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.
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.
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.
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!!
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….
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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