Interview: Artist Laura Robertson

by Cass Art

Artist Laura Robertson's work is currently on display in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery until 15 September 2013.

As part of our Meet the Artists programme Laura Robertson joined us at the Hampstead store to talk about her art, painting processes, portraits and answer your questions on Sunday 18 August. Laura was joined by fellow BP Portrait Award artist Sophie Levi. You can find the full details and schedule for the Meet the Artists programme here.

We caught up with Laura Robertson to talk inspiration, portraiture and essential materials for an exclusive Cass Art interview.

Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to be an artist?

Not really, I've always drawn for as long as I can remember.

Who or what has influenced your work most?

Paula Rego, Beryl Cook, and the book by Angela Carter “Nights at the Circus”. The German Expressionists prints as well.

How has your practice evolved since then and what are you working on at the moment?

I've painted and sculpted many different things over the years. I've become more active recently after having children and joining the North Bristol Art Trail ( At the moment I'm painting “Teapot Ladies”, oil on board and canvas.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Usually it comes from my imagination but it is clearly influenced by everyday things and people. Curvaceous girls on hen nights are a source of inspiration and entertainment.

Where did you grow up and where did you study? Did these places have an influence on your work?

I grew up in the north-east, near Durham. I studied at Durham, Cambridge, London and Bristol. Growing up in the north-east I found plenty of interesting characters to draw, like the girls on hen nights and characters from bars and clubs. I have an illustrative background and have illustrated two children's books.

What draws you to portraiture and do you make any other work?

I love drawing people, and all my work features people in one form or another. I love facial features and drawing characters, and reading a story in a face. I'm quite a prolific artist and have a huge amount of work, and partly moved house to have somewhere to put it all!

How would you describe your work?

Figurative, colourful, quirky, humorous and observational. I get inspiration from the people I see and then make fictional drawings loosely based upon them.

Could you tell us about your working method and process?

I put down a lot of ideas in my sketch book, but I'm quite impatient and sometimes draw straight onto the canvas. I change the picture frequently; it evolves as I go along.

What materials do you use?

Oil, acrylic, pen & ink, watercolour. Sometimes clay, breeze block or wood for a sculpture.

Do the materials you use inform the work or vice versa?

I tailor the materials to the effect I'm trying to create; for illustrations I use pen & ink with watercolour. For large canvasses I normally use acrylic although specifically for the BP award I moved to oil for the first time and am enjoying it immensely. I am now producing lots of “Teapot Ladies” in oil. I also do printmaking so I have a whole range of techniques.

What are the vitals tools in your studio?

Acrylic paint, primary colours and white, three brushes and my easel.

Find more of Laura Robertson's work at and illustrations at

Image: Laura in January by Laura Robertson, 2013 © Laura Robertson

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