Welsh artist Kerry Darlington was born in Rhyl in 1974. Inspired at a young age by the magic of picture books and fairytale stories, she first developed a particular interest in Arthur Rackham's intricate pen and ink illustrations. This led to the decision to enrol on a degree in illustration and work towards her ambition of becoming a children's book artist. After completing her degree, she went travelling to South America, settling briefly in Bolivia before returning to the UK to work as a designer and illustrator, initially focusing on creating sculptured clay murals for private homes. From there, she discovered a passion for the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau styles - major influences that remain as echoes in her work to date. In creating some of her most recent figurative works, Kerry also cites pieces by Cadogan Cowper, the use of circular shapes to represent the sun or the moon in paintings by Mucha, and the restrained style of Victorian artists.
In more recent years, Kerry has found recognition as an artist known for her original designs, often featuring trees and natural motifs. Her first abstract works went on to form the "Volcanic" collection, shown first in 2006. Drawing on satellite photography of the Earth from space, she played with the sense of grand perspectives as well as including more contemporary landscapes, and the first hints of her figurative and "fairytale" works, building a distinctive, original style.
A book, entitled 'Illustrations' has followed, along with the release of several Unique Edition prints drawn from the book. Wildly popular, her 'Midnight Garden' prints sold out within weeks of being made available, and 'Mad Hatters Tea Party' quickly followed suit, selling out before obtaining high prices on the secondary market.
Derived from a fascination with the magic of myths and legends, Kerry's work weaves together stories with the visual arts. A self-confessed "dreamer", she credits art with translating her imagination into work. She is now often inspired by other media, including poems, fiction and music, or simply meditating in silence. From there, she creates doodles from her daydreams, uses photographs of models or her children, or takes a visual frame of reference from the last painting she completed as direct inspiration. She normally has an idea of what the composition will look like structurally, but then allows it to develop organically as she paints through the process of layering acrylic, metallics and resins.
Beginning with a wooden board cut to size, she sketches on the main elements before painting in the background. She considers the background layer to be particularly important and devotes a significant portion of the overall composition's duration to achieving the right colours before moving up through the layers. Colour is not simply applied. Instead, Kerry paints one colour, adds a resin and then layers on another colour to create a composite colour with an almost see-through sense of depth and light. By leaving specific areas bare during this layering process, she is left with natural patches of highlight.
By using resin between layers of colour, the background is intensified and given a kind of radiance that can't come from simply layering paint. On top of the final resin layer, Kerry adds the finishing touches and tiny details, tiny white highlights and an overall archival-varnish.
Kerry's figurative paintings combine natural themes, patterns, a sense of energy and what she terms an "ephemeral, nostalgic subject matter". Each work has a title and a "feeling" - a symbiotic relationship between the artist and the painting that can only be described in Kery's words as "the feeling I give to the painting and that which the painting gives back to me as I paint it".
For her original artworks, Kerry uses texture, resin and acrylics, working in layers to build up a sense of depth and light. Each 'Unique Editions' work is a print, but is in some way distinctly unique, incorporating small 3D additions she hand-works into each print. Backgrounds are entirely hand decorated, and all works have hand-applied resin, creating the look and feel of an original painting.
Having taken the leap to become self-employed, Kerry was selling her more abstract decorative pieces on eBay initially. It took off and was spotted by a gallery and a publishing agent who began to find new outlets for her work to be bought. She is now a highly popular artist, known for her highly original designs, grounded in themes of nature and trees.
After releasing her book Illustrations as Unique Edition prints, she gained additional recognition through her hugely popular "Midnight Garden" and "Mad Hatters Tea Party" works. She has also illustrated versions of the books "Peter Pan", "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", as well as recently being granted permission to illustrate an issue of her childhood favourite Enid Blyton book: "The Magical Faraway Tree". In releasing a private collection of figurative works, she has taken her work to a new level, including the well known motifs "Ophelia", "Undine" and "The Lady of Shalott". These original pieces have since gone on to achieve high values on the secondary market.
In 2012 and 2014, Kerry was named as the "Best Selling Published Artist" by the Fine Art Trade Guide. One of the most sought after artists in the UK today, her work is now influencing other artists and enticing collectors from all over the world. Let's take a look at some of Kerry's works.
Kerry has always had an affinity with European folklore, mythology and fairytales, stemming from her love of childhood stories. The well-known Brothers Grimm wrote literature that combines magic with moral storytelling. Their tales re-tell Germanic figures like Little Red Riding Hood that are thought to have begun as part of the oral tradition of storytelling passed down from generation to generation.
Made from three distinct layers, the work includes 3D embellishments and intricate gold leaf, making every "print" a unique artwork in its own right. Incorporating a range of diverse references, its style suggests the influence of Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves", a magical-realist style screenplay. It explores the romantic mysticism that lies behind the original folk tale, including the polarisation between the civility and relative safety of the village and the dark mystery evoked by the wolf - made all the more apparent by Kerry's decision to include a yin-yang symbol in the top left corner.
Part of a unique edition of just 295 prints, the 30" x 30" piece is framed in silver with a white slip.
The famous folk story of Rapunzel actually has its roots in the German fairytale Persinette. Both stories are united in having their main character held prisoner throughout much of the narrative, creating a feeling of entrapment and claustrophobia well evoked in Kerry's stunning work on the subject. A remarkable original design, it gives the viewer a window into the imagination and dreams of the lonely and imprisoned Repunzel. The motifs vary in their mood, from dark and elemental representations in fairy stories to those of much more modern fantasies.
Again, part of a set of just 295 unique editions prints, each one is overlaid with original details to make it a new artwork in its own right.
Extraordinarily vivid, East of the Sun, West of the Moon draws upon Kerry's love for an old Norwegian folk tale of the same name. Telling the story of a poor peasant girl who goes on to marry a prince who has been turned into a polar bear, the story ends with them living happily in a castle located east of the sun and west of the moon.
Kerry has explained that the story particularly appealed to her as it visually felt familiar with the characters of Lyra Silvertongue and Lorek Byrnison from Philip Pullman's epic "His Dark Materials" literary trilogy. In Kerry's work on the subject, the girl has just started out on her journey from the safety and comfort of her home, experiencing the first freedoms of life away. She looks up in wonder at the Northern lights - nature's display in the skies. Her senses awake and she relishes the cold and nature in its most raw state.
Available as one of a limited run of just 295 prints, each one is finely detailed to create a unique work and framed in silver to offset the vibrant colours.
Complementing Kerry's approach to layering textures, colours and media, her work on Ophelia draws on Shakespeare's original Hamlet as well as John Everett Millais' famous pre-Raphaelite painting depicting Ophelia's long locks and serene expression. One of her largest works to date, it serves to throw a spotlight on Kerry's command of the figurative form, as well as capturing the dark and almost abstract river flowing into Ophelia's hair. It therefore shows off every facet of Kerry's painting expertise and is a highly sought-after work. Available as one of a limited set of 295 prints, Kerry also adds tiny details that make each "print" entirely unique.
Inspired by multiple influences, spanning media, eras and genres, the Lady of Shalott depicts the legend in a kind of storm, drawn from Kerry's wanderings along the north Wales coast close to where she works. Lord Tennyson's well-known poem takes centre stage in providing the enigmatic and tortured character of the Lady, as well as the Pre-Raphaelite Lady of Shalott as depicted in paint by John William Waterhouse. Kerry also cites the influence of modern singer Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" which she listened to while working the paint into the canvas, transforming what was once intended to be a distant landscape into a striking portrait.
J.M. Barrie's timeless "Peter Pan" tells us that "the only thing for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children". His early work featured echoes of the well-known character of Peter Pan in "The Little White Bird" and "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens". This pre-cursor to the Peter Pan we all know and love was a literal lost boy: a seven-day-old baby who is abandoned in Kensington Gardens to experience a captivating nighttime world of fairies and magic.
In Kerry's take on this early story, Peter Pan has found favour with Queen Mab and is chosen to entertain her magical creatures and assorted fairies on the pan pipes. Richly detailed and incredibly layered, the work has a vibrant sense of light and fun infused into the texture of the layers of paint and resin on the canvas. Part of a set of just 295 "Unique Editions", each 27" x 37" piece has overlaid original detailing, making it a one of a kind.
Highly original, Kerry's striking visual representation of the folklore tale by Hans Christian Anderson includes the mirror that has been cursed by an evil troll so it can only show ugliness and bad. In trying to carry the mirror to heaven to break the spell, the mirror falls and shatters. All of humankind is then taken over by darkness and many are left under a spell. Kerry's painting is a mixture of the famous Gerda who searches tirelessly for her friend Kay from the Hans Christian Anderson original tale and the young White Witch Jadis in C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" - two characters written decades apart. Often described as "spellbinding", it is one of Kerry's most popular works.
Available as one of a set of 295 limited "Unique Editions", each "print" is overlaid with tiny addition details to create original works in their own right - a spectacular and highly prized artwork to own.
Uniquely layered and hand signed, Kerry's Bird of Hera is an unusual work, depicting a young woman flanked by peacock feathers. Showing her clever mastery of the physical form, it is one of the most vibrant of Kerry's figurative works. Available as one of a limited run of 295 "unique editions", each version has tiny, hand-added detailing.
Showing another side to Kerry's versatile works, Floral is highly detailed and figurative, while still keeping the magical use of colour and textured layering with resin to create washes of light. Only 150 are available in the world, making this a highly desirable, limited piece. Each version is unique, thanks to the hand-detailed final layer.
Lace Tree is a large scale work by Kerry Darlington, combining her love for the fantastical and the natural. On the branches of a textured tree built up in layers of acrylics, pen and resin are birds, butterflies, a pocket watch, leaves, flowers and coloured circles. Available as part of a limited run of just 50 "unique editions", each one is entirely original thanks to the final details Kerry applies.