Beauty in the ev­ery­day

From a Suf­folk farm­yard, artist Dee Nick­er­son draws in­spi­ra­tion from or­di­nary events, de­pict­ing them in her lyri­cal, flow­ing style

Country Living (UK) - - Con­tents - WORDS BY CATHER­INE LARMER

Short days and long nights make the win­ter months the most pro­duc­tive time for artist Dee Nick­er­son. Af­ter sup­per in the for­mer show­man’s car­a­van she shares with her part­ner, Richard, she’ll turn on the lamps be­side her blan­ket-strewn sofa, stoke up the wood­burner and paint un­til the early hours of the morn­ing. “That’s partly why my pic­tures look a bit dif­fer­ent,” she says, “be­cause they are done at night. There’s less in­tru­sion and noise then. I know that no one will come round. But I feel a bit like a teenager – morn­ings don’t re­ally work for me.” While Dee sleeps in the fol­low­ing day, Richard gath­ers more logs, lights the fire and makes the cof­fee. He has taken on the house­hold chores as well as plans for a pur­pose-built stu­dio, to al­low Dee to con­cen­trate on her art as her work be­comes in­creas­ingly sought-af­ter.

Cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery­day beauty, her paint­ings have a broad ap­peal. Ele­gant, stylised women are por­trayed in flow­ing pat­terned dresses, long coats and hats, walk­ing with dogs across fields or be­side the sea, or in the midst of house­hold ac­tiv­i­ties – knit­ting, bak­ing, read­ing or writ­ing. The bold colours and sim­ple lines are mes­meric;

the large eyes and oval faces are rem­i­nis­cent of re­li­gious icons, and the over­all ef­fect cre­ates a feel­ing of tran­quil­lity. “The women are partly an artis­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion of me,” Dee says. “That started be­cause I liked fash­ion but couldn’t af­ford to buy things, so I would draw how I wanted to look. I was a ro­man­tic young woman, in­ter­ested in myths and leg­ends. I’m more ab­sorbed in the real world now and my paint­ings have evolved to re­flect that.”

Dee and Richard have lived in this cor­ner of a farm­yard on the Nor­folk-suf­folk bor­der for 20 years. Af­ter mov­ing from Nor­wich in search of a more ru­ral life that would give Dee time to paint, they strug­gled to pay the rent on their new house, and a car­a­van seemed a sen­si­ble al­ter­na­tive. Richard’s fa­ther owned a farm, so the cou­ple parked it on his land and now en­joy liv­ing there so much that they can’t imag­ine mov­ing any­where else.

Their home – a sleek, sil­ver hide­away – used to be part of a trav­el­ling fair­ground be­fore Richard res­cued it from dere­lic­tion. Now shel­tered from the el­e­ments by a tall hedge of conifers, with brown and white hens peck­ing at the doorstep and cock­erels

crow­ing in the dis­tance, it’s the per­fect artist’s re­treat, al­though Dee ad­mits that it has some short­com­ings: “The toi­let’s across the yard and I some­times won­der what it must be like to get up in a warm house. But I don’t mind the sim­plic­ity.”

A farmer’s daugh­ter, Dee is used to liv­ing a no-frills life­style and of­ten had to amuse her­self as a child. She re­mem­bers the first thrill of draw­ing when she was three and mak­ing her own clothes when she was 12. How­ever, her par­ents didn’t want her to study art and, feel­ing de­mor­alised and di­rec­tion­less, she left school with no qual­i­fi­ca­tions and mar­ried at 16, with a daugh­ter ar­riv­ing soon af­ter.

But her love of paint­ing never left her and when she joined a lo­cal art group, her teacher was so im­pressed that he en­cour­aged her to ap­ply to art school and helped her put to­gether a port­fo­lio. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Great Yar­mouth Col­lege of Art and De­sign, Dee went on to study pat­tern cut­ting and English lit­er­a­ture at City Col­lege in Nor­wich, jug­gling the course with a full-time job work­ing at what was then a lo­cal branch of Lib­erty: “It was an or­di­nary shop job re­ally, but it was quite a nice shop to be work­ing in!” While there, she learnt a lot about fab­rics and won a fash­ion com­pe­ti­tion held by the store. “It was a good place to make clothes, but I found it harder to paint. I think I need the iso­la­tion and coun­try­side to do it,” she says.

Now her home pro­vides plenty of nat­u­ral in­spi­ra­tion, with Waveney Val­ley, home of painter Al­fred Mun­nings, on her


OP­PO­SITE AND THIS PAGE In her homely car­a­van, which show­cases her own work and that of other artists, Dee paints scenes of coun­try­side liv­ing and the ac­tiv­i­ties she en­joys, of­ten in­clud­ing im­ages of her­self, such as in Wind of Change (above)

FROM ABOVE LEFT Dee of­ten de­liv­ers fin­ished paint­ings to her cus­tomers by bike; her farm-based home/stu­dio near the East Anglian coast pro­vides the per­fect sur­round­ings from which to glean in­spi­ra­tion for new ideas

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