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Ffern Artists is a new series in which we invite a variety of artists to respond to our seasonal fragrances. The painter Will Calver is the second in our series. In response to Winter 21, Will painted a still life in oils, depicting a branch of silver birch and a Sicilian lemon. Both these ingredients play a key role in the fragrance, which was inspired by the unique quality of the air in the Scottish Highlands.
How would you describe your work as an artist?
I try to create a sense of stillness and presence through my work, focussing on the interactions between light and form. I love to paint from direct observation and compositions which I set up in my studio. Oil paint is my medium of choice, for its versatility and potential to imitate the effects of light.
How did you feel when Ffern approached you about responding to a fragrance?
It was very exciting to be approached by Ffern. Working to a brief and approaching a painting with the sense of smell in mind was a real novelty, and I couldn't help but notice the parallels between the role of a perfumer, balancing notes in a fragrance, and a painter, balancing the formal elements of a painting.
How did you approach the project?
When I read about the concept of the fragrance, I felt a real affinity with the scent being set in the Scottish highlands, having many memories of visiting family in rural Scotland. I spent some time there whilst planning the project, the peaty woodland walks and crisp air seeming all the more aromatic for it. The lemon and the silver birch ingredients really stood out to me. I often work with dualisms and I imagined that these two forms would hold a nice rapport; a contrasting line and circle.
You work in a small studio in the Kent countryside, does the landscape surrounding you influence your work?
I think that living in the English countryside has had an influence on my work, both through natural osmosis and through being actively interested in it. I feel very fortunate to be living in an area where footpaths lead to ancient woodlands, vast fields and bodies of water. Bearing witness to the slow turning of the year in the landscape around me helps me to maintain a sense of naturalism in my work.
In many ways the landscape also permeates the walls of the studio; I share the inner space with a family of nesting wrens and the occasional shrew, as well as the wild roses and ivy creeping through the walls. Our home and the objects within are imbued with history and I draw inspiration from this.
What does a usual day look like for you?
I try to be quite structured in my time keeping. I will often make time to go for a walk before I start painting, and typically paint during daylight hours. Most of the time in the studio is spent painting, preparing canvases and planning compositions. My day is usually backed by music or the radio and punctuated by breaks for coffee through the morning and tea through the afternoon.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find a lot of my inspiration through looking for compositions in my surroundings, reading about artists and paintings and visiting galleries as much as I can. Over time certain painters have become influences on my work; recently I’ve turned to William Nicholson, Giorgio Morandi and Richard Diebenkorn.
What are you working on next?
I am currently finishing a new body of work for a show at the New Craftsman gallery in St Ives, Cornwall, which is taking place in December, and beginning to develop collections for three exhibitions that I have booked for 2021. I am excited to continue exploring the expressive potential of painting.
What is the best advice you could pass on?
One of the best pieces of advice that I have been given is to keep a beginner's mind, and to not take too many shortcuts.