Russell, Lynn Paula
Most of Paula’s work reflects her personal journey of self-discovery. This journey prompted her to leave Canterbury School of Art in 1969 to try her luck in professional theatre as an actress and dancer for seven years. She performed in children’s theatre, the first National tour of Hair, and Regents Park Open Air Theatre, as well as in various repertory companies, and played small parts on TV, after which she drifted into back stage work in London theatres. While there she began to create her unique portraits of actors in West End musicals and posters of Hollywood stars. During this time she illustrated a children’s book written by her husband Frank Charles.
Following a powerful awakening at the age of 29 she decided to explore sexuality in some depth to reinvigorate her creative work and challenge the prevailing attitudes of the early Eighties. A brief but life-changing stint as an erotic model and actress led her into the strange demimonde of sado-masochism. She became the illustrator of Janus and then went on to provide artwork for other publications eventually becoming the editor and illustrator of Februs (the sister magazine to Janus) for ten years. At this time she appeared in several discussion programmes on television in London and New York.
In the nineties Paula began to create illustrated stories for French adult Bandes Dessinées magazines and was greatly surprised that censorship in France imposed very few restrictions, giving artist almost total freedom. Three of these graphic stories were later published as albums in English by the Erotic Print Society – Sabina volumes 1 and 2, and Summer Holiday.
The Erotic Print Society also published some beautiful books featuring large collections of Paula’s work – The Illustrative Art of Lynn Paula Russell (in 1997), A Sexual Odyssey (in 2000), Sexcitement (in 2002) – this was an unusual sex manual, written by the artist – and Painful Pleasures (in 2005). Several collectors have commissioned work from her, including a set of drawings inspired by The Story of O and the Kama Sutra. She has also been commissioned to execute a number of bookplates, now widely collected by Ex Libris enthusiasts.
Paula paints in oils on paper and also loves to use soft pencils and coloured crayons, for their delicate line and subtle colour tones. Her less illustrative, more metaphysical works explore the sensual female body as landscape. A collection of her Bodyscapes was exhibited with great success at a Pimlico gallery in 1989, and then later in a one-woman show at Les Larmes d’Eros gallery in Paris. There then followed a number of group shows in London galleries.
More recently Paula has designed a new erotic Tarot deck, a huge undertaking, which required obsessive concentration. Nowadays she has largely retired from illustration but continues to explore, in painting, her own magical world of the imagination with a blend of sensuality and spirituality.