Artist Interview: Carolyn Roberts

I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Carolyn Roberts.

 Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Carolyn, your work is inspired by nature and landscape. What is it about the great outdoors that fascinates you?

I grew up on a farm in rural Lincolnshire, county of flatlands and big skies, and this instilled in me a love of the countryside – the changing seasons, the rhythm of the land, colours, textures, the sounds… As I grow older that feeling of freedom and space that I get outdoors is becoming even more important…

What are the materials you work with and is experimentation important to you?

I work with a variety of mediums depending on the mood and feeling I am trying to capture and convey; from fluid, swirling, pooling watercolours and inks, expressive mark making charcoal through to more buttery acrylics as well collage and mono-printing. I am a sucker for new materials and love to experiment; I have recently discovered the Art Graf charcoal blocks which produce the most wonderful tonal marks as well as Winsor and Newton Professional Artists Watercolour sticks – blocks of pure pigment – that can be used in a variety of ways.

 Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

 Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Your work is very expressive, can you outline the process of making a piece of work from start to finish?

After spending as much time as possible outdoors sketching, taking photographs, sometimes just sitting and listening, I begin to narrow down the elements that are important to me, be it the colour palette, the textures, or a particular detail such as the stone walls of Yorkshire or the watery nature of the fens. In my sketchbook I experiment with the materials I think will best convey the feeling/emotion/experience I want to convey as well as play around with the composition. From there I move to working on paper, across several sheets at once in an attempt to stop me fiddling – well that’s the plan but it doesn’t always work. I work quickly and intuitively. The initial marks and washes are vital; if these don’t convey that sense of freedom, then no amount of ‘fiddling’ will help…. If I am happy with these then I will continue to work, adding further washes or marks as necessary, but I try not to overwork, as I find it’s those first instinctive marks that convey the immediacy of the experience the best.

 Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Do you find inspiration for your work locally or do you travel further afield to find inspiration?

Growing up and living in Lincolnshire I often visited the fens and coast of North Norfolk. I moved to Leicestershire several years ago and am lucky to live quite close to Bradgate Park – a constant source of inspiration. I also visit the Peak District, Derbyshire quite often as well as the Yorkshire Moors and Dales. The Glen Coe area of Scotland is another favourite place – majestic. I have a love of both the coast and country and love travelling and discovering new areas; the west coast of Scotland is on my admittedly very long list of places to visit.

How did studying a fine art degree later in life affect your practice and would you recommend university to aspiring artists?

Ha…you could base a whole post around this issue!! I loved drawing as a child but didn’t consider doing it seriously until my children had grown up. Growing up/living in a rural community and leading a relatively quiet life, university took a little getting used to; I hadn’t written an essay for over 30 years!! Also, my cohorts seemed much more confident and knowledgeable than I felt…it took me until part way through my second year before I began to feel as if I had any idea what I was doing…. Something must have clicked as I graduated with a First – my final piece culminated in an installation incorporating sound – nothing like my current work. It certainly made me push my boundaries and opened me up to possibilities.

Would I recommend university – well, if you go expecting to be taught painting/drawing techniques you might be disappointed. If you want that, I would recommend finding an artist whose work you like and see if they do workshops…

If you feel university is for you, I would recommend you thoroughly research the courses to find the one that offers you what you want.

If university taught me anything it is to have faith or confidence in myself – if I could produce work, write essays and reports, deal with critiques, debate, discuss, submit a dissertation and create a final piece that went on to be displayed in two further exhibitions – then I can do anything!!

 Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Mixed Media Work by Carolyn Roberts

Tell me about your studio or creative space.

I would love to say I have a fabulous, custom made studio at the bottom of the garden… the reality, as for a lot of artists, is nothing as grand. My ‘studio’ is the smallest bedroom and has to work as a creative space, study and office…. I would love a larger space as I want to work on a bigger scale as well as have room to put all my books and collection of shells, stones, feathers, images etc on display….

 The Studio of Carolyn Roberts

The Studio of Carolyn Roberts

What artists (living or dead) inspire you?

Ooooh…there are so many…and so varied. JMW Turner without a doubt; the way he captures the elements is so expressive. Edgar Degas’ draughtsmanship and the way he captures a moment in time is wonderful. Norman Ackroyd’s images have such an ethereal quality to them and I love Joan Eardley’s work too. Kitty Sabatier’s almost calligraphic mark making is fabulous. Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long, Tony Cragg - artists in the landscape who make you stop and consider the space/textures/materials in different ways. The list of artists could go on…

I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.

Back in the mists of time, I trained as a horse-riding instructor.

I love words – discovering their meanings and origins

I can’t stand fried/boiled/poached eggs

Finally, where can people follow your work online?

My website is www.carolynjrobertsartist.co.uk

Follow my blog on www.carolynjroberts.wordpress.com

I am on Twitter as @CJRFineArtist, my Instagram page is carolynjrobertsartist and Facebook page is Carolyn J Roberts Artist.

Thank you to Carolyn for agreeing to be part of my artist interview series. Carolyn uses her Twitter account to tirelessly help promote the work of others and it’s always a joy to see her own work pop up in my feed. I love how expressive her marks are and how they really give the viewer a feeling of wild and rugged landscape. Carolyn sells her work via her website, follow the link here to have a look.

If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at claireleanneleach@gmail.com. 

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

The Golden Forest

I’ve just returned from a short break to the Forest of Dean, a place I have mentioned many times before. It’s my ‘childhood happy place’ and somewhere that holds a lot of treasured memories. This years visit was particularly special as my partner and I went in celebration of our anniversary - 12 years together. It was also our last little getaway before our baby arrives in January. Not only was it special for those two reasons but also because the autumn colours were so vibrant this year; richer and deeper gold, orange and yellow hues than I’ve ever seen before. It felt as though the trees were really putting on a show for us, to make our escape even more precious.

Last years trip to the Forest of Dean inspired many drawings and was the catalyst for starting the woodland studies series which is ongoing and a project that I particularly enjoy working on. It seems a shame that I rarely work with colour nowadays as this time it wasn’t so much the tiny details of the woodland that captured my attention but the incredible copper colours. Perhaps this will signal a change in my practice, from intricate monochromatic drawings in pen to abstracted landscapes focused on colour? Only time will tell.

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I hope you enjoyed these photographs taken by my partner Craig Pendrill. The Forest of Dean is located in Gloucestershire on the English/Welsh border.

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

A Little Life Update

This journal has always been a space to share a little bit of everything; personal thoughts on life as an artist, exhibition summaries and for a big chunk of time an insight into my travels when I spent nearly 11 months backpacking, that seems like a lifetime ago now! As an artist I feel like all sorts influences my work and so it’s important to keep note of whats happening as a change in circumstances might be the catalyst for change in my art practice. With that in mind I wanted to share two life updates, one of which is very significant.

The first is that my partner and I are in the process of buying our first home. We’ve been together for 12 years but never lived in our own home together, rented or otherwise. In those 12 years I’ve lived in Cheltenham to study my BA in Fine Art, he has rented a room from a friend, we’ve spent a total of 19 months backpacking the globe together living in camper vans, hostels and hotels and we’ve lodged with my family. Finally, we will have a little place to call our own. North Hampshire is a pricey part of the U.K. to get on the property ladder (due to its proximity to London) so it hasn’t been easy and with me being a full time self employed artist we are only able to use my partners wage to get a mortgage. Still, we are chuffed to bits that soon we will have the keys and be able to hang all the art and illustrations that we’ve collected over the years as well as display all our travel photographs.

The second and most exciting piece of news is that my partner and I are expecting our first baby! Little one is due at the end of January and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Watching my bump grow over the last few months has been magical and we cannot wait to welcome him/her to the world. Of course, having a baby is life changing and will affect every aspect of my life and especially my art practice. In fact, baby isn’t even here yet and already so much has changed. I haven’t felt in the right frame of mind to create work for some time, the nausea at the beginning of the pregnancy, the overwhelming tiredness and the raging hormones have all contributed to me slowing right down. I’ve been trying not to berate myself for this as it’s just what my body needs at this time and I’ve been extremely fortunate in that working from home I can allow for time off without letting anyone down.

I’ll be the main caregiver to our baby as we need my partners wage to pay the mortgage and bills and I hope that in time I’ll be able to return to some of my work, squeezing in the odd drawing between the chaos. I will not be going on ‘maternity leave’ as such, I receive so few orders that I imagine I’ll still be able to pack and post any that I do receive (though there may be a slight delay) and financially I won’t be in a position to turn down any sales or opportunities to make a few pennies, the pursestrings will be very tight for some time going forward. I envisage that new drawings will be very few and far between and that my social media channels and journal entries may look totally abandoned but hopefully that’ll all be temporary and I’ll be able to bounce back.

It’s been really lovely keeping this news private for us to enjoy with our family and closest friends for so long but as I enter the final trimester I felt it was the right time to share, I didn’t want anyone wondering what on earth had happened to me come January when I’m no longer able to draw/make/share anything!

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Thank you for following along with my art life so far, I hope you’ll stick around while I start this new chapter. I promise I won’t be bombarding my journal/social media with all things baby. If you’d like to help financially support this artist mama-to-be (home buying and having a baby are rather expensive things - especially at the same time!) then don’t forget to take a look at my online shop which is currently filled with lots of intricate original pieces of art ranging from £10 - £300.

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️