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. ❤️

Artist Interview: Lucy Springall

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 Lucy Springall.

 Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Lucy, I became familiar with your work very recently. Your bright paintings and collages of deconstructed pool scenes were what first drew my eye. What inspired these vibrant pieces?

Until recently I lived 5 minutes from Brockwell Lido in South East London and found that going there always gave me an enormous sense of wellbeing. Being by the poolside reminds me of childhood summer visits to Finchley Lido (no longer in existence) and the escapism of holidays to sunny destinations. I think UK outdoor pools and lidos are really special places and really wanted to try and do some work inspired by them. I didn't want to just paint them as they were but rather try and capture the different common elements you find at the pool. I was also admiring a lot of work with strong graphic design elements at the time so I tried to use this to arrange the various imagery. As well as taking photographs and drawing on location I also researched well-known artists that had used the swimming pool as a muse for their work. Hockney is an obvious inspiration but I particularly took inspiration from Claes Oldenburg's Pool Shapes (1964) and the simplicity of his design. 

 Bunting by Lucy Springall

Bunting by Lucy Springall

 Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Until last year your practice explored physical and mental health themes, I'm curious to know what your art practice involved and what caused you to change direction?

Yes thats right. It was and still is a theme close to my heart and I hope to eventually incorporate some of these elements into my more recent work. I guess, looking back, I've struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. My way of dealing with it was to run from it and to work harder and faster in order to chase an elusive 'happiness'. It caught up with me in early 2010 in the form of a physical burnout and then again in 2013 as a period of extreme anxiety and depression. What surprised me was how physical the illness was, it was like my fight or flight response was switched on all the time for 6 months! When I recovered and returned to full time work I felt passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness and also raising the awareness of just how much of a physical illness it is. I started doing art again at about the same time and undertook a 2 year part time fine art course at City Lit, the second year of which is developing your own personal project. I started to look at 'self-comforting repetitive behaviours' that we all use, such a foot tapping, pacing etc. through performative mark-making. My tutor encouraged me to go bigger and really exaggerate these behaviours so I got a life model in who luckily happened to be an artist and dancer herself and directed her to produce a series of large scale artworks whilst I videoed and photographed her. It was a really fun and freeing process and not one I'd ever thought I'd do! I really wanted to be a painter though so I tried to take the process back into more of a formal painting which was my final piece for the course. Around the same time as the course ended I was offered voluntary redundancy at work. I could see that the office was going to close and I really wanted to have more time for my art so I took the leap. I continued for a while along a similar theme with my art and looked at doing an MA but decided that as it was so early on in my art journey I wanted some time to explore other themes and experiment with other ways of working. That's when I started the swimming pool inspired work. It was tough as I had a clear why and message behind my previous work but sometimes you just have to follow your instincts. I'm now working on more botanical inspired pieces and I've found doing them so relaxing that I've realised the mental health theme carries through. This is something I'm really keen to explore with my work in the future - the relationship between nature, greenery and mental health.

 Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

 Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Do you have a preferred method of creating work or is experimentation key to your practice?

It's so early on in my art career that I've yet to settle into a preferred method of working. At the moment my way of working depends very much on the project I'm working on. I do tend to 'projectise' my work as I think its important to explore one subject or methodology for a significant chunk of time before moving on to another. Although it's important to allow time for play too, especially if you're feeling a bit stuck or have lost the joy in what you are doing. With my current work I'm enjoying the contrast between quieter calmer watercolour painting where I sit down to create, often with a cup of tea and a podcast playing, and more vigorous acrylic and oil painting which I do standing up or on the floor in quite a physical way. When I start a project I often, but not always, research other artists and do a lot of sketchbook work to feel out the idea. I've just started a one year (one day a week) advanced painting course and really hope that this will push my acrylic and oil painting to another level.

 Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

 Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Tell me about your studio or creative space.

I am lucky that I have my own studio space in Lewisham, SE London. It's within the Bow Arts run Leegate House studios and is part of the Leegate Centre in Lee Green that has been earmarked for demolition and redevelopment. As it's a temporary let the studios are relatively affordable compared to other studios across London. The old building does mean that the heating and ventilation is often a bit wild! I'm on the 7th floor and so have great views across SE London. I only moved in towards the end of last year and have been steadily making it feel like home. I got a plan chest from a friend of a friend which needed quite a lot of TLC so I took some time to restore it. I also have a steadily growing collection of plants that I use for inspiration. My studio is either super tidy or totally chaotic depending on where I am with a project! We have a shared kitchen where I make endless cups of tea which often go cold whilst I'm working. It's nice to be able to speak to the other artists in the studio and the Leegate community of small businesses are also really lovely.

 Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

 Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

What artists (living or dead) inspire you?

This is a tough one as so many different artists inspire me! Currently I'm inspired by the lush greenery paintings of Hurvin Anderson who uses both the Caribbean jungle and UK parks as source material. Jonas Wood is another one, particularly his large scale potted plant paintings - the plants have so much character! I also follow a lot of early career artists on Instagram - Tamara Dubnyckyi has a great sense of composition and space and Lucy Smallbone uses such luminescent colour combinations and mark making.

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

1. I previously worked as a Lead Exploration Geoscientist within the oil industry

2. My husband and I love to wild camp and we spent New Year 2017 halfway up a fell in a cave - it was freezing!!!

3. I'm a total water baby and will swim pretty much anywhere. I once swam(ish) in a Greenlandic Fjord where there were icebergs in the distance! 

Finally, where can people follow your work online?


My most recent work can be seen on Instagram @LucySpringallStudio. My website (in need of a little updating) is www.lucyspringall.com. I sell my work online via Etsy. I am also sporadically on Twitter @lucyspringallstudio 

Thank you to Lucy for agreeing to be part of my interview series. It’s fascinating to learn how an artist is inspired and how one project leads in to another. I’m also quite jealous of Lucy’s studio situation, I really miss the community of artists I had around me in a shared studio. Please take a look at Lucy’s Etsy store as she has many affordable original paintings for sale.

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. ❤️