Artist and Illustrator Magazine
Article by Sally Hales
The travel artist reveals her fascinating techniques and recounts her adventures while painting the landscapes of Africa and the Middle east ahead of her latest solo show...
'Painting with Both Hands' is available to purchase on Amazon here
Paintings of Africa's endangered wildlife to be shown in Belgravia exhibition
Article by Robert Dex in the Evening Standard, London
Kenya-based painter Sophie Walbeoffe is bringing her portraits of Africa’s wildlife, including rare giant Tusker elephants prized by poachers for their ivory, to The Osborne Studio Gallery.
The artist, who has lived for 25 years in Kenya, where she keeps a herd of 60 camels, said the paintings would show scenes from her travels.
She said: “It will also include paintings highlighting the terrible poaching of the elephants and other animals, and how many of the subjects I am so privileged to be able to paint from life are so at risk and endangered now.”
Ms Walbeoffe, who paints with both hands at the same time, said she often uses a mop as a brush to cover her giant canvases.
She added: “Living in Kenya I have been able to paint the animals on site in the parks, which allows an energy and movement in the drawing that is difficult to get from a photograph.”
Multi-faceted island revealed in 'Lamu: An Artist's Impression'
Article by Margaretta wa Gacheru for Business Daily
Herbert Menzer commissioned the Kenya-based British artist Sophie Walbeoffe to paint a whole book’s worth of radiant watercolour paintings featuring his beloved Lamu Island.
He had been looking for quite some time for the perfect painter to take up the challenge and help him realize his dream.
Sophie shares her book with two other outstanding artists, both writers with one providing a deeply researched (all-too-brief) history of Lamu going back to at least 800 BC.
The book is available directly from the artist. Get in touch for more information
Curator’s mother exhibits solo at new Karen gallery
Article by Margaretta wa Gacheru for Business Daily
The Polka Dot Gallery in Karen, Nairobi officially opens next month, but the founder curator, Lara Ray, is so energised she couldn’t wait to go artistically operational, albeit informally.
Situated inside the Souk on Dagoretti Road, just across the road from The Hub, Polka Dot opened early for another reason.
Lara’s mother, Sophie Walbeoffe, a water colourist and a world-travelled landscape painter will be having a solo exhibition before leaving for London.
“I wanted to open the Polka Dot with an exhibition of my mother’s artwork. I also wanted her show to be up before she left town,” says Lara who admits her mum has been a tremendous source of inspiration.
Her mother has always encouraged her to follow the dream she had nurtured from an early age, to open an art gallery.
And like her mum, Lara, 26, has grown up surrounded by fine art.
“My mother’s great great grandfather started the Courtlauld Institute, a leading art institution in London. It’s also one that has the largest collections of impressionist paintings in the world,” says Sophie.
The Devon-born artist recalls the way she often visited The Courtlauld when growing up, never doubting she would one day become a professional painter.
For its premier exhibition, the Polka Dot Gallery has filled almost every inch of its pristine walls with works from Sophie’s studio (a sunny high-ceilinged set of rooms that she designed and built herself).
It features a wide range of oil paintings and water colours as well as one Gyotaku print and even several charcoal life-drawings.
“Gyotaku is an age-old Japanese technique of printing that was created by fishmongers [before the invention of photography] as a means of advertising their daily catch which they stored inside a cold-box,” says Sophie whose print features images of fresh Grouper and Koli on Chinese rice paper.
Sophie is known for painting ‘in situ’ (or on-site, also known as ‘plein air’) where she starts out working with water colours and painting with both hands, a remarkable technique that she learned from one of her lecturers at the Wimbleton School of Art.
Ritual in Lamu
Then she takes her water colour sketches home where rather than using photography, she works from her memory to paint only now in richly coloured oils.
Having performed this painterly ritual in many parts of the world, including Lamu where her water colours will soon be published in a book commissioned by the German philanthropist (and founder of the Lamu Painters Festival) Herbert Menzer, the majority of works in her Polka Dot show will be the ones she has created in Kenya.
This includes her wildlife paintings and etchings, landscapes of The Ewaso Ng’iro and Kilimanjaro, still-lifes and one portrait.
“The portrai of the [Samburu] herdsman, Prame, who looks after our camels,” says Sophie referring to the camel herd that her husband Dr Piers Simpkin started some years back while researching for his Ph.D from Cambridge University.
Camels are not featured in her Polka Dot show; but over at the Sankara Hotel, Sophie has a three-meter charcoal drawing of several camels from the family herd that she and Piers keep at Shaba.
It’s one of three paintings that is part of the current show that One Off Gallery’s Carol Lees curated for the Sankara Hotel.
Sophie has exhibited in Jerusalem and London among other cities. She hopes to bring her artists friends to exhibit at Lara’s Polka Dot Gallery.
“In fact, she’ll be having at least one major exhibition every year that she’ll hold at the exhibition hall at The Hub,” Sophie says.
Meet Sophie, the 'speed painter' who uses both hands
Article by Margaretta wa Gacheru for Business Daily
Sophie Walbeoffe is the only ambidextrous artist I know. She can sketch using two pencils simultaneously as I witnessed first-hand when I accompanied her recently, early one morning after she’d decided to paint inside the largest indoor market in Lamu town.
And after she’d completed negotiations with the fresh produce sellers over what space she could have until the vendor who normally occupies the place she’d staked out arrived. I also found out Sophie could paint using two brushes and both hands.
It was quite a feat, particularly as Sophie is what I call a ‘speed painter’ when she’s working in water colour, the medium she focused on during the three-week art residency that she’d been attending in November with several other Kenyan artists.
The only British-born painter to attend the first residency project organised by German philanthropist Herbert Menzer, Sophie prefers to call herself a Kenyan artist having come to the country more than a quarter century ago.
It was essentially on that basis that Carol Lees, the founder-curator of One Off Gallery included Sophie among the artists she suggested attend Menzer’s residency project. The other four were Peter Ngugi, Peter Elungat, Chelenge Van Rampelberg and Timothy Brooke who unfortunately couldn’t cope with the heat and left the project early.
Herbert was familiar with Sophie’s art, so even before they officially met, he asked her to help him illustrate a book on Lamu that he was writing.
“I was delighted to do it although I had just started painting in a more abstract style, so his request was a challenge,” she admitted.
It compelled her to get back into figurative painting, which is the style she’s best known for and which enabled her to create several gorgeous water colours every day.
In fact, of the six artists who came to Shela, Sophie is by far the most prolific. The current exhibition that just opened last Friday at the Shela Souq readily proved her remarkable productivity.
Sell-out solo exhibition
Yet having just come from a sell-out solo exhibition of her paintings entitled OldJerusalem, Sophie hasn’t felt a need to prove anything to anyone.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said, having never before sold every single piece she’d painted for previous shows.
Not even at the Wimbleton School of Art where she’d been considered a star student did Sophie have a sell-out solo exhibition. But after spending three years with her family in Israel and meeting many brilliant Middle Eastern artists who challenged her to think more deeply and create in fresh new ways, it’s no wonder her art developed and deepened during that time.
Her return to Kenya, especially to Shela, has provided Sophie with yet another set of challenges that may not seem comparable to her work in the Middle East, but as she’s already been booked by Herbert to participate in his 3rd Lamu Painters Festival early next year, Sophie has many more chances to develop and grow in Kenya, her adopted ‘second home’.
Trade Winds, this our second one man show, encapsulates so much of the raison d¹etre of Sophie Walbeoffe. It is her free spirit the spontaneity and the vivacity of her painting technique that enables her to live the extraordinary and enviable life that she does. Her work reflects a wonderful awareness of life, nature and discovery as if the world is her oyster.
Her painting in what ever medium she chooses is so often achieved from working straight from her easel in any location that inspires her imagination. Her subjects range from sun drenched landscapes to bustling city scenes and evocative seascape.
The location whether to us familiar or less so sometimes hardly matters it is that fleeting moment that she captures that gives us such pleasure and heightens our senses.
The Majlis Gallery, Dubai
I first met Sophie on a beach in Dubai back in the 80¹s, she was as passionate about her work then as she is now, introducing herself first as a painter and secondly as a friend of a friend. That friend was Nick Bashall, then practising as a lawyer but determined to make painting his passion too.
Dubai was not a glitzy glamorous city in those days, it was hardly more than a dusty town with ambition, something Sophie had too. In addition she had talent, enthusiasm, conviction and a determination to have a show in London.
It was another streak of her character that had brought her East, her impulsiveness. Her ability to move heaven and earth to travel, literally at the drop of her hat, has taken Sophie to many places and through many adventures, drawing, painting, observing and totally immersing herself in the creative process as she goes. Her paintings have an immediacy that relies on her not getting in the way as her hand flies from medium to paper or canvas, her eyes often not leaving the subject as she allows the image a life of its own. This liberal process can only work if it is backed by a deep knowledge of the craft of drawing and painting. Don¹t be misled by the freedom that inhabits most of Sophie¹s work, it¹s there because she has studied the technicalities to a point where they can sit in the background allowing something much more exciting to emerge.
Sophie's paintings have been published in the following books:
'Painting Interiors' by Jenny Rodwell. Published in 1989 by Collins
'Chelsea Arts Club Diary 1989, 2000'
'Art for Sale' published by the Guardian magazine, 1992 and 1993
The Week, March 2002
'Artistic Perception of Home', Maison Francaise in Nairobi, Kenya 2002
'Hogs Tale', 2003 (an illustration of Karen Blixon's 'Wambui')
Time Out, Dubai, 2005