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Constructing the scene

Lewis Chamberlain’s thought-provoking photo-realistic drawings and oil paintings are often of children’s toys in domestic interiors. He reveals the ideas and techniques behind his work to Susie Hodge

With his wry sense of humour, Lewis Chamberlain explains how his ideas and methods have evolved: ‘The way I work now is similar to the way I worked when younger, but once I had established what I wanted to express, and the means by which I wished to depict my ideas, my technique changed remarkably little. I have never painted out of doors and would probably never consider true outdoor painting. I need to be hidden away. I like the jaundiced light of the room at night and the sun trying to break in during the day – it can’t.

Artificial light

‘For a decade I lived in a run-down flat and worked almost exclusively at night by artificial light. My immediate environment became integral to the subject matter and to the increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere in my work. I began looking for objects that relate, however indistinctly, to figures, in order to populate the empty rooms I was working in. I began working with mannequins and, ultimately, with children’s toys.

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About The Artist

Follow cover artist Henrietta Graham's example and set yourself a challenging project to create a series of paintings on a particular subject matter, or why not try something different from your usual practice to keep your creativity flowing? Our professional artist/tutors offer plenty of ideas this month, from how to paint loose watercolour landscapes by Lea Nixon, unusual compositions from a high viewpoint by Jo Quigley, and how to use pattern to dramatic effect in your still lifes by Penny German. Hazel Soan demonstrates how to paint a lively self-portrait in watercolour, Glyn Macey shows what you can discover by studying Rauschenberg's work and techniques plus we include articles on understanding the structure of the head and how to measure and see more objectively to help improve your figure work. Oil painters will love Martin Kinnear's new series on oil techniques, starting with the importance of value and chiaroscuro, while Charles Williams takes a thought-provoking look at the age-old issue of 'when is a painting finished?' With more besides, you won't be short of inspiration and helpful advice in this month's issue!