Saturday, 27 September 2014

Octobers Guest Artist Interview Heather Duncan

We are thrilled to have abstract painter Heather Duncan join us as our guest artist for October, her work is highly acclaimed and is a visual feast of shape colour and texture. To find out more about Heather read her interview below:

 Who are you and what do you do?

Hi! I’m Heather and I’m a painter. I live and work in the beautiful village of Kirk Ireton.  My studio overlooks the Ecclesbourne Valley and Alport Heights, and I never tire of watching the landscape change through the seasons or the skies change by the moment.

Why do you do what you do?

That’s a difficult question to answer in a straightforward way.  I paint because it’s how I make sense of the world around me.  Painting is my language, it is the way I communicate my feelings or passions freely.  It is quite simply a huge part of who I am.  When I am not creating/painting I am not fulfilled.  It is through painting/art/creativity that I can be the best mother, best friend and best partner that I can be.

How do you work?

I am not a painter who has a method or formula by which to paint.  I have no formula.  I approach each new piece with no preconceived ideas of what or where I am going to paint.  The start of each new piece begins with a spontaneous application of broad washes of colour picked almost randomly or subliminally from my palette.  Whilst all of my paintings are abstract in nature, they are all paintings of real experiences in real landscapes.  But it is my feelings and my experiences that influence what appears upon the canvas.  I do sketch and paint on my walks in the moors and on the costal paths, but I do not use these back in the studio.  They are merely a travelogue of sorts.  I paint from memory.  Once the colour washes are dry I then begin to feel a memory of a place or an experience begin to emerge from the wild marks and washes of colour on the picture plane… the memory becomes stronger in my mind and the painting starts to take shape from there.  For a number of years I tended to paint only large canvases, up to 7ft square… over the past year I have reduced the size of my canvases and have enjoyed painting many much smaller pieces…. I’d been wary of going too small believing that my ways of markmaking were too ‘big’ to transcribe onto smaller picture planes…. However, I have found that my smaller paintings have become more exciting, even more layered and richly textured.

What art do you most identify with?

           Blimey!  What a difficult question!  An artist doesn’t just have one narrow creative outlet, but            applies his or her creativity to everything in life.  (At least the artists I know personally, and I              do this….) I feel like I am constantly creating, whether that is in the garden, in the home, in                my different professional roles.  So do I identify most with sculpture, with landart, with                        drawing or architecture?  Or is it painting or stonecarving, gardening or textile design?                        Whilst I choose to paint and exhibit my paintings and call myself a painter I identify with a                  broad range of art practices.  I love poetry, music, sculpture, painting, I use inspirations from               these and other arts in my own practice as an artist.  In painting, whilst my own work is quite              abstract, and many of the artists that I love are Abstract painters, I love the work of Giotto and           the Byzantine artists. I am moved by the work of El Greco, Chagall and Rembrandt… the list is            endless.  So whilst I have chosen to answer your question of identifying with art, my answer                might not be what you were wanting!  Sorry!

What’s your favourite art work?
           (It depends on the day that you ask me!) Actually I would find it difficult to say just one piece,            but I could give you my desert island list of 9.  But can I choose two of those 9 for you?  The              first would be Piet Mondrians’ Evolution Triptych.  I first saw this piece in Amsterdam when I            was 19.  It blew me away – I had only experienced his neo-plastic jazz inspired grid like                      paintings before…. And then here was this most ethereal, spiritual, beautiful piece.  It held my            gaze and filled my soul.  The second would be Giacometti’s painting ‘Caroline’ – I love the                way in which many sculptors draw and paint… their ability to create the illusion of 3D in a 2D            plane… Caroline is a large portrait done in a muted palette of white, grey and brown, again a              beautiful painting that I never tire of looking at. 

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

            I trained as a Landscape Architect, at the school of the built environment in Leeds in the 80’s               and 90’s.
            I am also a fully qualified teacher of art and design.  My last fulltime post was in Birmingham             as a Head of Art and Design in a 6th form college.
            I also trained as a massage therapist and aromatherapist whilst my husband and I lived in the               USA before my boys were born.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

When someone truly ‘gets’ what you feel about the landscapes that inspire you or the experiences within those landscapes… when they are moved to write to you and tell you that your painting has touched them in some way… that is the best feeling in the world.  Recently, I know that someone was moved to tears by a piece of my work… that’s so touching. At the last exhibition I had – in Dorset in June – I met a couple who had bought two of my paintings…. They told me how much they too loved the Moors, and that they could feel the moors and their own experiences in them when they looked at my paintings. Amazing.

What inspires you?

Besides the Moors and Oregon, and all those painters and artists already mentioned? 
Well, corny as it may sound, the love of my family and my feelings for them.  They are in everything I do.
The poetry of Jo Bell and Norman McCaig.  The writing of Nan Shepherd, Robert MacFarlane, Roger Deakin and Kathleen Jamie.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

            I’ll set my aspirations high with this one!  Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn and Franz          Kline.

Favourite or most inspirational place ?

           Can’t just give you one!  Has to be two.  Firstly, the moors of northern England where I grew              up. And secondly the Oregon coastline.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
That means I have to have a plan!  I am more of an ‘in the moment’ kind of girl.  My life is one of ordered chaos.  So my plan or goal?  To survive the chaos of the next 4 months!  Beyond that, to keep painting and showing my work nationally and perhaps find a gallery to house my work in the US.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Two Oil Demos by Award Wining Painter Max Hale

Open to all - Award winning Artist, Writer and Tutor Max Hale will be doing two ART DEMONSTRATIONS IN OILS at the gallery on Sunday 5th October. You can come to either or both. The gallery will be closed to the public making these intimate with a chance to ask questions and watch our friend Max at work. 

We can't wait as the last demo was so well received and inspired Karina to work in oils for the first time. If you are looking for inspiration and help with oils then please don't miss this. Coffee and cake too!

10-12.30 AM. Landscape in oils using palette knife

Palette knife is a fascinating tool to use for painting and gives interesting and dramatic results. Join Max whilst he paints a landscape using this method and learn to avoid fiddling with detail and create stunning pieces using the zonal value method. During the sessions there will be plenty of opportunities to ask Max questions or just enjoy watching the paintings come to life.

1.30 - 4.00 PM. Portrait in Oils

Max Hale will demonstrate painting a portrait with Royal Talens Cobra water mixable oils using a live sitter in the gallery. During the three hours he will show and talk through each part of the construction, through blocking in, placing features, mixing skin tones and giving tips on how to gain a likeness in your portraits. Not to be missed if you are interested in portraiture. 

A donation of £12 per demo would greatly be appreciated and there will be free coffee and cake. If staying all day then please bring a packed lunch

Payment please via Paypal to or on the door

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Mandy-Jayne Ahlfors Septembers Guest Artist

Septembers guest artist is Mandy- Jayne Ahlfors her colourful work is lighting up the gallery,read more about Mandy below.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mandy-Jayne Ahlfors a self taught artist currently living in Heage Derbyshire. My current subjects are Landscapes and Portraits. I also paint to commission. 

What’s your back ground?
It all began as a young child my family used to say to me you were born to do art be creative I was also gymnast as well another creative hobby of mine really I had two art forms as a child. Every birthday and Christmas was sheer delight my presents where all creative , drawing pads, creative kits, paint by numbers, scratch foil, picture kits I could make with tiny glass stones one I remember was a young farmer and his donkey I gave to my grandparents as a gift. At different stages in my life my family have my art in their home most of them are still on their walls and luckily not the in the loft.  Both my brothers once commissioned me for the same painting, I’m very lucky that my family paid me to paint they were encouraging me so grateful they did a good start for my art business. In ‘96 after being made redundant for the first time I attended art painting workshops in Belper it was suggested by the tutor I should go to University but I couldn’t really afford it so I did a self study credited art theory course at the local Belper Adult Education Centre near the Fleet I chose The Impressionists Era it was so interesting to learn more about Turner, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh further studying took me back to the Renaissance another  favouritwe era in art history.  Family & friends continued their quest for me to exhibit my work. Finally it felt like the time was right I’d heard of Studio 61 Gallery near Matlock in Derbyshire so contacted Karina for the first time in 2007 Karina exhibited my work.  My art was then accepted at View From The Top Gallery above Waterstones in Nottingham very exciting times sadly now closed due to the recession.  I had art commissions every month. Eventually art became my self employed job.

What has been a seminal experience?
One of the first experiences was to have my work accepted by art galleries. There have been so many seminal experiences I’ve been very lucky, every year since 2009 my work has been featured online or in publications for example my painting Titled “Ethereal” published in Artists and Illustrators Magazine. Featured online such as my “Great British Mini” Painting was chosen for their online Pop Art Collection  I’ve been very lucky to have had my work featured in local news, magazines and media, a company called “The New Fat” in Nottingham featured my art on their online calendar for three years running and I’ve been asked again in 2015.  In 2012 my art was selected to be exhibited at East Midlands Airport in the DepARTures exhibition that also was an the most amazing experience. . When my people compliment and buy my art is always a seminal experience I’m always grateful!

How has your practice changed over time?
From time to time my art does evolve .  I enjoy different subjects I find the World is an inspiration each time I study a subject my imagination runs wild.  I seem have certain times in my life where I’m ready to start something fresh reinvent my work.  I never stop learning it’s a never ending journey.

Why art?
It was always meant to be art. 
What memorable responses  have you had to your art? 
I receive amazing compliments on my work it could be work they’ve seen a gallery or even social media. I appreciate it very much I am very thankful! 

What inspires you?
I’m a deep thinker I’ve always been the same I never forgot that thought even from a young age.  I’m a people watcher, I love the light and changing seasons I’m constantly taking in my surroundings always thinking.  
What research do you do?
I research all my subjects.  Currently I’ve been researching our Heritage and wanted to highlight it further both my parents are history lovers maybe this is another reason why I seem to delve further into my subject.

Whats the best piece of advice have you been given?

Learn from failure.  There have been times where you get to that point and you think it’s not working I step back and take time out refresh my thoughts.   I look for inspirational advice my friends, family the internet such as blogs, groups on social media play a huge part there is so much advice out there if you look for it.  It’s great for business and helps me to stabilise especially when the times have been tough. I would say I am able to give advice too! I know even at times I felt frustrated I’ve felt like giving the art up but I always say to myself “you know you won’t” I would feel lost without my art!

Thank you Mandy!

The gallery is open Tues- sat 10 -5, it is a working gallery with a lovely cosy atmsphere tea and coffee and a place to sit and admire the work of our artists and designers.