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.