Carole King – My Studio

‘My Studio’ – Carole King & Glen Ibbitson

An article from Artists & illustrators written by Jenny White

When Glenn Ibbitson and Carole King moved to their home deep in the Carmarthenshire countryside, they had to decide how – and where – they would work. Glenn is a painter and filmmaker and Carole is a painter and printmaker, so to begin with they shared a studio in one of their homes several outbuildings. The previous occupant was also an artist and had used the space as a studio too. “However, it became apparent very quickly that sharing a studio wasn’t going to work in the same space – Glenn loves listening to the cricket and I don’t!”

“It’s a bit tight for two people”. adds Glenn, who subsequently moved to a first floor studio in a neighbouring barn. his workspace is bigger than Carol’s but it has certain disadvantages.

“My use of the studio is seasonal”. he says. “Ideally I spend about eight months in there, then I have to move out because it gets too damp to store anything. At that point I’ll go into the house. There have also been occasions when I’ve had to vacate the studio because the swallows have got in before me and within about three hours they’ve made a nest!”

The scale of Glenn’s work varies according to whether he is working in the studio or in the house, his studio paintings are typically a meter square -a throwback to his previous career as a scenic artist for the BBC, when it was common to work on canvasses 5 meters high by 18 meters long. “The great thing about that job was that it taught me the value of deadlines and put art in a business context. I used to agonise over every speck of paint that went on the canvas and suddenly there was no time to do that.”

Glen still likes to resist being too detailed in his painting; he has learnt that keeping his palette four or five paces away maintains an element of looseness. “I have to step forward to apply the paint which means that it remains quite loose close up but the details that I need fall into place at viewing distance.”

Glenn prefers working with nylon brushes (“for smoothness”) and uses both acrylics and oils in each painting: the early stages are laid down in acrylic, which enables him “to get through the early stages much more quickly.” Then he switches to oils for subsequent layers.

His computer plays an important role in planning each painting. “I use Photoshop to compose the multi-figure paintings, so I can combine pictures from sketchbooks, life drawing and photographs.”

A favourite subject is Carole, who is a patient and reliable model. “Living with somebody, you get to know how their body relaxes in to particular positions so I can utilise her natural grace in the paintings. It’s not as forced as it can be with a professional model.”

Carole agrees that there are advantages over using a professional model: “Models that are artists themselves have an insight into what the artist is trying to do. With models who are just there for the money there’s not a lot of dialogue going on.”

Aside form modelling Glenn and Carole usually only meet for lunch and tea breaks – the rest of each working day is spent in their respective studios. Carole’s studio is crammed with everything from printing pressed to bookmaking materials. She describes book binding as her ‘hobby’, but it’s actually quite a lucrative sideline. Her books begin as sheets of cartridge paper, which she cuts, folds, presses in a nipping press and then stitches, before adding spine and cover. The covers are usually her printed designs or recycled food packaging (Tunnock’s Tea Cakes are especially popular).

As a printmaker, she favours screen-printing, dry point etching and carborundum printing – a process she discovered when she was given some metal filings her father used to grind a telescope mirror (“I come from a creative family!”). She is also fascinated by maps, one of the desks in her studio is strewn with pieces of Ordnance Survey maps ready for use in prints and collages.

In contrast to her ideas driven prints, her paintings are “matter of fact, quite straight forward renditions”, often of rusted chains, seaweed, plants and local towns. “I suspect I can work this way because I’m a printmaker -It can be difficult to break out and be loose.”

While their work is markedly different, Glenn and Carole do find time to teach as a pair. “We find team teaching works really well, ” says Carole. ” We can both see different things in people’s work and come up with different ideas of how to move them on.”

They are also able to chivvy each other along when things go wrong. “There’s positive feedback there if we need it but we also know to give each other space,” says Glenn. “We know how to read the signs now!”