Tahnee Lonsdale

Quirky artist who loves wearing yellow leggings and ponchos to the beach

Photos by Emily Ulmer

Tahnee Lonsdale: artist, mother, wife, worrier or, depending on the day, worrier, mother, wife, artist.

We all worry. Don’t we? The push and pull of working versus being with our children feels like a constant battle and life as working parent can often feel like a ‘no win situation’.  Layer on top of that the anxiety that comes with being an artist, of being as good as your last show, painting, sketch or even worse – review. Tahnee needn’t worry, though, her art is popular and she’s a rising star.

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Born in Reading, Tahnee grew up in Hampshire, boarded at Bedales and went on to study art at Kingston and Byam Shaw school of Art. After countless waitressing, catering and bar jobs and a brief stint in the music industry, Tahnee took the plunge into full time art and has been working as an independent artist ever since.

Tahnee’s paintings explore faith and existence juxtaposed against scenes of domesticity and feminism, a tug-of-war between two opposing forces. ‘A little bit of chaos. Then order. Chaos. Order. normally finishing in chaos,’ she says. Is she describing her art or life with two small children, we wonder!?

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Tahnee’s parents ran seminal seventies denim shop Jean Machine on the Kings Road, which eventually opened 100 stores across the UK. Denim is clearly in the genes (pardon the pun) as Tahnee’s sister, Chloe Lonsdale runs M.i.h Jeans, a hugely successful denim label.

An interesting childhood with creative entrepreneurial parents may partly explain why the move to LA with her husband and two young sons at the end of last year went without a hitch.   Not only has Tahnee settled into a new rhythm of life (one that doesn’t involve bad weather and trudging through rain brandishing prams and out of control scooters, we imagine), but Sonny and Rudy have gone from being total urbanite Londoners to playing on Venice Beach every day.

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Here the kooky-cool Tahnee talks mismatched fashion, boys, LA and art. And speaking of art – consider this a preview.

I hadn't given motherhood much thought…

I'd been married for about a year when my sister told me she was pregnant. And right at that very moment I suddenly had the most unbelievable urge to have a baby. It was as if something had taken over my brain and I couldn't think about anything else. It  took me a while to get pregnant, so by the time I peed on that plastic stick - nine plastic sticks to be precise - I was ready to start the journey. That was the easy bit....

The thing that keeps me awake a night…

Apart from our new Venice neighbours, who think it's normal to smoke weed and listen to music until the early hours every night, is one of my horrible bouts of anxiety that appears from nowhere. I toss and turn and stamp around the bedroom, crying and pulling my hair out, until I decide to take a strong sleeping pill and end up sleeping like a log. It's not ideal, but it's the only thing that gets me to sleep.

Moving to LA was a huge adventure…

I was so excited and the excitement rubbed off on the kids. My youngest, Rudy didn't know what was going on as he just two, but Sonny, five, was excited about beaches and endless sunshine. They adapted so well, Sonny better than I ever could have imagined. On his first day of school he skipped in with a huge smile on his face, probably because he didn't have to wear a school uniform or eat school dinners. Living in LA couldn’t be a better life for them, they spend their life outdoors rolling around in the sand and biking round the back streets of Venice beach.

Boys equal noise and mess…

But with all that destruction and exhaustion comes so much love. I am never without a warm soft bundle of blond hair and kisses. The 'I love you's' are never ending. I've learnt to block out the noise and turn a blind eye to the scrapping. What will I teach them? To be kind and polite, to follow their dreams and do what they love. I just want them to be happy.

I had quite bad anxiety with both my pregnancies..

I couldn't pin point it to anything in particular but looking back it seems quite obvious. With Sonny, my eldest, it was the unknown. I also had horrible insomnia and couldn't take my usual sleeping pills, which freaked me out. With Rudy, I think it was knowing what was to come. Although saying that, I was much more relaxed second time round.

I'm an artist, and if I could I would paint all day and most of the night I would…

But having kids really put a spanner in the working set-up and it's a constant struggle to find any balance. When I had my boys there were big chunks of time where I wasn't able to paint and I felt like I was drifting out to sea with nothing to hold onto. My life feeds my art and vice versa. A lot of what I paint about is my place in the world, as a mother, woman, a wife, and how much I hate and love these roles in equal measure.

My hopes for my career are high...

I have ambitions of great shows in great galleries, in different places across the world. To be able to travel and show my work in interesting places would be amazing. I'd love for my art to fully support me and my family (luckily I have an amazing husband who works really hard and we can share the load, although sharing is a bit of an exaggeration!!) I'm currently working towards a show in May with Saatchi and Miami Basel in December, which is obviously very exciting.

Style is identity...

It's the first thing people see and in a way it tells them who you are. I don't have a specific style but others may disagree. I wear whatever is in my wardrobe and is practical, but then throw on bright yellow leggings, coral brogues and an oversized poncho, which I realise may not be everyone's "go to" day-to-day look! I like to stand out but I also like to look good. If something is unflattering but cool, I probably wouldn't wear it. Sadly for my style cred, since I moved to LA I am wearing a lot more sportswear, but on the upside I'm in great shape!!!

Tell us a joke…

What's black and white and read all over? A newspaper. (On dear)

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My Kids Favourite Things

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