Q&A with Snowdog artist Lois Cordelia
Paper artist, speed painter and art trail veteran Lois Cordelia discusses her background and inspiration behind her latest designs for Snowdogs Discover Ashford.
Lois Cordelia is a versatile artist and illustrator, based at her studio in Ipswich. She works in diverse styles, including energetic speed-painting, intricate scalpel paper-cutting, and mixed media sculpture. She most often creates her art live in public and welcomes the opportunity to talk with people while she works. Her work has featured in a number of public art trails across the UK. Since 1999, Lois has also worked part-time as an artist assistant to children’s illustrator Jan Pienkowski (born 1936, best known for his Meg and Mog books). Lois studied Arabic at the University of Edinburgh. We caught up with her to find out more about her background and inspiration for her latest Snowdog designs.
Where do you work/what’s your studio like?
I don’t have a studio as such – I tend to live and create art out of a suitcase, always on the move somewhere around the country. My “studio” is wherever I happen to be painting or sculpting, or paper-cutting on any particular day, which might be in an art store, shopping centre, art club, or other public venue. In the early days, I started out painting live at roots reggae and dub nights in London nightclubs with candlelight for illumination. These days, I am usually blessed with better lighting! Most days I hop on a train to somewhere with all my painting kit in my luggage: paints, easels, boards, brushes, and so on. People often ask where I’m going on holiday for 3 months, when in fact I’ll be back later the same day. I love the life of an itinerant artist. I’m always happiest working in the company of other artists.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Most of my best ideas come to me at 3 am. It is the hour of artists, writers, poets, musicians, thinkers, creatives and seekers of silence. If I keep an open mind, inspiration might come from any obvious source: nature, dance, music, literature, history, folklore, and so on, though most often it comes to me through simple everyday activities of catching up with a friend over coffee, writing a snailmail to brighten someone’s day, staring out of the train window at the clouds and sky, going for a run, browsing in charity shops and antique stores, having a clear-out at home and finding things I’d forgotten, or (best of all) spending time on a Sunday with my partner Jason who wisely insists on me taking a break from my endless workload to watch a funny film, attend a Viking reenactment day, or go hunting for egrets, choughs or waxwings with our binoculars. My mind is like a bee-hive, buzzing with creative ideas. The down side is that I’m a lifelong insomniac. The up side is: I never suffer from ‘blank page syndrome’!
How many Wild in Art art trails have you worked on?
For my own part, I’ve been involved in eight Wild in Art trails, and am currently working on a few more behind the scenes. Exciting times! For Snowdogs Discover Ashford I designed two Snowdogs, ‘Lest We Forget the War Dogs (1918-2018)’ and ‘Goldie’. I’ve also recently finished speed painting a Snowman sculpture at the sponsor launch of Walking with The Snowman at MediaCityUK, Manchester.
What’s your weapon of choice?
Dance! By which I mean Free-Dance, which is the freest form of dance there is, having absolutely no prescribed steps. I first learned to dance spontaneously when the heating didn’t work at my student accommodation in Edinburgh – it was the only way to keep warm, but I soon realised that it was the best way to keep fit, focussed, motivated and alert. Free-Dance is an opportunity to move to music (of any kind) in any way you like. Most of my best creative ideas come to me when I dance. Most of my artwork is full of dance-inspired movement. I often dance while I’m painting, too. Free-Dance is my life. Your question makes me think specifically of one of my favourite dance tracks: Fat Boy Slim, Weapon of Choice. It’s infectious! Turn up your speakers and dance!
Your design ‘Lest We Forget the War Dogs’ caused quite a reaction bringing one visitor to tears! What’s the inspiration?
With so many events this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (1918), it is nevertheless easy to forget the 20,000 brave war dogs who were trained in dangerous front line duties, bringing first aid to the wounded, alerting soldiers to enemies, leaping across trenches, carrying messages between outposts, pulling machinery and equipment, and boosting morale among the troops. Some wore gas masks and had food, water and medical supplies strapped to them. Some became decorated with war medals. Lest We Forget the War Dogs (1918-2018) is especially inspired by a quotation from a 1916 newspaper, which observes: “A watchdog never barks; at the most he will use a low growl to indicate the presence or approach of a hostile force. More often than not the mere pricking of the ears or the attitude of expectancy is sufficient to put his master on his guard.”
— Pat Pearson (@lovemedogs) September 26, 2018
You also painted Goldie, what inspired this design?
A dog can be your best friend but needs to be loved and cherished. Walking is a great way to show your love, not just for your dog but for yourself too, and what better way to witness the beauty of nature changing throughout the seasons than to head outside!
We’d like to thank Lois Cordelia for her support and creativity over the years. Find out more about Lois and her work at: www.loiscordelia.com