A Vermeer Inspired Portrait (and a 2 min studio)

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt portrait inspiration, carla coulson, black background, portrait paris, portrait photographer paris

Photo Copyright Carla Coulson

When I landed back in Paris after the big, bright skies and colour of Australia something happened.

Everything about my world had changed. The light, the clothes, the skies, the surroundings, the colour palettes and I felt inspired to reach inside and take advantage of this feeling!

It inspired me to create moody images, beautiful soft portraits photographed with a slow shutter speed on black to replicate how I was feeling.

These photos were shot in a very simple way. I created a ‘2 min studio’ by using a black backdrop that you can see at the end of the post and a shutter speed of 1/15 second..

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vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

2 Min Studio

We taped up a piece of black cloth perpendicular to the window and the light fall off between the cloth and my model did the rest.

If the window had been facing the cloth instead of perpendicular to it we would have had to have been careful with the cloth and what was underneath it as the light from the window would have illuminated the scene more evenly and shown all the defects.

Sending you lots of camera shake!

“My style is definitely schizophrenic; it does change from day to day a lot. It depends on my mood: sometimes I’ll be going through a girly, childlike stage and wear a pretty lace dress with a bow in my hair. Then sometimes I’ll be moody and just wear black.” Amber Le Bon

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A Snapshot of My Week

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All Photos from my Carla Loves Photography Instagram

Wishing you a fabulous weekend full of happiness, peace and good vibes.. This is a little snapshot of my week in Paris (and vicariously in Greece). If you missed my interview with artist Matthew Usmar Lauder on the Greek Island of Lesvos you can catch it here.

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An Artist’s Studio On A Greek Island

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

All photos taken on the island of Lesvos copyright Carla Coulson 

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Greek Island of Lesvos last year to catch up with friends Matthew Usmar Lauder and Claire Lloyd.

This creative couple left London a couple of years ago to live on a Greek Island…. Just writing those words sends shivers to all sorts of weird places!

I had the luxury to peak into their lives and drool a little!  As a creative I have always dreamed of a beautiful space to work in so when I saw Matthew’s studio I was doing cartwheels.

Matthew has been an artist his whole life and he generously opened his studio to me to take some pics and poke around.  It was such a joyful, beautiful, creative space I wanted to share it with you.

Matthew has also generously shared a little of his life, art and loves for all of us to get inspired in 2015

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

Tell us a little about your background and life as an artist?

I grew up in a hippy artistic family, in fact for the first two years of my life my name was ‘Moonfrog’. I’m so pleased they decided to call me Matthew, otherwise the school playground would’ve been hell. I was encouraged to draw and paint as a child and was taken to radical art shows and 1970’s ‘happenings’. Of course I didn’t know what was happening but I was intensely interested in it all.

I got my BA and MA at art school and ended up becoming a ‘Scenic Artist’ at the Royal National theatre, eventually through hard work, enthusiasm and luck, becoming the head of department and running the place at the age of 24.

I went ‘freelance’ and after 20 years of working in commercial studios and around the world I yearned to have my own studio and be an artist like I always planned. I would find myself painting these huge backdrops and fantasise that the paint and canvas was mine to do with as I pleased…

I was picked up by a very cutting edge contemporary gallery called ‘Mobile Home’, had a one man show and got great reviews. I set up studio in Hackney and went almost everyday for eight years, getting much out of my system that had been backed up, following any idea or tangent I desired. It was beyond cathartic.

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

Were you visually attuned at a young age?

I only ever wanted to draw, I showed little sign of capability in any academic sense and had no interest in school except for art.  Every report card read, ‘easily distracted, could do better’. However I did have to work exceptionally hard to become technically proficient in both draughtsmanship and painting. I knew what I wanted, I saw what excited me and I realised that I had a terrific amount to learn.

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

Any mentors or favourite artists?

The list is endless, many, many, but two stand out…

One week before I was about to take my ‘O level’ art exam I suddenly panicked that I’d never really painted a ‘formal’ painting. My wonderful mother, and terrific painter, walked me round to the local railway station with a canvas and paints and we painted a picture together. In that hour she taught me about paint, tonal value, colour mixing and composition.

A year later, aged 15, I was determined to get my drawing skills up to speed. I turned up at the local ‘adult education centre’ to try ‘life drawing’. I was painfully shy in those days and was truly overwhelmed at the sight of a naked woman. I stood behind my easel my face glowing red with fear and awkwardness, scratching away with a stick of charcoal.

How has living on a Greek Island influenced your art?

Everything seems to play a role in influencing me it seems. The island initially gave me much needed escape from the city of London. It afforded me retrospective objectivity, especially about the commercial art world about which I had become pretty jaded and cynical.

Then it was the island beauty that inspired me. I used to visit southern Spain every year with my mate Marcus to find and paint the wild landscape I had always dreamed of, as the English countryside has always somehow disappointment me.

I’ve always had a fantasy dream job, to be a ‘Magnum’ photographer, like some might like to play the trumpet like Miles Davis, impossible but never the less a lovely thought… (I would also like to play the trumpet like Miles Davis…). Lesvos has encouraged me to peruse my passion for photography, presenting a literally endless amount of inspiration and subject matter.

This is a place to be creative, it is peaceful, beautiful and the television was left in London.

fish artwork, matthew usmar lauder, painting on found object, artist greek island, carla coulson

You are currently painting on found objects is this your preferred medium? 

I freely admit to being a tip-rat and scavenger, it comes, initially, from being quite poor as a child and having to make or find things we or I required.

With art materials it eventually became my choice, painting on an old characterful piece of wood is much more interesting, sometimes, than a sterile rectangle of white canvas.

You have opened a small studio in the heart of your local village, what has this brought to the village?

Most people in the village haven’t the faintest idea just what it is I do in my studio and indeed what my studio is… ( including me at times). Some think it a shop, others a museum to house the spoils of my obsessive digging through the village landfill or dustbins. Locals have actually started bringing me old things to add to my collection – (something I certainly encourage…).

When I first set it up one summer I left the doors open, I knew people were curious and I figured let them get it out of their system… And in they certainly came, one old guy, George, helpfully suggested I add a hand rail for the elderly to climb the steep stars to my painting room.

Later in the winter I had to fit a wood burning stove to keep away the cold and damp. As I was installing it I idly decided to take a head count of passers by who had decided to offer comment, suggestions or just plain watch. There was eight men, three dogs and two big local tomcats, all crammed into what really is a tiny room.

claire lloyd, matthew usmar lauder, lesvos, greek islands, artist studio greek island, blue,

When you and your partner Claire Lloyd moved to Lesvos you turned your hand to creating furniture for your home? Was this a challenge for you or just an extension of being an artist?

A massive challenge I’ll admit… I only suggested I make the first one because some local carpenter had seen us coming, tried his luck and quoted a total fortune. Claire took me at my word.

I had failed even ‘woodwork’ at school, the class being literally a collection pen for hardened thugs and students regarded as ‘remedial’ (myself included).

I simply wasn’t interested at that point, I didn’t have the need or desire for a pine made train or tea tray… or how to make them.

So the first cupboard took me ages, (half a year to be precise). I eventually got a little better as the demand from Claire went into spectacular overdrive.

My woodwork suits the environment in that it could only really be described as ‘rustic’, but I am very happy with our bed and large table that I made, both of which I was utterly convinced I was not capable of completing.

matthew usmar lauder, original oil painting, aegean sea, blue, greece, greek island, artist

Aegean Sea by Matthew Usmar Lauder

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

I think creativity is one of humankind’s greatest achievements, (the other, I  feel, is compassion). I would say we are all creative in one way or another and could all be artists if we applied ourselves. I’m lucky that I have been able to work utilising my own skills and I’m very happy and fortunate that I now have a language in which I feel I can, at best, eloquently express myself and my ideas.

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

You and Claire rescue and re-home cats and dogs.. what has this brought to your life?

Rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing dogs and cats has given me the greatest feeling of having done something worthwhile. I worked as a volunteer at the island’s wildlife sanctuary for a year and a half so I could contribute, but also because I could get to see and perhaps help some of the island’s beautiful animals. There is come catching up to do in many parts of the word regarding the treatment of our fellow creatures.

matthew usmar walkswithdogs, lesvos greece, artist studio greek island, carla coulson, wooden boat, greece, claire lloyd, rescue dogs

All photos taken on the island of Lesvos copyright Carla Coulson 

Tell us 5 great things about living on a Greek Island..

1. Finding a real community and understanding its worth.

2. The beauty and abundance of the landscape and wildlife.

3. My involvement with the wildlife, volunteering at the islands wildlife sanctuary, rescuing and finding homes and love for cats and dogs and trying to positively educate people with a sometimes old fashioned and negative view of their fellow creatures.

4. Being able to wander down the street with an extraordinary hat on and people accepting me or even going so far as to compliment me on my choice…

5. Peace and quiet… the place just makes you relax.

A huge thank-you to Matthew for sharing his beautiful studio and a little of his life with us.

Matthew has a beautiful piece of work available for sale here and you can check out his website and more of his art here.

The lovely Claire (who you want as your best buddy she is so cute) is also an inspiring photographer who wrote My Greek Island Home. There is a lovely interview with Claire here and if you fancy test driving ‘leaving your life ‘ for a Greek Island this gorgeous couple have a guesthouse to rent here.

For more Greek Island inspiration click here.

“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.” Norman Rockwell

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A Valentine’s Day Story About Being Single

single valentine's day story, italian joy, doing what you love, love my job, carla coulson, italy

Self portrait from Italian Joy

Hello Lovelies,

I love Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. The other day on her Facebook Page she invited people to do this

“I want you to do me a favor today.

I want you to post a picture of yourself taken at a moment when you felt like you were at your most powerful. When I look at this picture, I see a woman who is doing exactly what she wants to be doing with her life.

That’s what power means to me.

In fact, that’s the ONLY thing power means to me.

Power doesn’t have to be fierce. It doesn’t have to be aggressive or combative or cocky. It doesn’t have to tear anything down. It doesn’t have to be in your face. It doesn’t have to be a moment of fist-pumping victory. It doesn’t have to be expensive or monumental. It doesn’t have to make the world explode.

Generally speaking, the deepest kind of power doesn’t have much to do with anyone else at all. Nothing to do with status, nothing to do with reputation, nothing to do with winning. Because you can achieve all that stuff (status, reputation, victory) and still feel lost as hell. No, true power comes from standing in your own truth and walking on your own path. That’s it.

When you are operating from that place (standing in your truth; walking on your path) you are the mightiest thing that has ever lived. Nothing can harm you.”

I have thought about this all week. Then the other day I was flipping through a copy of Italian Joy and I saw this photo of myself I took in the middle of the year at photography school back in 2001.

I was on my own, single but the happiest I had ever been. I had boarded an overnight train from Florence to Sicily with a small bag, my camera, lots of rolls of film and a big bundle of hope and adventure in my heart. Hell I was off to Sicily to roam around on my own with my camera in the middle of August…I couldn’t wait to get there! For the first part of my life I had compromised, put everyone else before me and now I was pleasing myself.

I remember the feeling whilst taking this ‘self portrait’ (long before they were called selfies) and smiling to myself thinking I was the luckiest girl on the planet.

I had found love in the name of Mr. Photography and for almost an entire year of my 35 years I had loved myself. Truly loved myself, all the rest that come before that was just faking it. I was solid, had my feet on the ground and new my true worth and I was no longer willing to take seconds. Now that was something to feel powerful and happy about.

In this photo and at that moment I was the Carla I was always meant to be, the happy, carefree, emotional, loving woman that for years had been busting to break out. I felt powerful because I knew what I wanted. I wanted a simple life, love, adventure and photography and I was on the path to find it.

I had spent many Valentine’s Days on my own watching the delivery boy enter the office with a bunch of roses for someone else, I had walk home emptied handed Valentine’s Day after Valentine’s Day feeling lost, alone and frightened for my future. As the years passed the weight of being single burdened me.

Since I left my old life I have rarely had that feeling again although I have been alone many times.

If you are single this Valentine’s Day I am sending you this little story to know that life changes, it won’t remain the same as it is today and you can be a great, happy, single person in love with life! In this photo I was single and probably at the most ‘powerful’ point in my life, there were no compromises just me doing what I loved.

“I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” Arthur Rubenstein

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Planning A Trip To Paris

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I wanted to wish you a fabulous Friday and a relaxing weekend.  Last week in Paris it snowed and rained, we had blue skies and sunny days and somehow Paris in winter (if you can stand the cold) is even more seductive than her light and breezy summer version.

If you happen to be planning a trip to Paris I have put together a list of some of my favourite addresses and things to do in Paris. From the best coffee shops to  some out of the way quirky shops, boutiques and museums. You can read it here.

Wishing you a wonderful week filled with happiness.

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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