to have my work surrounded by such eccentric decor I’m sure will provide much inspiration to be a little more daring myself.”


11. What was the idea behind your painting of the owl, the moths and the black background?

“This painting was part of a series of Nocturnes I’d been working on in 2017, I felt compelled to create this body of work during a time which I felt great fear at the shift in political landscapes. It felt like a dark time so I wanted to surround myself with creatures comfortable and most confident in darkness, owls and moths immediately sprung to mind! Not only are they incredibly beautiful creatures but their symbolism of wisdom (owl) and transformation and renewal (moth) seemed like the perfect protective talismans to safeguard us during challenging times and provide a promise of better things to come.”


12. Would you also consider making wallpaper out of more of your designs?

“I would definitely be very interested in having my work incorporated into designs for wallpapers or textiles in the future and it is something that I plan to look into at some point. I’ve been greatly admiring all the beautifully patterned wallpapers I’ve seen being used in the decor at Charlton House, most especially the House of Hackney bird print, so I’m very excited to see it in person and take some notes!”


13. What is the most exciting aspect for you of being part of the interior decorations at Charlton Hall?

“Along with Charlton Hall being such a stunning venue (and one I am close enough to visit!) I’m incredibly thrilled to have my artwork be part of the new vision for the Hall. It feels so exciting to be part of the larger interior design vision and as the Hall is also a wedding venue, I love the thought that my artwork gets to be part of so many people’s special day.”


Image source: Vanessa Foley, 2018 – Vanessa’s Barn Owl piece featured within Charlton Hall


Check out the rest of Vanessa’s amazing work through her online gallery.

To view Charlton Hall and see our striking wall mural in person, contact our award-winning team!

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