Meet our Artist of the month, Bryony McLeod-Brown. Now working in the NHS, Bryony shares her journey and why painting is so important for her to relax and unwind from the world. Her dreamy landscapes reflect her love of Suffolk, from coast to countryside, Bryony creates a sense of atmosphere that draws you in.
You can view Bryony's collection of original paintings in store at Thrive throughout the month of June.
When did your creative passion begin? Did you always know this was a path you wanted to follow?
I have always been the creative one in the family, and it started with making birthday cards from as young as I can remember. I have always enjoyed making and creating things and this developed in high school when I studied Art at GCSE and A-Level. I really enjoyed working with acrylics and developed my portraiture paintings during that time. I continue to make personalised cards for close friends and family and love DIY projects and other creative hobbies such as baking and sewing. After high school I never knew what I wanted to do for a career, and I felt pressured from other peers to go to university. I knew where my strengths were, so I completed an Art Foundation course, which gave me a year to find my feet and figure out what I wanted to do. I then worked at a picture frame and upholsters and gained experience at a bespoke furniture makers as I enjoyed that practical side of things.
Your art foundation course gave you an opportunity to explore different practices, can you tell us a little bit about what you gained from this experience?
The course was interesting. It allowed me to try a selection of medians, some I liked more than others. I was surprised at how much I loved pottery. I think having a practical side and enjoying working with my hands played a part, but I found it a therapeutic and calming process. I would love to have my own pottery wheel and make my own kitchen set… but I know that comes at a cost. It was a lot harder than it looks! I had already painted acrylics in high school so that wasn’t a new skill for me, whereas pottery was a new challenge. The Foundation course also taught me to be freer with my paintings. I was very used to detailed portraitures, and I believe that practice has come into play now with my landscape paintings. I enjoyed trying new practices during the Art Foundation, but I realised I wanted to keep it as a hobby, and I did not want to study Art and Design further. If anything, the foundation course helped me make my decision about my career and find my feet about what was best for me.
What draws you to landscapes, and where do you find your inspiration?
I absolutely love Suffolk and I am such a home bird. Travelling to places in both the United Kingdom and abroad, I really appreciate what I have around me. I think it's a beautiful location to grow up in and I didn’t truly appreciate it when I was younger. There is a lot of interpretation to landscapes, and I think that’s why I enjoy painting them. I like interpreting what I am seeing, and I like that my paintings are not a focused picture, it’s for people to see aspects of nature, which they can relate to also viewing in person. I really developed my landscape paintings after the Art Foundation course. I knew I wanted to stay in Suffolk and being that little bit older, has made me more appreciative of my surroundings. I have explored parts of Suffolk I was never able to do before and it's given me my inspiration.
Can you tell us about your process and the materials used to create the textured and layered finish of your pieces?
I enjoy creating layers to my artwork and I have them framed in a way that allows viewers to see and touch the texture of the painting. I work with Indian ink, creating depth in colour and I then add batik wax. Once wax is applied, the ink cannot be added as they resist against each other, so it is a very methodical process. These medians are reapplied numerous times to create texture and depth and I finish the painting with acrylic paint.
What do you enjoy about being a creative in Suffolk and how do you balance your artistic passions alongside full time work?
There is always so much going on in Suffolk and it's a lovely place to live in. I love that we have the coast so close and the countryside just a street away. It’s a very buzzy place, whilst still being quiet and peaceful. Suffolk is a very creative location, full of local artists of all medians and we have the destination to network and share the talent. I found it difficult to balance work life and my artwork to begin with and I had to put it on hold for a while. As I have made my paintings a hobby, most of my time was consumed by working. Changing my career paths helped me find that time, as it became my way of winding down and relaxing from the stresses of work. Having that completely different career has made me enjoy painting more as it sets the two apart.
What artists, designers or other creatives are inspiring you at the moment?
The current artist I am following is Laurie Anne. She is an American artist, and she captures beautiful landscapes in all the locations she travels to around the world. Working in mainly acyclic, she works on a very large scale, which is something I would be interested in developing. Even though I don’t practice pottery, I still love looking at ceramics artists. At the moment, I’m inspired by Isabelle Taylor-Jones and Zara McLaughlin, who both create homemade, purposeful, minimalist ceramics.
I absolutely love 70s-80s classic soul, funk, and R&B music. I’ve been brought up around this era of music with my mum playing records on her turntable. I can be in whatever mood to listen to this type of music and when I’m painting, I just feel like I can groove along to it! There are many artists I like but a few are Earth, Wind & Fire, Fleetwood Max, the O’Jays, Sister Sledge, Hot Chocolate, Bill Withers and Al Green. There are very poignant messages and themes behind this era of songs and the way the instruments and tunes were put together, can never be remade. Music today just isn’t the same.
//Images courtesy of Bryony McLeod-Brown and Megan Clark//