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Artist Allan Williams opens studio doors to allow art lovers to witness magic being created as paint meets canvas

PUBLISHED: 16:17 19 June 2017

Artist Allan Williams in his studio at Earl Soham, near Framlingham, which is open this weekend as part of Suffolk Open Studios. Picture: Allan Williams

Artist Allan Williams in his studio at Earl Soham, near Framlingham, which is open this weekend as part of Suffolk Open Studios. Picture: Allan Williams

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Suffolk Open Studios offers the region’s art lovers the opportunity to go behind the scenes and see work being created. Arts editor Andrew Clarke met artist Allan Williams who has recently created a series of portraits in the style of iconic artists

Driftwood Diva by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams Driftwood Diva by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams

For East Anglian artist Allan Williams variety is the spice of life. His studio, based in an old mill in Earl Soham, which offers views of Suffolk’s big skies and expansive countryside, is filled with portraits of people, landscapes, pet portraits, views of our threatened heritage coast and sculpted heads.

Allan is also an enthusiastic member of Suffolk Open Studios, an artist support organisation, whose members open the doors of their studios to the public, so they can witness work being created.

“I’ve been part of Open Studios for a good couple of years now and I always enjoy it. Because I work in an old mill I have room to hang a good selection of work on the walls and then people can come into my studio and have a chat and see how I put a picture together.

“I enjoy it. Some years I have had upward of 100 visitors, some coming from as far away as north Norfolk, and it’s a chance to show my work and let them see what goes into a picture.”

David Bowie in the style of Picasso by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams David Bowie in the style of Picasso by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams

He says that he tends to have several projects on the go at the same time. His recent work includes creating portraits in the style of recognisable artistic icons as well as trying to capture the changing face of the Suffolk coast – particularly around Covehithe and Benacre.

His landscapes also involve putting houses or features in the context of their surroundings. For example a picture of The Summer House at Burton Agnes Hall has been framed with trees and topiary in the grounds.

“I love textures and if you can frame your subject with things like trees and topiary, it gives the picture added interest.”

His latest work includes a portrait of David Bowie created in the style of Picasso. The idea of these artist-inspired portraits came from the need to create a wedding present for a friend. “My friend Sally was getting married and I knew that she had her hair in ringlets.

Orford Wreck by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams Orford Wreck by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams

“If she stood side on it always reminded me of a picture by Ghirlandaio, so I created a portrait of Sally as a mirror of that original picture.

“The response I got from that encouraged me to create other portraits in the style of famous artists. I also started doing portraits of iconic figures – people like Robin Williams and Grayson Perry.

“My most recent celebrity portrait is of David Bowie, reimagined in the cubist style of Picasso. I think Bowie and Picasso are well suited to one another because they were both restless artists, constantly re-inventing themselves and developing their art.

“I have captured Bowie at three distinct phases in his career – Aladdin Sane/Ziggy Stardust, Ashes to Ashes and The Thin White Duke with added elements of his various costumes and ephemera.”

Grayson Perry in the style of Tamara de Lempicka by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams Grayson Perry in the style of Tamara de Lempicka by Allan Williams. Picture: Allan Williams

Having finished his portait of Bowie, Allan his now working on a joint portrait of Prince and Jimi Hendrix provisionally entitled Purple Rain/Purple Haze with Hendrix’s head and face being found in the smoke of a blazing guitar with Prince raining down from above into a puddle which forms into the shape of his symbol.

“This Hendrix/Prince portrait will be carried out in the style of Salvador Dali. It’s very much in the planning stage at present. I tend visualise all the elements on computer first, getting the composition and design right, before I start painting.”

Another development is the three-dimensional portrait. “I had some heads on my window sill at last year’s open studios and a woman asked me if I did portraits as sculptures. I said I could and she commissioned me to do a portrait of her husband in clay, which was a wonderful challenge. I would love to do more.”

Originally from Wales, Allan moved to Suffolk ten years ago and immediately fell in love with the heritage coastline. “I love the way that it is constantly moving, shifting, changing shape. You can return to the same place over a short period and it’s different every time. I always think of these fragments of trees washed up on the shore, half buried in the sand, as ghosts, bleached white by the salt and the sun. I find the cliffs fascinating. The shoreline keeps beinging me back and I have to paint it.”

Allan Williams’ studio is at Mill House, Mill Hill, Earl Soham, IP13 7RP and is open to the public on June 17-18. Other artists opening their doors can be found online: 
www.suffolkopenstudios.org

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