I was born in Winchester in 1945. In 1957 my family moved to Langley, not far from the Fawley oil refinery and where I began work at the age of 16 in the accounts department.
I met my future husband who was an industrial chemist and also working at the Refinery. I remembered being taken to Southampton city art gallery around 1963, the first occasion that I had been to an art gallery and to see abstract paintings.
Visiting Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for the first time in 1964 had a lasting effect on me. The Tresco Abbey gardens, the beautiful beaches and the rocky outcrops were later to inspire a lot of my work.
Outcrop, Isles of Scilly
Rocks, Peninnis, Isles of Scilly
These two paintings were made for the Southampton Institute Diploma which recalled visits to the Islands.
My twin sons were born in 1965 and daughter in 1968. I began my journey into the creative arts around this time with taking a course in ceramics. In 1973, my husband’s work transferred to Abingdon, Oxfordshire and following a secretarial course and a period working in the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford I made the most of the opportunity there to gain some qualifications in Art .
The first exhibition I remember seeing while working at MOMA, seemed to consist of ‘grids’ and might have been the work of Agnes Martin.
Agnes Martin grid painting 1961
I was fortunate enough to be able to study at the Abingdon F.E. College where I obtained 3 ‘A’ levels (Art, English, Ceramics) and was accepted onto a degree course at Oxford Polytechnic. I gained a BA Honours degree in the History of Art and Visual Communication.
I had decided to focus my final piece of work for the final Visual Communications Module on the Ethiopian famine in 1983/4 and the world’s north/south divide. This continued a life long love of Africa that I had held since childhood. The modular course that included printmaking, bookbinding and photography, graphic design as well as life drawing and visual communication gave me a broad knowledge of different disciplines. Most of the art I did was in sculpture or 3D work and very little painting.
In 1984 our family moved to Lymington in Hampshire, following my husband’s relocation to Fawley Refinery and in 1986 we began taking our annual holidays in the Isles of Scilly.
Rocks, Peninnis Head
Rocks, Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives
Shipman’s Head, Briar, I.O.S.
I was able now to enjoy rediscovering the granite rocks and rock formations around the islands and filled up several sketchbooks, mostly with pen and ink drawings but also took many photographs that I could refer to once back home, though it was only in 1988 that I started to used the rocks as the subject of my paintings.
I had joined an Adult Education art group in 1986 led by Bill Goldsmith in Lymington who recommended taking the Higher Certificate in Art at the Southampton Institute of Higher Education.
The Higher Certificate in Fine Art 1987 - 1990 provided the opportunity to do some more printmaking and sculpture as well as painting and life drawing. I developed a style that was more about form than colour and it remains the approach that I still prefer today although my work has changed considerably. On completion of the Higher Certificate I began the Diploma in Fine Art and graduated in 1993.
Smeaton’s Pier, St. Ives
Our later holidays, spent mostly in St. Ives, provided a different source of inspiration where the sand and the sea dominated the coastal landscape. There were a few rocks on Porthmeor beach that I drew and painted but there was a different atmosphere altogether from the Isles of Scilly and one that embraced the wider landscape and environments of Zennor to Lands End and north to Godrevy and Port Isaac.
Graduates from the Diploma course were invited to join 2D3D South Contemporary Art, established by former students of the three year course in 1998. This became an incentive and also a platform to exhibit work together as well as being part of an inspiring and committed group of artists.
Alongside this and with 2 tutors and 4 graduates I became a founder member of Winchester Contemporary Art, Great Minster Street in 1995. This provided another opportunity to exhibit work and be part of a co-operative of artists and makers.
I continued to find inspiration in the New Forest and the coast around Lymington. These areas that are closer to home enabled me to revisit often and I found Longslade, between Brockenhurst and Sway, an inspiring place to draw and paint. I had also made it the subject of some of my work for the Diploma.
Longslade, New Forest
Horseshoe Bottom, New Forest
Tern Island, Solent
Spring walk by 8Acre pond, Lymington
After helping with the family art activities at St. Barbe Museum for a time and starting a life drawing workshop near Lymington I began taking part in the Lymington Festival and Hampshire Open Studios, joining up with other artists in Everton.
In 2017 I became a full time carer and had to adjust to a different routine. I decided to work on projects that were within easy reach of where I live and I could get to for a short time, usually on my bicycle. I allowed myself to include everything I saw on a particular route from here to the beginning of the marshes and gathered information mostly through going for a short time every morning. I had to rely on memory and the photographs I took. I amassed a lot of small work mostly on paper and in different mediums.
Normandy Lane project
Following on from this I focused on the small dinghy’s that youngsters sail on the Lymington river and particularly the movements made when approaching the slipway.
Dinghy approaching the slipway
In 2019 and following my husband’s death I visited Ghana for two weeks to see my son who has been working in Accra for the past 25 years. I was inspired by everything I saw there and in particular the beautiful asymmetrical designs of the fabrics. A visit to the Artists Alliance Gallery established by Ablade Glover in 1968 and showing work of 30 of the best painters in Ghana afforded an insight into the artistic world of the Ghanaians.
Marketscape – Ablade Glover
The huge piles of rubbish on some of the beaches were sad to see. But within the rubbish a lot of broken bits of tiles of different colours and shapes and worn at the edges, showing white borders that I found to be both beautiful and inspiring.
When I was able to begin work again a few months later I started to work on several small collages and on paper using different mediums. I relied on notes, memories and some photographs and found collage to be a useful way to experiment with ideas . Two of the collages were the inspiration for the paintings ‘Music‘ and ‘Dance‘.
2020 COVID restricted movement but inspired by the arrival of a fishing boat on Lymington quay, I decided to make it the focus of another project. It reminded me of some of the Cornish fishing boats that I used to see around St. Ives. Unable to sit and draw due to the restrictions, I took photographs and experimented with ideas. The challenge was to produce work that was abstract but achieved through a journey of discovery.
I didn’t set out with any preconceived ideas apart from that I wanted to focus on the fishing boat. My way of working is to experiment by asking myself ‘What if ‘? For me it is a way of finding the direction once I have embarked on the project and I do need to work through lots of ideas and experiments in order to eventually produce something I feel satisfied with. Each new project is a challenge to me and not all are, in my mind, successful and some fall short of my expectations. But I can re-visit them and possibly find a new approach.
On the occasions that I feel a need for fresh inspiration, I look at the work of artists that I admire. A few of these artists are Robert Motherwell, Peter Lanyon and Matthew Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Sandra Blow and Barbara Rae.
Both Peter Lanyon and Sandra Blow are artists whose work makes complete sense to me. Their work appears to be abstract and both reject the singular view of the landscape, but their work is very different from each others. Peter Lanyon’s is rooted in the environment and he achieves a sense of being within and surrounded by it. Sandra Blow’s work flows from a journey of discovery and her primary concerns I feel are more focused on balance, proportion, tension and scale. Peter Lanyon often made small 3D work to provide direction and a framework to develop his ideas. Sandra Blow worked with collage in order to develop her ideas further and it is an approach that I have adopted more lately in my work.
Developing ideas, usually on paper and over a period of time before starting to think about translating onto canvas, avoids for me a sense of failure to produce a satisfying finished piece of work. Often a painting that I have started will need subsequent changes and some problem solving before I can make sense of what I am trying to say. The preparation is important and in many ways more satisfying than producing a finished piece of work. The ideas will stay longer in my mind and often inspire a later project.