Lyn­d­hurst artist Claire Wilt­sher on how she cap­tures land and seas­capes around the New For­est

Hampshire Life - - Contents - WORDS: San­dra Smith PIC­TURES: Claire Wilt­sher

Claire Wilt­sher’s land­scapes leave San­dra Smith speech­less

I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that de­scrip­tive ca­pa­bil­ity is more de­vel­oped in an artist than a writer whose pro­fes­sional tools are con­fined to words.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to fig­ure this out. I can clar­ify the tim­ing. Ear­lier to­day I in­ter­viewed Claire Wilt­sher. Af­ter­wards, at my lap­top, I de­cide to be­gin by in­ter­pret­ing her land­scapes. And that’s where I falter. Each de­scrip­tion that comes to mind prof­fers such ba­nal in­ad­e­quacy as to prompt re­peated dele­tion. Which is when I recog­nise an artist’s in­fi­nite ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ex­press emo­tional and phys­i­cal in­ten­sity. At least, this artist.

“I’m a stu­dio painter.” The an­nounce­ment sur­prises me. I’d envisioned Claire en plein air ab­sorb­ing ev­ery nu­ance of the land­scape. “But I tap back into that orig­i­nal feel­ing be­cause I have a good vis­ual me­mory. I can re­mem­ber if there was a crow nearby that fas­ci­nated me. And smells, I re­call smells.” Such an in­tu­itive re­sponse to na­ture is at the heart of this Lyn­d­hurst artist’s cre­ations. A keen walker from an early age, an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the re­lax­ation which the out­doors pro­cures not only feeds her daily three-mile strolls with her work­ing cocker spaniel, Os­car, but those at­mo­spheric vibes which first stim­u­late a sub­ject.

“I see some­thing, the way light is cre­ated in na­ture, and it’s just like I get a gut feel­ing in my stom­ach. That’s when I stop, make some notes, maybe do a few quick sketches. And I take lots of pho­to­graphs which are a great record­ing tool.”

In her gar­den stu­dio, the 57 year-old re­lies on good qual­ity can­vases and Win­sor & New­ton paints al­though she is happy mix­ing her own tones from five or six colours. She doesn’t how­ever, limit her­self to one medium. “Re­cently I’ve been work­ing with acrylic first. Acrylic is so fluid and easy to move around as a base. I work with rags to start with in or­der to cover a big­ger area, then leave it to dry and add oils over the sur­face. Some­times bits of col­lage are ripped and added into the acrylic then worked over the top with oils.”

Mag­a­zines, if not small torn seg­ments on the can­vas, are in­flu­en­tial in Claire’s work, even on the pe­riph­ery. “I have bits of mag­a­zines laid out, not al­ways us­ing them but some­times I want that colour there. I al­ways used to focus on vis­ual lan­guage, it’s a kind of process of per­sonal ex­pres­sion and I’m more en­thused now than ever.”

As well as land­scapes, Claire pro­duces seas­capes, two of which were suc­cess­ful in last year’s Royal So­ci­ety of Ma­rine Artists An­nual Ex­hi­bi­tion. Her work is shown at Beaulieu Fine Arts, Winch­ester’s Bell Fine Art and Ytene Gallery in Brock­en­hurst. She’s aware of the pos­i­tive in­flu­ence of liv­ing in a county which pro­duces an abun­dance of pro­fes­sional creatives.

One thing that en­hances her pro­duc­tiv­ity is mu­sic. BBC Ra­dio 6 Mu­sic (“A sta­tion that pushes bound­aries”) is a con­stant while in her stu­dio. Hav­ing in­her­ited her fa­ther’s mu­si­cal in­ter­est, there’s a recog­ni­tion that lis­ten­ing to an eclec­tic range while work­ing helps pre­vent any bar­rier of self-con­scious­ness. Per­haps this ex­plains the free­dom and en­ergy which ra­di­ates through her im­ages whose skies boast Turneresqu­e qual­i­ties. “He’s the king,” Claire re­sponds. “His light is mag­i­cal. I also like Con­sta­ble’s later, earthy work.”

One as­pect of paint­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing when to walk away, is of­ten a chal­lenge for artists. “When it’s get­ting near to the end, I take pho­tos. Then I step back and look at the pho­to­graph ob­jec­tively. In that in­stance, that first sec­ond, I know what’s wrong.” I ap­plaud such a me­thod­i­cal, ob­jec­tive and hon­est ap­proach. But then Claire is able to com­part­men­talise, duty bound to tend to the busi­ness side of be­ing a pro­fes­sional artist which, al­though less in­ter­est­ing, is still nec­es­sary. “To do things you love, you have to spend time do­ing stuff you don’t like; that’s life.”

A cool head­ed­ness fil­ters through­out our dis­cus­sion: never know­ing enough, learn­ing on a daily ba­sis, be­ing com­fort­able with square can­vases rather than re­stricted to more pre­dictable ori­en­ta­tions. And ti­tles? “Just what in­ter­ests me at that mo­ment. One of the key things about paint­ing is that I want the idea of the imag­i­na­tion – on the part of the viewer – to be used. To­tal recog­ni­tion in­hibits the imag­i­na­tion.”

I be­gan by say­ing how in­ad­e­quate words could some­times be. Claire has proved me wrong. clairewil­t­

BE­LOW: High En­ergy

TOP: Tran­si­tion ABOVE: Mid Win­ter Si­lence LEFT: In­ter­nal For­est III Claire’s ti­tles en­cour­age view­ers to use their imag­i­na­tion

Artist Claire Wilt­sher from Lyn­d­hurst

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