Rural street scene Guilin China by Scilla Devenish
MEET THE FRIEND – Scilla Devenish
When did I start painting?
I started attending a watercolour class in 1990. I absolutely loved it from the first lesson and kept going every term for several years. I then began to travel with my husband on trips around the world with his work. This of course meant that it wasn’t possible to keep going with my art class, so I stopped going but I still continued to paint at home when I had time. My paintings are usually inspired by a landscape or something that I like the look of, so I take a photo with a view to painting it.
What led me to start painting again?
I received a monetary gift for my birthday about 10 years ago for me to join an art workshop. I couldn’t find anything locally so decided to look more widely online. I looked for artists that lived within so many miles of my home and who also ran an art class. That was how I discovered Gilly Marklew and a watercolour class that she ran in Cambridge, so I decided to give it a try. I have been a fan of Gilly ever since. I loved the way she taught and her style of painting and I was hooked! I have learnt so much from her.
How long have you been a friend of the SEAW?
Since October 2020
What attracted you to join?
Mel Collins has been a great art buddy. We were in the same class together and she has encouraged me to join the SEAW, for which I am really grateful.
What subject matter do you like to paint?
I always used to like painting landscapes, but since attending Gilly’s class I was introduced to different subjects, techniques and styles. I like to paint still life and sometimes animals and my painting has become generally less like a photo. In the last few years, I have particularly enjoyed painting street scenes. I travel to many different countries with my husband with his work. Every country has its own unique beauty, and I love discovering their different aspects and find that taking photos of street scenes is a good way of capturing each countries character. Then, in my studio I can attempt to bring them to life in a painting.
Where have you travelled?
We have visited many different countries including, Australia, China, Russia, Turkey and Jordan, where I enjoyed painting Petra. We often go to Ukraine where our colleagues always want me to bring one of my paintings for their home. Unfortunately, they lived in the east and then when war broke out had to flee for their lives with a one-week-old baby and two other children, leaving my paintings behind! The two places we have visited most were Turkey and Russia, in Turkey I was also able to give craft and art lessons. On one occasion, I had just got out of the lift having just arrived at the school when the whole building shook as an earthquake struck! I thought my life had come to an end! There was no one else around and the school (a small one) had fled to the balcony for safety! So, they couldn’t hear me ringing the bell.
Where do you paint?
I have a studio in my garden that my son built for me. I enjoy sitting in there in peace and quiet, just listening to and watching the birds as I go to work with my paintings.
What is my favourite colour to paint with?
I am not sure which is my most favourite colour to paint with. It depends on what the subject needs, but I do love yellow ochre and cobalt turquoise. Daniel Smith paints, especially shadow violet give me a lot of pleasure to use.
My painting style
I tend to paint with washes. I like the wet in wet technique and enjoy watching the way different colours react with each other. Sometimes I use masking fluid to save some white places in the picture, or even mask over a washed area to create a lighter part in the painting. Sometimes I use the lifting out method to create light in the painting. Occasionally I use a dry brush stroke, usually at the end of a piece of work.
What is my favourite brush?
I am not sure if I have a favourite brush, although, thinking about it, I remember painting on decking outside a mobile home we were staying in, and losing my pro arte proline plus no 12 brush that I was using down between the slats! I miss it so much that I think that was my favourite brush.
Do you have any artistic successes or achievements?
As I am not a professional artist, I am always thrilled when someone wants one of my paintings and over the years I have sold quite a few. However, one of the places we visited was a town in Armavir, southern Russia, where I worked in a private school. The head teacher was also our interpreter and friend. She always invited me to take craft/English lessons in her school while we were staying in that town. The teachers were also keen to have lessons with an English woman! Then the head teacher decided to raise money to enable students who needed special medical treatment to have the help they needed. There is no NHS there! Narina, the head teacher asked if I would donate some of my paintings for auction, which I did annually for a few years and which helped to raise some money to enable the students to get the medical treatment that they needed.
On another occasion I was invited by a friend who was running a fundraising event at a garden near Norwich Cathedral to exhibit some of my paintings there. I was given a gazebo to display them, and to my amazement sold three!
I recently attempted a challenge through the SAA and found to my astonishment that my painting was shown in their last magazine. These things really help to build my confidence to which I am really grateful.
One of the many artists that I admire is Sorolla.
I love his use of light, especially in his paintings of children and people at the beach. We visited an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery before lockdown.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about art?
I remember someone saying to me that when you paint you must enjoy it! I must admit that I often start out on a new piece of work and about a quarter of the way in, I say to myself “I have forgotten everything I have been taught”! I get frustrated and then I need to remind myself to relax and enjoy it. Actually, when the painting is done, you know that being creative brings joy. So enjoy! Paint!
Where can people find you online?