Distant Dunes,15 x 29 cm, on paper, unframed by Lesley Munro
MEET THE MEMBER – Lesley Munro
When did I start to paint?
When I look back on it, my interest in art probably originated from finger painting at nursery. I was drawing the whole time, on any paper that my dad brought home from his printing job and even the cardboard tights packets that my mum saved for me. I enjoyed drawing figures and clothes and thought I’d be a fashion designer and I also dabbled for a while with being a musical actress, but both my parents had wanted to study art without being encouraged, so deep down I knew that I would be going to Art college.
I spent most weekends walking the hills in Scotland with my dogs developing a strong feeling for landscape, particularly the high hills and valleys and the solitude they bring. However when I came to live in Norfolk, following many visits here, I fell for its landscape which was so different to the hills I had around me in Scotland.
What do I like to paint?
At its heart my work is inspired by my love of the coast and the countryside that surrounds me. Semi abstracted in form, I aim to capture my passion and understanding of the environment, open spaces, light, colour and vast skies. At the outset I often don’t have a fixed form in mind, though my use of line, structure and depth will bridge that awkward gap between representation and abstraction. I use my many sketchbook studies and drawings as a starting point from which a composition develops, and the imagery then evolves through the process of painting my predominantly water based mixed media work,
I work in both watercolour and acrylic as I enjoy working with both and have no real preference. When working in watercolour on paper, I begin with my composition; a combination of collage, texture, splashes and bleeds and runs in my chosen colours that I then combine with finer details. I use a repetition of brushstrokes and line to lead the eye a to create a consistent rhythm within the painting, the contrasts creating texture and depth in the pieces. With acrylics I love the versatility and vibrancy of the medium as they can be painted on almost anything and dry quickly. These unique properties are ideal for when I’m using a variety of experimental techniques.
My aim is not to reproduce a likeness but to capture the characteristics of a subject, with each painting undergoing constant change until the balance and harmony of the composition is right. I like to use bold colours, fluid lines and shapes, allowing for the spontaneity of the paint strokes, and frequently other media, to form interesting focuses in their own right.
My colour palette has a vibrant iridescent quality that I want to infuse within each painting. I generally work with analogous colour combinations, with occasional bursts of warm or cool changes. I’m not afraid of colour or experimenting with combinations that are not usually traditionally associated with nature and landscapes.
Where do I paint – between the land and the sea
When I relocated to South Norfolk 5 years ago, I found my dream cottage in a quiet village overlooking an expanse of Common, an area of outstanding natural beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I had a small studio built in the garden with large windows which allow amazing views and natural light throughout long summer days and, though less in the depths of winter, it has become my beloved escape during our ongoing lockdown. It’s full of my work, art paraphernalia and, of course, paint splatters everywhere, I feel completely free there.
As well as my studio I love to work outside. I like to get out as soon as possible to drive around to see things and explore. Observation, studying natures light and form offers endless inspiration and every day is different. There are always pleasant distractions however such as my two dogs, lunch or drinks at the end of the day with my husband enjoying the sunsets. Since moving to my village, I’ve been part of a local group of artists and, when the weather’s in our favour, we work outside on Mondays visiting a variety of local locations.
Which artists inspire me
For colour, texture and pattern I admire Andre Derain and Matisse whose use of pure colour relationships produced such vibrant work. They also worked around the Mediterranean village of Collioure where I was lucky to have spent summers painting the sun soaked landscape in the late 80s. The American post war artist Richard Dieberkorn incorporates elements of these French painters in his work but it’s his dynamic and balanced landscape compositions that influences mine. I also admire Barbara Rae.
My favourite Gallery to visit is the Royal Academy. The summer exhibition being a particular favourite as I went every year with my dear friend Angela, who sadly passed away last year. We were friends of the RA and enjoyed having a coffee in the Friends Room after our exhausting walks round all the galleries.
Since moving to Norfolk I’ve enjoyed visiting the Sainsbury Centre at the UEA and fortunately a member of my Monday art group has a friend who is a guide there. I enjoy the conversation and learning aspect from these visits as there is always something to learn and share.
Anywhere right now would be a bonus. I’ve been shielding since March 2020 and can only dream of distant lands. Prior to Norfolk, we spent a number of holidays touring the west coast of Scotland, and at some point in 2021 I hope to go to Ardnamurchan and Mull in our motor home. It was our intention to travel to Sweden last year, as this a destination I’ve always wanted to see and to paint. Gotland and Svartso are islands with beautiful scenery, bright clapboard houses, unspoilt beaches and countryside, perhaps some day!
Favourite colour to paint with
BLUE – love it. Favourite blue – Golden ultramarine light acrylic. It just lifts a painting every time I use it.
A Da Vinci generous wash brush. The brush holds a lot of water that’s ideal for a wash, mop techniques and best of all the soft point you can achieve with it for detail. I also enjoy working with their special effect Vario tip flat brush which I got as a birthday present a few years back. It’s different and achieves interesting parallel lines, I’m not sure I would have bought it myself so wanted to mention this discovery.
I didn’t set out with many goals when I began to pursue art full time, but just to enjoy the advantages of personal freedom and being my own boss, what happens is completely up to me. I consider that to be an achievement in itself as I enjoy being an artist creating for the sheer love of creation. All the same I’ve had to mix this with a dash of discipline and determination but then I was an art teacher for many years.
Being recognised and awarded by one’s peers is an incredible feeling. My recent RSW President’s award was a lovely and unexpected surprise as I had entered only as part of the process to become a member of SEAW. The classic adage nothing ventured nothing gained comes to mind.
Sharing your art with an audience is a another opportunity for success as an emerging artist, and creating an online presence has helped me to have features in exhibitions and magazines, most recently within the ‘Norfolk Gins’ newsletter.
For 6 months in 2019/20, I had a successful one woman Exhibition at Creake Abbey after they saw my work on instagram (people like to see how you tick). This was an ambitious undertaking for me as the space was large and I had to produce over 30 acrylic and watercolour paintings. After selling half of them, I was asked by the proprietor, and now friend, to present again in the future, what better recognition is there?
Whilst teaching in Scotland, I was a tied artist for Babcock Marine for whom my husband worked. One of my commissions was for the Irish Navy offshore patrol vessel LE Samuel Beckett in 2014. I was invited to its launch ceremony in Dublin and my painting is now on the wall of the officers wardroom. I follow its progress and have seen that it has been responsible for rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean.
Work hard and study lots of potential subject matter. Look at the great painters and how they developed a unique vision. Every artist needs a unique vision.
Society membership – SEAW, EAGMA
Lesley will be exhibiting at the Aubergine Gallery, Wimbledon, London in their “Land -Sea-Sky -a breath of fresh air “ Exhibition from the 22nd April 2021. See a preview here