Heloise Toop is a portrait painter, based in Cambridge. She works mainly in acrylic or oil paint. Passionate about portraiture, she studied 'portraiture and history of art' at the Heatherleys School of Fine Art in Chelsea, 2008. She went on to win both the annual school prize, and the public vote for best painting in the outsider arts exhibition, Cambridge. She was also exhibited at the mall galleries, London, whilst still a sixth form student and has exhibited in various shows around Cambridge and London. Heloise has carried out many successful commissions of children, adults and professionals including the television personality Brian Belo.
“I see beauty in every face. Skin and eyes rich with colour and line have drawn me in every day since I was sixteen, when I realised that portraiture was the only path I would be truly happy following.”
Her aim is to portray people as she sees people: beautiful, dignified and enchanting. Enjoying the process of taking a composition from idea to canvas through the medium of paint, and she believes very deeply in keeping a traditional skill and practice alive.
In the last few months Heloise has achieved many impressive things, including portraying Michael Greene from Cambridge University, and meeting Stephen Hawking in the process. For the Gallery Games exhibition she painted her friend Veronica Vrettos, who is a dancer in the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
A lot of your portraits have a fairy tale theme, have you always been intrigued by fairy tales?
I have always been interested in the colour and imagination of fairy tales. I like that most of them have dark undertones and humour behind them. It's fun to escape in to something fantastical and magical, which is why I love to paint people I know in story settings. It's like putting them in another reality where they can stay forever, staring out at me from their mysterious worlds.
What is your favourite fairy tale?
I've never really had a definite favourite as I like so many of them, but growing up, I do remember loving Hansel and Gretel. I think it was because the heroes were small children and they were so brave. The house made of sweets definitely might have helped though and I love imagining what it might have looked like. I am thinking of painting my niece and nephew as Hansel and Gretel as they are very innocent looking with a naughty streak. It would be a great way to portray them!
Whose portrait would you really like to paint?
That's a tough question. There are so many people I would love to paint but if I had to pick one right now, I think I would choose the actor Idris Elba. He has such an incredible presence on screen and I would love to see if I could get that across in portrait. I just have to corner him and get him to agree to pose for me somehow.. I'll work on that.
What have been your Debut highlights so far?
I absolutely love getting to know all the people who work for the gallery. They are hugely helpful and encouraging which really pushes me to try my hardest to make them proud. My top highlight has to be when I held my Saturday Debut, called 'People In Paint'. I got the models from my fairy tale paintings to come along in costume and we transformed the gallery in to a wonderland with grass, ivy, flowers, tea in vintage cups and mountains of cake. I worked on my Goldilocks painting in the window and had the props from it scattered about for people to see and touch. At the end of the day I had my models pose with toadstools and teddy bears while children came in and had a go at drawing them. It was hugely satisfying to see them getting so passionate about their portraits whilst munching on cake with their free hands. I'll never forget it.
Finally, do you have an interesting fact for us?
I have a Chihuahua called Alfie who frequently sports colourful oil paint splotches, as he insists on sleeping flopped over my shoulder while I work. Boys..