My painting: In the style of Mucha

Aren’t Mucha paintings wonderful? To me, they’re a fabulous mixture of dreamlike composition and stunning skill, redolent with silky textures, serene expressions, swirling hair and delicate features.

A Czech artist working in Prague and Paris in the early 20th century, Alphonse Mucha painted adverts, flyers and posters – and sometimes just art for art’s sake – entirely representative of his own, Art Nouveau time (Art Nouveau is up there in my top 5 kinds of design, mainly for its unbelievable “fussiness” and delicate swirls).

The women depicted are more often than not softly curved, swathed in luxurious fabric and haloed by a mass of unruly tendrils and pleasingly-complex geometric shapes, either dancing or triumphant, or laid-back, smoking, drinking, sitting.

They are ladies of understated leisure and artistry, as creative as the artist who paints them. They have all the beauty and traditional femininity of a pre-Raphaelite Rossetti or a Stanisław Wyspiański, without the often-found “downtrodden woman” vibes. Here, the woman is centre stage, the owner of the picture, the mistress of all she surveys, drinks, eats or smokes.

And they’re often incredible records of the design and pastimes of the time, due to their role as adverts and flyers for everything from chocolate to cigarettes to alcohol to play performances. The history geek in me just can’t get enough.

Plus, I also think they are stunningly beautiful.

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My painting: Colourful coffee trio

[Cups, cafetieres and spoons (c) Hannah Thompson, acrylic with metallic silver pen]

It’s no secret: I love coffee (and I love painting).

Coffee-wise, I’m not *too* addicted – my average is 2 cups a day, sometimes a bit more on a particularly tired day. But for me, coffee isn’t just the caffeine.

Although it’s often a quick Pret A Manger Americano, when the weekend rolls around, and you have time to do coffee properly, it’s a proper joy.

Hmmmmmmm…

Grinding the beans; enjoying the glorious wafts of flavour; spooning it luxuriously into the cafetiere (whatever kind you have), and then either letting it heat on a hob, or pouring hot water over the grains, to let the concoction seep softly before it’s time to pour out the intense, smoky-smelling liquid into your hopefully-colourful, reassuringly large mug.

Even using the Nespresso machine at my parents’ house, once looked at with such suspicion, now proves that you’re treating coffee with the respect that it deserves – and for all the machine’s “sealed capsules”, the Nespresso system still emits a wondrous odour upon production.

Coffee cups like these would quite SERIOUSLY IMPROVE my life

I also love coffee cups themselves. Even before I started drinking coffee regularly, I would lust after dinky espresso cups and matching mug sets and painted cups in complementary colours and artfully clashing saucers. To drink from a colourful, enamelled, quality mug – whether it’s cheap and cheerful, part of a set, or a one-off classic with a slogan or a pattern that makes you smile – elevates coffee drinking from mere caffeine-inhaling exercise to gastronomic pleasure. On holiday in Istanbul a few years ago, I had to be physically restrained from filling my suitcase home with all manner of tea-and-coffee-drinking mugs in a variety of patterns and colours. If I could, I’d buy them all.

These paintings were firstly inspired by colourful crockery, which then mushroomed into a matching trio of coffee paraphernalia.

They’re a homage to the drink…and also gave me a really good chance to practice with my all-new, fairy bright Aladdin’s cave box of shiny acrylic paints (best Christmas present EVER).

Acrylic "Basics" paints, from Cass Art (link to buy)

Acrylic “Basics” paints, from Cass Art (link to buy)

For me, painting is therapeutic, satisfying, pleasingly-frustrating and best of all, it lets me faff around with colour to my heart’s delight. Things rarely look exactly how I’d imagined on the page, but that’s part of the fun.

Coffee, anyone? 🙂