I’m a plein air painter. I work on the spot, outside, with the subject directly in front of me. I’m London based and my studio is at Wimbledon Art Studios. I regularly go on painting trips and love the unexpected and rich colours of India and the South of France. I studied at the City and Guilds of London Art School and CCAT (now Anglia Ruskin University).
I was an art teacher for over 20 years teaching both children and adults before I became a full time painter 10 years ago. I am delighted to now be a member of the Pastel Society.
My work is all about the exploration of light - the way it hits and transforms places, objects and people. There are two light shows a day, sunrise and sunset and everything in between; never ending subject matter.
I have used soft pastels for most of my life. What I love about pastels are the glowing colours that can be used rapidly and spontaneously. I can respond directly to what I see in front of me. There’s no faffing around with brushes; it’s there in my hands.
The very nature of working outside does dictate the size - portability is the key. In my backpack I have a Heinemann pastel box which contains all the pastels I need, a tripod, pastel card folder, storage boards, ruler and masking tape. I carry a stool and a Mabef easel if I want to work bigger. It’s difficult to work out what colours you need so I take a wide variety. I’ve come a cropper by leaving something behind so many times. I mainly use Sennelier and Unison pastels. I layer over colours until I feel I’ve hit the right spot.
I use a mid to dark ground and Canson Mi Teintes is my preferred pastel card. Often the subject will dictate the colour of the ground so I like to take a variety with me. I like the flannel grey particularly in London as it’s very much a colour I see around me.
I begin by stalking the subject, walking around a particular area at different times of day to find the most interesting light. I go on long walks and stare. This can take hours/days or it can be a matter of serendipity. I always allow for the unexpected. Over the years I have built up a sort of visual memory bank of areas I want to explore. I often take a sketchbook with me to work out the composition and it helps to remind me of spots. For me, it is not just the depiction of the subject; it is about feeling.
One of the problems of the UK is that the weather is rarely consistent. The same light will not necessarily be repeated the following day so you have to work fast. I think that 2 - 2 1/2 hours is about the maximum before the light changes completely. I do go back to the spot at the same time later but it is often never really the same. I love the spontaneity of pastels and I try very hard not to overwork them. When I get back in the studio I put the work on the wall and I stare at it. I try not to make too many changes because when I do I often find I lose that crucial element that got me started in the first place and the spirit of the piece. So many times have I wrecked pieces by tickling it too much!
I begin by mapping out my composition very freely, continually adjusting as I go. I quickly block in my main tones, establishing the very darkest and the lightest at the beginning so I have a feeling of where I’m going.
I often feel when I’m working that I’m having an argument with it - continually adjusting, changing until I get it as right as I can. It is not a peaceful process but I am completely absorbed. You have to be totally in the moment as the light changes so fast.
My mantra, when I taught art, was the oft quoted ‘Draw what you see, not what you think you see’ I question every mark I put down, what pastels I use and try to deconstruct what I see in front of me. I am always surprised how very dark the skies can be - and how strangely green. I learn a great deal by looking at how other plein air painters tackle the subject. One of the problems is knowing when to stop! I try not to be too specific about things (eg clothing on people) as detail can interrupt the general impression by giving it a focus.
I do however feel it’s important to keep experimenting; changing the size of work and intention. There is always the next painting to look forward to and plan. That’s why you never meet an old painter - it keeps you young. I’ve recently started to work on clifftops, working on the ground, to try and get that sense of dizzying height, space and fresh air. This is all weather dependant though!
Art is about communication. What I hope to show through my work is my fascination and wonder of the living world. It is supposed to be joyful and if I can in some way show that, then I feel I’ve done my job.
I exhibit regularly at Piers Feetham and the Jerram Galleries with the Small Paintings Group and annually at Chelsea Art Society, Art for Youth at the Mall Galleries and Wimbledon Art Fair.
2018 Solo Show, Piers Feetham Gallery
2011 - 2017 Moorwood Art, Bruton
2017 Sarah Samuels Fine Art, Chester
2012-2014 Medici Gallery, Cork Street
2013 Artists of the Pageant, Thames Festival
2002 Eisteddfod Saints and Stones, St Davids
The Pastel Society UK
Chelsea Art Society (Council Member)
Small Paintings Group
The Wapping Group of Artists
2019 Pastel Society - Royal Talent Award
2017 Chelsea Art Society - Agnes Reeve Award for a Painting of London
2010 Cheyne Walk Trust
1992 Young Painters’ Award - RI
The Problems of Having the Same Name The Artist Online April 2019
Artists of Chelsea, Sloane Square Magazine, 2017