Selina Pope is an Eurasian portrait artist based in London. She has studied under portrait artist Nicole Porter while growing up in Aberdeen and has completed short courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the London Art Academy and the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. Selina mainly utilizes graphite and oils in her art and is influenced by traditional “old master” techniques, such as the limited palette. A mixed ethnicity background, along with growing up in Scotland, inspires the theme of identity depicted throughout her works. In February, her drawing of TV and radio presenter Norman Busigu was accepted into the 2021 Royal Society of British Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries, one of the oldest art exhibitions in Britain. Following, another prestigious organization, the Royal Scottish Academy, accepted the piece for their online exhibition. These artistic achievements along with a creative spirit continue to ignite passion and purpose for Selina as she balances her full-time law career with being an artist. Read on to learn more about Selina and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Selina Pope
Heritage: Half Chinese, Half English
Hometown: Aberdeen (Scotland)
Current City: London (United Kingdom)
I’ve recently been trying to reimagine some of the great paintings of the past but using a more diverse range of sitters for those paintings. When we look at the great old master paintings of the past there is, more often than not, a huge lack of diversity - particularly a lack of favourable depictions of non-Western sitters. This is something I noticed growing up: being a lover of art and art history, as a half Chinese woman I rarely came across anyone that looked like me in any of the old master paintings I admired so much. Using traditional techniques e.g. the limited palette, I’ve been recreating my own versions of paintings like 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' (Vermeer) in which I reimagined my friend Benedicte as the sitter, and 'Lady with an Ermine' (da Vinci) which I’m currently working on, where I’m painting my friend Jon with his sharpei puppy (in place of the Ermine!)
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
The project mentioned above is the one I’ve been most excited about for a while and will likely be my favourite when I’ve finished it, as it resonates with my experiences as an artist. Also, I'm making a conscious effort to use friends and family in those paintings which has made this project particularly meaningful for me.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Art like anything else is a skill and can only be developed with practice. I’m still very much at the start of this journey myself, but I think, anyone who is really serious about art, should invest time and energy into mastering the basic techniques, which will serve as the foundation to whatever style or projects are chosen in the future. If you can’t study art full-time there are still ways to do this, e.g. attend short courses and read books.
How did you get your start?
A big turning point for me was when, earlier this year, I was accepted into the Royal Society of British Artists annual exhibition. Until then I’d mainly been doing art for fun and receiving feedback from family and friends. Having my work recognised by professionals in the industry was a big step for my artistic career. Shortly after I was also accepted into the Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibition, which was another amazing opportunity for me.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Probably when I found out about being accepted into the Royal Society of British Artists exhibition as mentioned above. All the hard work I had ever put into my art felt recognised in this moment.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
My full-time career is in law, so the biggest challenge for me is balancing time between that career and my passion for art. I must be quite careful with my free time to make sure that when I’m not doing my full-time work, I am able to dedicate enough time to my art.
Did you always want to be in the arts, or did you have another path before you got here?
In a way I’m still on that ‘another path’ now, as my full-time career is not in the arts. But so far, I’ve been able to find a way to incorporate art into my life in a meaningful way. There are of course times where I wish I had more time to do my art, but I don’t think you have to have an ‘either or’ approach. From a young age I knew I wanted art to be an important part of my life, but I also had non-art related aspirations too. In the end I decided to keep art as a passion outside of work and see what it could lead to (which I’m very much still exploring!)
Where did you study at?
I haven't completed a full-time art course, but I have been fortunate enough to have studied under portrait artist Nicole Porter while growing up in Aberdeen. I have also completed short courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the London Art Academy and the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy - the latter especially having taught me invaluable techniques.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
My goal for the next couple of years is to paint / draw each of my closest friends and family. I’d also love to be accepted into the BP portrait award one day but that's more of a long-term dream!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love being able to take a simple image and bring it to life with a sitter’s story, e.g. through the use of symbolism and storytelling. Being able to take a blank canvas and make a person (and their story) come to life on it is an amazing challenge, especially when I’m painting or drawing friends and family.
Do you have any self-care practices you do to stay focused and sane?
My art is a main creative outlet for me, but I also try to do some form of exercise each day which especially helps when I’ve been sitting at a desk all day or standing at the easel for long periods of time.
As a storyteller through your art, how do you pick the subjects you want to work on and what goes into putting an image or painting together?
Unless I’m doing paid commissions, I try to choose subjects who inspire me as that gives me a meaningful narrative to include in the painting. I’m very lucky to have many inspiring friends from many walks of life and careers, whether in law, arts, finance or tech, many of whom have incredible stories to tell. When putting a painting or drawing together, I always try to involve the sitter (another reason why I like to be inspired by them!) to try to understand how they want to be depicted based on their hopes, goals, personal story, challenges, fears, etc.
To find out more about Selina, please visit her at:
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