Alex and Anna Ebdon
A mural depicting an abundance of magnificent flowers cascades over the hallway walls and the ground floor is hung with an array of beautiful painting and prints. This is clearly the home of an artist! In fact, there are two artists here – three you count Alex and Anna’s seven-year-old daughter Molly, who has already sold several of her portraits of pets and toys, raising money for the cancer charity, Myeloma UK, and even designing a Christmas ecard for them.
I asked Alex and Anna if they had met through Art but no, it was the ‘old- school way’ of meeting through friends. At that time Anna was working as a Creative for Channel 5 and had no idea that Alex was an artist as he was working as a planner in an advertising agency. Her first glimpse of his artistic talent came when, on a train journey, he fished out a green biro to make a quick sketch. This was followed by a charcoal portrait of her which he presented on her 30th birthday - by which time she was truly smitten! Internet dating sites could not have done a better job; these two are clearly suited and even their artwork dovetails as Anna includes some of Alex’s floral images in her prints.
Alex is already well-known in Ealing for his huge paintings of breathtakingly beautiful flowers. As a keen gardener, Anna rates these as her favourite of Alex’s work, but Alex tells me his strongest passion lies with portraiture. He also paints landscapes and produces delightful lino – prints of birds and foliage.
It would have come as no surprise, had he been told as a little boy that he would one day become an artist. His parents encouraged him throughout school and even though they ‘asked him to think very carefully’ before applying for art college, they never presented any opposition. After completing a foundation course things did not go according to plan. Unbelievably, Alex was not accepted onto a Fine Art degree course so after a year out, he went to Nottingham to gain a degree in Psychology, a subject which links with his interest in exploring people’s personalities through portraiture. Although this could be seen as a setback, he describes it as ‘the best thing that happened’ - it led him into advertising which has provided a roof over their heads, an education in how to run a business, and a job he can dive back into for short spells, to replenish funds.
It was only when the couple had moved to Ealing that Alex took up his brushes again. Of all the London boroughs, why did they choose Ealing? Having spent their childhoods in the spacious beauty of Norfolk and Lancashire respectively, Anna and Alex, then living in Shepherds Bush, searched for a West London area which offered green open spaces and good schools – and Ealing fitted the bill perfectly!
The painting that symbolises the turning point in Alex’s identity as an artist is probably the portrait of Molly when she was two years old. This was followed by a portrait of his father, by which time he was feeling less enamoured with work in advertising and decided to go part-time. It was not until about five years ago that he took the plunge into full time self-employment and I asked if he and Anna have any advice to would be full–time artists.
Anna is quick to point out that we should not be too hard on ourselves. ‘Don’t expect to be earning as much as you were in more traditional employment, and don’t see that as a failure. Take it gradually, for example going part-time at first and remember the huge positives about working on what you love.’ They both feel passionate about expressing their creative natures but they also recognise that their artwork has to be marketed and some compromises are necessary in order to survive. Anna’s background in Channel 5 and varied creative and media agencies had equipped her to think with her left brain as well as her right. She likes to describe herself as an organised creative, or half & half, perhaps inheriting artistic skills from her Architect father and a more practical and logical approach from her mother who was a Sister in operating theatres.
Fear of failure can often put people off exploring new dimensions in both work and marketing but they both agree that failure is a necessary part of learning and developing. We all have moments of self-doubt and if Alex finds himself needing encouragement, he pops into an art gallery; his favourite being the National Portrait Gallery. Since childhood, he has loved the work of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. He has also been following Andrew Salgado for some years and admires the work BEAT artist David Wiseman. Anna is a huge fan of BEAT artist Sarah Peart‘s botanical illustrations as well as Rebecca Louise Law who recently exhibited the ‘Life in Death ‘installation at Kew Gardens.
How do they find life now that they are both working at home? Anna’s studio space equates to a small creative area in their open plan kitchen, adorned with flowers, books and quirky lighting that Alex has made for her. Alex has turned one of the spare bedrooms upstairs into a light studio space, allowing them to create their own atmosphere with music, or silence, and meet for lunch to take a break. There is no danger of becoming house bound; they share the school run and make trips to buy supplies, meet with local retailers selling their work, and to post artwork. Anna, a ‘people person’ welcomes feedback and often asks from Alex how his work is progressing but he prefers ‘the great reveal’ at the end of his work.
Anna’s print designs are all vintage themed, and she uses a variety of pre-loved book pages to print the designs onto, breathing new life into old and often forgotten literature. Anna likes to carefully choose each page she uses so that it is personal to either the design or the recipient. She takes this responsibility very seriously, as she likes everything she creates to bring joy to others, especially as she makes prints for all occasions, and has even been asked to commemorate lost relatives – a high honour indeed. Both she and Alex derive an enormous amount of pleasure from seeing one of their pieces go to a good home. Knowing that everything he creates is for someone to enjoy and appreciate means a lot to Alex after experiencing the commercial world where work would rarely receive a thank–you and may not even be put to into production.
Anna operates under the name Lady Ebdon Prints which conjures up images of a dowager in a draughty and opulent old mansion. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Anna is a thoroughly modern woman with fashionably large glasses and ombre hair; a working mum who still has time to make biscuits for BEAT. Her route into the world of art came by accident, literally. She was studying to become a PE teacher when a knee injury forced her to give up that dream, and continue with a Geography degree instead, leading on her way to a much more creative career instead.
Asked how they would spend an unexpected windfall, they both replied ‘a larger space to work in.’ Alex is also gifted at carpentry and sees furniture making as the marriage of art and craft so there might, one day, be a new project added to the Ebdon portfolio. Watch this space….