In preparation for "Counterpoint" a two person exhibition with Peter Wileman starting online on March 6th, we asked Lucy a series of questions about her work and inspiration. This is what she told us:
How did you get into art?
I grew up in a household that was filled with art. My Dad was an illustrator and so we talked about drawing and art from me being very young. He loved combining drawing with humour and very much thought in pictures. This meant loads of art books in the house and trips to galleries as a child, so I think it was natural for me to head in that direction.
I started drawing constantly and then eventually began using oil paint. At first I very much preferred drawing because it felt less risky, but then I grew to really love working with oil.
How do you start each piece? Do you generally have an idea about the image you’re going to create before you begin?
I usually think about ideas and compositions for a while before I begin setting up the objects to paint. Sometimes I might see an object that I’ve had for years and realize it would work well in a painting, and often I’ll just find certain flowers or a particular combination of items that make me want to use them in a painting. I’ll spend a lot of time planning the composition and noticing the light and shapes within, then I’ll do a few sketches to make sure that everything “sits” well. Finally, I’ll begin the painting. Working like this lets me become very familiar with the subject before I’ve even started, and means that I will have already noticed little elements to include in the detail. I have a habit of seeing character and personality in inanimate objects that actually helps I think! I like to think that if I capture plenty of detail then the viewer of the painting will notice extra things over time too.
What materials do you use and why?
I use oil paints and really love working with oil. I have found that whatever else I try, I always come back to oil and feel that it suits my way of working much better. I tend to paint quite thinly with small brushstrokes, but I enjoy the way that oil paintings can be built up steadily, and end up with a real strength.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It can turn up at anytime, often just by simply finding a quirky little object that starts me thinking about a new painting. If I travel anywhere I end up stuffing my suitcase with all kinds of odd little pots and bowls that I’ve found. They get wrapped up carefully in t-shirts so they won’t break on the journey home! I like how a simple object really seems to change once you focus your attention on it. Even the most ordinary item can occupy its space very powerfully once you start to look properly.
What is your studio like?
Untidy! There’s no other way to say it. It’s small and filled with canvasses, books and strange little things I’ve collected over the years. I like the fact that it’s a small space though, I can close the door and am quite happy painting away in there. Often I’ll listen to podcasts when I’m working, but not music so much because that really does distract me. My studio is rural and looks out onto fields, which is great. It’s surprising how much wildlife passes by which I love seeing.
Which other artists (past or present) inspire you?
So many. I have always loved Vermeer. I think the space within Vermeer’s work is intriguing; you get the sense of the actual air in his paintings. I love so many of the Dutch and Flemish painters and am absolutely stunned whenever I get to see them in the flesh. I love seeing a particular painting by an artist I’m not that familiar with, then studying them more closely. I enjoy doing that very much. I’m quite keen to get back to the Rijksmuseum once we are all allowed to travel again!
I really enjoy and admire the paintings of fellow members of the ROI - the society has a great variety of wonderful painters.
What is it you are trying to achieve in your pieces?
With my still life paintings I like to try and capture a serene feeling, and a simple feeling of balance. The compositions usually are quite uncomplicated, and I generally view and paint the objects at eye level as I think this helps to become more involved with the subject. Perhaps because I spent so many years working on portraits I can’t help but make the objects I’m painting become a “sitter”!
How do you know when a piece is finished and when it’s the right time to stop?
This is a tricky one. I think I could always keep going a bit more and make tiny little adjustments here and there, but eventually of course you do have to stop. If I think I have finished a painting, I usually put it in another room for a couple of days where I can’t see it, then go in and have a good look. If nothing leaps out to me, then I sign the painting. However, usually there is something that I think needs a tiny little bit more! I feel that a day or two away from seeing the painting does really help me to look at it more honestly.
Are there any other art forms that you would like to try such as sculpture, ceramics, printmaking?
I’ve always loved bowls and pots, and I would love to try ceramics. I think it would be great to try to make something myself then include it in a still life. I expect it’s extremely difficult, but I’d love to have a go!
Also I would like to paint some abstract paintings in the future. I keep having ideas and designs and am sketching them down for later projects. I would very much like to explore them in time. I’ve got a sketch “notebook” that I do tiny little thumbnail sketches of future paintings in – they look like wild scribbles, but I can record things better that way.
What are you working on currently?
Having just finished a group of paintings I’m now thinking about new ideas. I think now that we are all slowly emerging from lockdown it will be soon be a time where people will want to see more and do more, so hopefully really positive times are ahead for everyone.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work?
I think that my big hope with my paintings is that people who live with them really enjoy them. People tell me that they feel the paintings are calming and serene to live with, which I really like. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last few years thinking about how being in the present moment affects people positively, and in some ways, still life art is really all about that. It’s a moment captured and paused that can be returned to again and again, and each time you see something a little different. I think in some ways that’s why people enjoy the still life genre so much – it captures detail and beauty, but also a moment in time forever.