Beautifully bold and atmospheric, these landscape paintings capture a sense of place and feeling with their playful colours and contemporary finish. Based in Suffolk, Louise Craigie spends her free time documenting the landscapes she frequents alongside her work as a teacher and bringing up a family. We spoke to Louise to find out more about her inspirations, creative process and how she juggles work life with her passion to paint.
Louise at work in her studio
After graduating from Manchester University, you returned to Suffolk where you pursued a career in teaching. Tell us about your creative journey and your path into education?
Like many graduates I found myself not really clear about what path I wanted to take. Upon returning home after graduating with a first class honours in Textiles I found myself doing a part time job, freelancing and being an artist in residence at my old sixth form school. I think I always wondered if I might go into teaching and it happened quite organically, the artist in residence placement evolved into
a career, as after a year they offered me a full time teaching position in which I trained and gained by PGCE on the job, and well the rest is history. I am now Director of the Arts and Innovation faculty and love the role I do. Early on in my teaching career I became part of a group known as A.S.A.T ( association of Suffolk Art teachers). This was able to provide me with networking opportunities between art teachers in Suffolk, to share practice in both education but also personal art works. It was here where I began to exhibit regularly with this group and my passion for pursuing my own artwork started. This facilitated my desire to create works, but also developed my practice as a teacher. I have been Vice Chair of this group for the last 10 years and have enjoyed arranging, curating and exhibiting as part of this group. In the last few years we have found that new art teachers do not have the time to always do their own works and spaces for us as a group to exhibit have become limited. Therefore over the last 6 years I have begun to explore possibilities on my own. This has resulted in a website, three very successful solo exhibitions, collaborations with Cocobelle Events and Thrive, as well as getting doing very well in the Artist support pledge concept created by Matthew Burrows.
How do find a balance and make time to create your own art whilst working in teaching full time?
In the early stages of my educational career finding time to create my own work was much easier, the demands of my role were less and I had no other major commitments. I also had regular exhibitions as goals to work towards. However, upon having my two children, as well as moving up to more demanding roles in education, firstly Head of Art then Head of Creative Arts and now Director of Arts and innovation, it was tough to take time for me as much as I needed. When the children were younger much of my time was dedicated to them or my career. However, my husband built me a studio at the end of the garden and this was my sanctuary and I tried as much as possible to spend evening time in there creating, forming ideas and just having some me time. Now my children are both above the age of ten and I have negotiated working part time. It has allowed me to go that bit further with my work not only on a personal creative journey but also having the time to do solo shows and network my work more. I am not going to lie at times it has been hard and frustrating, sometimes feeling like I do so many things but do I do any of them well enough? - being a mum, having a career, trying to create and then be taken seriously as an artist. Yet the urge to be creative is something that will never leave me and regardless of where my work ends up or even whether it is seen - I will still do it, as it's something that is solely for me, by me and that no-one can take away and if I can share it and people do love it, then that is a humbling bonus!
Works in progress in Louise's studio
Your paintings and drawings reference the landscape and use a bold colour palette; do you have any artistic or historical influences?
We all draw inspiration from others and this is perfectly fine, we are all just links in a chain. I know I certainly find myself inspired by many people. At university whilst doing my degree in Art textiles I was still mainly influenced by painters as opposed to textiles, artists such as Matisse and Howard Hodgkin, as well as loving the St Ives group (Heron, Lanyon, Hepworth and Nicholson). My works have always had a reference to nature, early on much more floral and close up sections of the landscape, but in recent years whilst having my Dalmatian and getting out into the countryside walking her, my works have evolved to looking at all scapes and the whole of it. I think it felt like I was seeing my local area again with new eyes. I will always be instinctively drawn to colour, I just love it - maybe it is the textile connection and my love interior design, I don’t know but it is always something that I explore and love. More recent influences that I love are by the artists Joan Mitchell, Richard Dieborkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Van Gogh, Cezanne as well the ones previously mentioned. In teaching Art I am constantly coming across and sharing the practice of other artists famous ones to local ones for my students and so I feel I am constantly visually inspired. I absolutely love visiting any gallery and luckily I have in the last few years visited some stunning galleries and Museums in Venice, Rome, Barcelona, Paris - quite frankly there are influences in everything!
Riverbank series (Waldringfield)
When looking for inspiration, or beginning a new work what are some of the processes you go through?
To quote Picasso - another all time favourite
‘There is no thing as abstract art. You must always start with something’
For me it is to look, observe, pause and be in the moment. Whilst my work responds to the moment the here and now of that moment it evolves in its own right back in the studio. I will draw and photograph the scape and then often develop ideas in the studio. This can be in a variety of ways, collages, small sketchbook drawings, IT manipulation by combining sections of the same scape or just by going straight onto a canvas allowing the process to just take over. The making of my Artwork is an act - it doesn't always reflect me and my innermost self and at times it takes forms of something or someone else. I think my work constructs a variety of times and responses to moments in layers of physical paint, rather than being an outpouring of one emotion about one place at any one time, I think this is almost unavoidable!
I bring what I observe and then succumb to the surface itself as a pure form of communication through colours and marks, shapes and forms. It is fundamentally me painting, paint! The art work becomes by nature reactionary. A time when painting is both in thinking but also in the subconscious. My work very much has an engagement with that real landscape , with the reality, but the actual surface reflects and brings together much more. It has the moment but also the physicality of the movement in the creation. I want the viewer to feel the layers and a connection to the creation. I always have intent in my work, but what results and what the audience and I both get at the end of the process is okay if different to the original intention.
Are there any locations across the region that you return to or that you have found particularly enjoyable to paint?
I guess the areas I walk with my dog do get featured in my work a lot just because it is where I visit, this can be from a passage way on my local heath to areas such as Playford, Newbourne, Rushmere. Suffolk in general is what I capture the most as it is what i see the most. However, just recently I have been spending a lot more time on riverbanks as my son enjoys sailing his boat. So a River bank series, especially Waldringfield and Woodbridge have been inspiring my work recently. The shapes and forms are different to that of a Landscape. My work has been exploring even more abstracted forms of those observations and this has been quite an exciting direction for my work. I also sometimes feel as though I might like to explore some of the beautiful scapes from abroad that I have seen, maybe this is something to explore at a later date. Fundamentally I find beauty and interest nearly everywhere I look.
A view inside Louise's Studio
Do you have any upcoming plans or future exhibitions?
I am scheduled to have my third solo exhibition at the Whistler Gallery in Dance East for the whole month of December, however this hangs in the balance and depends if the building is back open, so fingers crossed. I will also continue to sell works for under £200.00 through the Artist support pledge, this is a great initiative and well worth a look, I have been able to sell internationally on this platform and that has been really exciting for me, all works for sale this way are on my Instagram account. I am also booked to have smaller works at Applaud Cafe in Ipswich June/July 2021 and a few of my works are also in Estuary Wine Bar in Manningtree. My next big focus is to try and approach Galleries to explore possibilities of them holding or showing some of my works either on their own or alongside others collaboratively in exhibitions. Exhibiting my work more broadly is one of the hardest things I find to do, as having my job doesn’t allow me to man exhibition spaces and finding places with availability or getting yourself known to be asked to exhibit is tricky, so if anyone is interested please do get in touch!
Triptych inspired by a view at Newbourne
What small businesses or brands are you loving at the moment?
My two new Instagram artist obsessions are Simon Carter and Hit the road Harry. My general life/interior/art lover Instagram account is @everything_and_the_beauty (Sophie lives in Australia and recently bought 2 of my works) Local Instagram accounts as brands or small businesses I love are CocoBelle Events, Stoke Bridge Workshops, Beth Pegler, Art for Cure, Vanil and an ex student of mine for something a little 3D Ryan Barrett Ceramics.
Music can really help you be in the zone and be completely lost in the moment. Different music helps support different emotions or needs within the work, sometimes I am just happy to listen to the radio as a companion that can range from classical music to classics on Gold. However, there is no doubt I have always been an absolute fan of Prince - so this will always be at hand. I love music with depth and energy - something that moves me and I can feel its energy when playing it loud - Music has that ability to take you somewhere else, uplift you and shake you about and this is such a great combination for me when painting, so bands like the Kings of Leon (Beautiful War or Revelry), Foo Fighters (Times like these or The best of you), Florence and the Machine, Sia, and I also love Lady Gaga (Shallow), The Pretenders (Brass in pocket).
Works in situ/Work inspired by Waldringfield/Louise at her last solo exhibition
//all images courtesy of Louise Craigie and louisecraigie.com//