Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe help artist map out her creative side

Art lecturer Barbara Anderson
Art lecturer Barbara Anderson
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With the help of her two favourite icons, Barbara Anderson is plotting the route to her creative side. Alison Goulding reports.

SURROUNDED by two of the most beautiful women in the world might be a bit intimidating for some, but for Barbara Anderson its the drive for her art work.

Since an early age she has loved the films and fashion of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, and now they take centre stage in her creations.

For the past year she has been selling her art at local craft fairs, adding a regional twist to some of the designs.

Barbara, who lives in West Boldon, said: “I have a huge collections of maps and one day I decided I just had to do something with them. I had the idea of collaging them into some of my paintings which is how I created my Geordie Audrey.

“They’ve proved to be really popular at fairs. There are so many images of Marilyn and Audrey around and I think people like my different take on it. It’s personalised to their area.”

Barbara, who lectures in art and design at Newcastle College, is an avid collector of memorabilia linked to the two actresses as well as antique maps and vintage tea cups.

As well as collaging with the maps, she uses them to make custom wedding gifts.

“I’ve been collecting maps for 10 years and I just think they have a magic,” she said.

“I collect ones from the 1950s and 60s. When you open them and see the creases and the notes people have made on them it makes me think of all the journeys they’ve been on and all the living rooms they’ve been opened out in.

“It’s fascinating and nice to think they have a new life when they go into my pictures and it’s part of their journey. That’s what they’re all about.

“Maps are very beautiful, particularly the old ones. The colours are gorgeous. I find them in flea markets, furniture sales, jumble sales, recycling shops.

“Wherever I am I’ll look to see if there’s any interesting shops. I like rooting around! Once I’ve picked something up I find it hard to put back. It’s very exciting when you find them.”

Barbara was born in Sunderland but moved to Teesside when she was three, as her father looked for work on the docks.

After school she studied illustration at Liverpool University.

After graduating she found an agent but began to teach as a plan B in Birmingham.

She said: “When I first came out of university I went to an illustrator’s agent and had my work with them in London.

“That was back in the day when it was much more difficult to sell your work.

“It’s a really hard job as there are so many illustrators and it’s cut throat. Now it’s a lot easier to get yourself out there.

“Teaching was a back-up at first to being an illustrator but I loved it. I started in schools and then started teaching in colleges.

“I love passing my skills on to teenagers and seeing them go on to university. That’s really satisfying.

“They know I do my own work and they’re supportive. Lots of the lecturers do and it’s a good thing because you can relate that experience and you know first hand yourself that it’s a tough industry and you have to keep going back. “It’s not an easy life but if it’s what you love, if it’s your passion, you’ve got to keep doing it. It’s what keeps me going.”

Barbara lives in West Boldon with her husband Paul. She has a daughter, Naomi and two grandchildren, Hannah and Poppy.

She is hoping to move house soon, as she has outgrown the studio at the back of her current home.

Barbara said: “It would be nice to have a little shop one day but I’d be happy just to get my work selling from more places.

“The website is the big thing for this year. I’ve been working hard on that and I’m hoping it will take off. I just fit it in my art work whenever I can. I spend the evenings mostly in the studio trying out new things and new medias.”

Barbara started drawing when she was a child, and now hopes to pass her enjoyment for art to her grandchildren.

She said: “My parents always encouraged me to do what I enjoyed and I loved getting the crayons out and making a mess. I’ve been very arty since forever. I was always drawing and sketching and I love to do the same with my grandchildren and hopefully pass on a love of art to them.

“I started taking my art to craft fairs a year ago and it went really well. I started to think there might be something in it. Because of my interest in vintage maps I’ve also started doing vintage fairs.

“You’re always nervous when you’re showing your work to people. You want them to like it but you’re never sure. It was really good to see that people liked it and were willing to buy. It’s fabulous, I feel so proud.

Barbara also shows her work at the North East Art Collective Gallery in Eldon Square.

“The owner, John Thompson, has been very supportive and it’s raised my profile a little bit. Approaching the gallery was a nerve-wracking experience. John agreed to give my work a try – it’s a brilliant place.

“Friends and family have really supported me too. My friend Sarah often has a stall at the same events and she eggs me on. I do get knock backs but I keep going.”

Her fascination with Audrey and Marilyn started after watching their films.

Barbara said: “One of the prints I use today was taken from my first drawing of Marilyn when I was 20 years old. I’m fascinated by both of them. They are so beautiful and so easy to paint and draw.

“I find people either like Marilyn, or they like Audrey, but not both. There’s a little bit of a split.

“With Marilyn, the appeal is the film work she did. She did so many different personas and the fashion and the dresses that went with that are amazing.

“It’s the same appeal with Audrey. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favourite ever film.

“I love the different fashions in it. 50s fashion was so sophisticated and stylish but they are both very different.

“Audrey was very petite and slim and Marilyn was quite the opposite with her hourglass figure. It’s good to see how they can compare and how they wore fashion.

“Marilyn had such a sad life – a really tragic life. She could never get herself happy, but Audrey survived the film industry and went on to work for Unicef. But in both their lives they did something really tremendous.

“A while ago, because Paul is a photographer, and I’m such a fan of Audrey, we set up a little photo shoot where I dressed as her.

“It was great fun, I loved it. My hairdresser is really good at big bouffant hair so she did me a big french pleat.

Experimenting with new techniques and meeting customers is part of the appeal.

Barbara said: “I’ve now tried some tiny jewellery and trinket boxes and they’ve worked out well. I also do customised 3D maps as commissions for wedding gifts etc.

“I try to upcycle in my work and find old jewellery boxes and give them a new lease of life.

“It’s lovely when it works and looks right but not so good when it doesn’t!

“I like stencils and I like artists like Banksy so I’ve made a collection called Urban Glamour which is another different take on things. I’ve used inks and stencils, bleach and lots of mixed media to create something a little bit different.

“You’ve got to keep yourself going and keep it fresh. If you did the same thing all the time you’d run out of steam.

“It’s hard work, especially preparing for the different fairs. There’s a lot of loading and unloading. But it’s lovely to meet the people who are going to have your art on their walls. I really enjoy that bit. I can talk for England so I really do like to meet people, even if they don’t buy anything it doesn’t matter.”

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