I first saw this painting, unfinished, taped to the studio wall in a Glossop school classroom. The room was filled with canvases, layer upon layer of paintings and sketches stacked against walls and table tops, the smell of oil paint accompanying the nostalgic scent of school corridors. There was an immense energy in the room; Ghislaine Howard’s enthusiasm for life and compassion towards people was contagious, capturing through vivid colour and broad brush strokes the raw and honest emotions that make us human. I was drawn closer as I became aware of her ability to see the minutiae in everyday life; the subtle gestures we make, the postures we hold when facing different circumstances, her beautiful gift of translating the unspoken language of the body both loaded with tension and grace. I was warmed by the colourful acceptance and understanding of who we are, of how we behave, survive or communicate during significant moments of our lives; our ordinariness is celebrated, welcomed and embraced onto the canvas. The deep cobalt blue kept calling me towards the far wall where I witnessed the awkwardness present in myself of both the giver and receiver in this simple act of the passing of a glass of water; a hesitancy to trust a fellow human being when I feel unworthy; my uncomfortableness with the gift of grace when it is materially given; my fear of giving away love in case it is rejected. I was present in this painting in both the figures, encompassed within an almost celestial non-place of brilliant blue and was challenged to mimic the brave gestures of each figure that, despite their unease, entered into a loving interaction that begins the journey towards wholeness. Ghislaine captures so beautifully the paradox that is the human condition – our longing for love, compassion, beauty and generosity going hand in hand with our overwhelming tendency to fear, judge and hate. Her work examines our conscience. How do I choose to live today?

To see more of Ghislaine’s paintings visit

Lesley Sutton