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Shirley Kirkcaldy FEATURED ARTIST OF THE MONTH

“In the Bleak Midwinter”

How important is the landscape of Dartmoor to your work? Can you tell us more about your painting ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’?

Dartmoor is incredibly important to my landscape work, as I say on my website it offers inexhaustible inspiration and a discovery of what really has meaning for me. It has a visceral expansiveness, which can be a wild location to step into, and has such a rich variety of landscape and unpredictable, ever-changing environment.Dartmoor is incredibly important to my landscape work, as I say on my website it offers inexhaustible inspiration and a discovery of what really has meaning for me. It has a visceral expansiveness, which can be a wild location to step into, and has such a rich variety of landscape and unpredictable, ever-changing environment.

‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is a mixed media piece inspired by the bleakness of Dartmoor in darkest winter. A lone dwelling set against a grey backdrop, minimal brushstrokes depicting a sense of solitude in a remote landscape. The marks were made using inks whilst the main body of the painting is acrylic with some almost hidden pieces of Dartmoor-related collage. 

I always work on more than one piece at a time to try to prevent overworking [although that happens frequently!] as a painting then loses its energy.

“Interlude”

Can you tell us more about your method of working with particular reference to your painting ‘Interlude’?

‘Interlude’ was born out of exploration where the aim was simply to exploit the paint aesthetics in a fairly subconscious way. Although based on sketches of West Cornwall beaches, the mark making evolved quickly and what began as a loose wash of raw sienna soon developed into interesting textures. By adding, subtracting and modifying the paint it gradually metamorphosed into a sense of place. 

This idea of a sense of place dominates my work, both consciously and subliminally and light is always a predominant force. I like exploring the space between figuration and abstraction – semi abstract if you like – and because I work from sketches that originate in the landscape, paintings are a direct response to it. Detail isn’t something which interests me and, though descriptive, my work is not intended to be documentary. 

“Awakening”

You often work in either oils or mixed media. Do you have a favourite, and if so why?

The choice between using oils or mixed media is based on my mood, the subject and the painting surface. My preference is birch ply which I seal with gloss medium and prime with gesso, sanded in between coats. I may decide to work some areas in acrylic and inks first to create some interesting marks which can peek through later in places. Oils are good for developing imagery as they are so malleable and mixed media is great for working outside the box and incorporating other materials such as inks, collage and oil bars. I also work on canvas [stretched and unstretched] and Arches oil paper and sizes can range from very small to large square or landscape formats. The painting process is a constant stepping back, questioning direction, thinking about what to let go of and what to keep but eventually comes the moment to stop and leave it. Sometimes I know a painting is finished, other times I need to leave it for a few weeks and then go back and decide. Either way it’s always a learning process.

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