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Louis Parsons, Art with Soul

PUBLISHED: 15:26 21 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:02 20 February 2013

Louis Parsons, Art with Soul

Louis Parsons, Art with Soul

Louis Parsons is an artist who captures something far beyond our external physiology, as Katie Jarvis discovers.

Louis Parsons is an artist who captures something far beyond our external physiology, as Katie Jarvis discovers.

A SoulScape is a work of art that captures the essence of who you really are inside. When you look at it, it will remind you of the things that are important to you: your values; your core beliefs. But it will also be that true north that shining star that can help you orientate yourself in times of difficulty or adversity or when you need to dig deeper and find the extra energy and spark we all need every now and again. Louis Parsons, SoulScape artist.

What do you see when you look in a mirror? An outer skin that changes with age; that morphs from smooth and young, perhaps through beauty, to an image that writes in flowing lines the story of the passing years.

Louis Parsons makes mirrors. Mirrors you can look into at any age that reflect back an unchanging image. But Louiss mirrors are created by brushstrokes, not pure light particles; for hes an artist wholl paint you a picture of your soul.

My soul? Genuinely? Am I not a collection of physical atoms that have gradually, through some evolutionary quirk, found consciousness? Is there really a ghost in the machine?

The souls a very tricky thing to define, Louis concedes. We all know weve got one or I like to think we do. If you ask people enough questions, youll nearly always get to a point where they talk about a precious moment in their life where they can say theyve felt something more. It could be a moment in nature, time with family, or on their own.

Im talking about a sense of awe. A time when youve felt very present, alive, energised, motivated, joyful.

He takes me to his Cheltenham studio, the floor rainbow-dotted with stray paint, to show me the soul portraits hes done and they are wonderfully strange works, quite unlike anything Ive seen before. Often, theres the suggestion of an ethereal figure at the heart; sometimes youll see a reflection, as if in a lake. There are deep colours and spirals of what looks like pure energy emanating out. One picture is of Tilly, a little girl whose confinement to a wheelchair doesnt stop her SoulScape showing a being who is free to dance like a butterfly. Another is a husband-to-be describing his relationship: his bride is wild and swirling, while he himself anchors her chaotic energy as a steady river, running along the border.

Its an interesting career for someone who got kicked out of art college.

He grins. I got thrown out for doing a Mickey-take out of Damien Hirst. Hed just put a sheep in formaldehyde and the world was acclaiming it.

I wanted to use art to inspire and uplift people but that just wasnt fashionable.

As a protest against the art world, Louis decided his final exhibition was to be his contempt writ large: so he filled three bags with animal droppings and put them on display. Sadly, the tutors failed to clock his irony and informed him hed failed to complete the course.

During the next few years, he tried various career paths, including gaining a geography degree, taking a job as a web designer, and a period travelling the world.

What categorises all these years is a sense of deepening spirituality that manifested itself in various ways. Sometimes odd coincidences seemed to speak to him; sometimes vivid dreams.

There was one where I was caught in a huge storm, but the waves were breaking on a field rather than on a beach. I remember waking with a very deep sense of love, as well as a memory of the intensity of the colours I saw. From that, I had this urge to start trying to paint them.

And thus the seeds were sown for the depiction of internal landscapes. So what will Louis make of my soul? Well, the process begins with a series of questions. Imagine I have my perfect work of art in front of me, asks. What do I experience as I look at it?

As I concentrate, a rural scene forms itself in my mind, along with a sense of completeness, happiness and light.

He asks about whats important to me which is easy to answer: my family. And whether I ever feel that same sense of completeness and happiness that Ive described at other times. The questions make me think hard; theyre not difficult but theyre things we rarely ask ourselves. I usually feel happy in the most mundane, domestic situations, I explain. It could be when Im washing up, even.

Youre an enlightened being, Louis says, impressed. (Nope, my children say, when I relate it to them later. Youre just sad.)

As we talk, Louis tells me he experiences something not unlike synesthesia, an overlapping of the senses: I listen to what someone has to say about themselves. When they start to share more deeply, I begin to see in colour and in form. The more they talk, the clearer that image becomes. But not everyones soul can be soft waves under an evening sun. So what would he make of Reggie Kray, for example?

Weve all got a shadow side and those kinds of sufferings and pain are part of whats made us who we are. But, at the same time, I want a piece for that person that will remind them of the learning that comes from those times rather than a picture full of the pain and suffering itself. I try to create something that reflects back the best of who they are; what their possibilities might be. When I go back a week later to collect my SoulSketch a premlimary to a full painting I have to admit Im nervous.

Not because I might be presented with a horned devil or a pure black canvas, but because of what my reaction might be: I dont want to disappoint Louis. The truth of the matter is, I love representational art, not the abstract. Im a traditionalist at heart.

As it happens, I find an artist who is as worried as I am. I always feel nervous when I unveil one of my works, Louis says.

And then he opens his sketchbook to reveal a picture that gladdens my soul, whether I have one or not. Its a green field, punctuated by a flowing tree with deceptively strong roots. Up above, a warm sun is bathing the whole scene with light.

And do you know what? Every time I look at it, it makes me happy.

For more information on Louis and his work, visit


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