Personal..(ity) Stories

This entry establishes the reasons for…

my artist pseudonym,

 my career choice 


and more to come!


Brunelleschi-Florence Dome

Many painters choose to adopt an artist’s name. Most prevalent in today’s society is the assent of the street art tag, utilised by the artists known as Banksy, Bambi and Mr.Brainwash. But what has been the impetus for me to adopt a form of pseudonym and from where did the name F.L. Brunell derive? 

When you are born you are given a name. In the creative industry many artists, be it musicians, actors or painters choose to deviate from this somewhat. For me, there was no desire to lose my own identity or establish a new persona, rather, it was a natural evolution. I have retained my own identity via the F.L. Fiona Lowe initials. In doing so the authorship is not transparently female and thus it may be argued that this is a rejection of the feminine. However, I am very much Fiona. I am comfortable in my standing as a painter, whether anyone should choose to add the subtext of female or not.

Historically, however, there has been an undoubted division between painter and woman painter. The subject of the gender divide informed a large part of my History of Art study at university. Traditionally women occupied a marginalised position in society and in the hierarchy of art. Females were not only excluded from life drawing classes but were primarily limited to painting the subject matter of still life, fruit and flowers as this could be undertaken within the confined environs of the home.

In spite of such restraints, the radical path towards equality has been paved by trailblazers from the Renaissance to the present day. Notable figures such as Artemesia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonheur, Judy Chicago, Barbara Kruger and more recently Tracy Emin have been central to revolutionising the position of the female artist. Woman being perceived as active subject as opposed to object has been imagined and re-imagined. We have surpassed the stages of essentialist and deconstructive feminism and I would like to think we are past judgement of work being based on gender.

School Artwork - Formula 1

Artwork from school days based on Formula 1

I attended an all girls school and although we were not educated in the history of the female painter at this stage, I must have been somewhat aware of societal expectation. I rejected subject matter intrinsic to female identity, preferring instead to paint Formula One, James Bond, Euro Currency and construction machinery.

School Art -Machinery

Artwork from school days based on the subject of machinery and construction

Much to the chagrin of my teachers I would not choose to depict flowers or leaves, inherently associated with the female. I have a lasting gratitude to them for allowing me to take flight. Whilst I now would no longer be averse to painting flowers, I have been more inclined to gravitate towards a structured, mathematical composition.

This predisposition towards the linear informed my choice for the name Brunell. It is not a reference to the infamous mechanical and civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as would be the natural assumption. Rather, it originates from the name of Italian engineer and architect Filippo Brunelleschi. When I decided to pursue History of Art one of my first studies was based on the Florence Cathedral. The engineering was designed by Brunelleschi and the resulting building had a profound impact, especially when I visited Florence.

Upon researching Brunelleschi further, I discovered that he was born in 1377 which is coincidentally comprised of 13 and 77, my two favourite numbers. Whilst I am not fastidious about my interest in numbers, it was a fact I meandered upon that made me smile that little broader. I retain my F.L. as I am very much Fiona Lowe but nature and nurture has made me F.L. Brunell.

Thank you for reading!


F.L. Brunell with Titanic painting

With art works currently housed in collections at the Titanic Foundation Belfast, the South African Embassy Dublin and the Nelson Mandela Foundation South Africa the past several years have been a welcome journey for the painter F.L. Brunell. This has been an evolving career which the artist speaks about…..

For all school leaving students, the month post results can be exhilarating but also a confusing and difficult time. It is a daunting prospect to commit to a choice that is most likely one with a lifetimes longevity. When it came to making this decision, I was lost; as out of place as a penguin attempting a hand stand in the desert whilst speaking a foreign language backwards. And this would never do – I have always had great affection for penguins.Throughout school years my academic results were consistent across the board, which I genuinely considered to be a problem. Do I gravitate towards languages or science, a vocational career or venture into business? This relentlessly played on my mind. I wasn’t one to talk about this dilema, all I truly remember is my art teacher saying “you have to go be you.” This is advice I initially failed to follow because I didn’t understand it in entirety. Instead, it was saved and backed up securely in in the filing cabinet of my mind for future reference.

Perhaps it seems that the natural progression would be to immerse myself in the arts as I was awarded First place in Northern Ireland A level Art and Design. However, upon leaving school I commenced Architecture at university believing that this might resolve that disparity between the arts and sciences. Realising this was not for me, I swiftly bolted after 5 weeks; before the fees were due. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief when I mustered the courage to make this decision and it was one which I never regretted for a second.Now armed only with the knowledge of what I didn’t want, this little penguin needed to get itself sorted. Off I went to law lectures, spoke with accountants, tried a few hours of Byzantine studies, even attended Women’s Studies. Ultimately I didn’t know where I was going.I had the distinct impression that art college didn’t gel with who I was at that present moment in time. Also, coming from a conventional background, with both my parents having PAYE jobs, this art world did not seem to present itself as a viable option.Around this time my cousin who was living in London arrived home on holiday and she talked to me about the lure of Mayfair galleries. Her proposal was that I should consider a career as a curator or art dealer. When I investigated this further it came to light that Queen’s offered History of Art as a relatively recent addition to the department of languages, literature and arts. Now with a more precise focus, a combination of History of Art and French provided the answer to my problems.Whilst I didn’t move into the field of curatorship, the study of both subjects affirmed my dedication to art and literature and my instinct to return to painting.

For long enough I had procrastinated and danced around the desire.Looking back retrospectively it is evident that from primary school age, my primary love was art. Each month I purchased a magazine on the works of renowned artists, amongst them being Rembrandt, Monet and my childhood favourite Van Gogh. In the evenings whilst watching television I would copy and re-copy the works by these masters, just as it has been recounted that Michelangelo was preoccupied with sketching whilst tending to sheep. If you find yourself incessantly painting when you ought to be doing something else, you should know that this is most likely your destiny. Such a preoccupation continued over the years and when at school I recall drawing behind a book during both English and Maths class. Both subjects I multi-tasked through at school are ironically integral to my current artwork in terms of subject matter and style.Studying History of Art has informed the choices I have made as a painter more than I could ever have imagined. Key influences have been derived from the Renaissance period and Abstract Expressionist oeuvres as well as the works of Louis le Brocquy and Mainie Jellett also being of great influence. My works also retain an architectural influence. Everything comes full circle. All my studies and experiences have proven to be invaluable resources without which I would not be who I am today. Cumulatively they resolved the indecisiveness at the core of choosing to become a painter; that was the need to find a style, to find a purpose which would allow me to connect with all disciplines of life.

Life is undoubtedly a gift and learning is one of its privileges. If you are are in the knowledge of which pursuit you want to follow in life, this is a joy. To quote the late great Seamus Heaney’ ‘Happy the man with a natural gift for practising the right one from the start-poetry, say, or fishing;’If you are unassured of life in terms of career, take some wisdom form the words of Patrick Kavanagh ”My advice is this, do whatever pleases yourself. These things don’t matter. What does matter is that if you have anything worth while in you, any talent, you should deliver it. Nothing must turn you from that.”

The art of painting is more than a career. It is a way of seeing, believing and achieving on a daily basis. This fulfilment is the attainment we all want to actualise in our working life. If you follow your heart’s desire it will lead to a path in life. This might be a meandering route, but whatever the journey it is the inspirational people you meet along the way that make it all the more enjoyable and interesting as we are all united by common dependencies in our independent working environments.

Go fulfil the art of being you

 FL Brunell 

FL Brunell is a fine art painter based in Ireland currently working towards an exhibition on Irish Writers.