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Artist of the Week — Sue Nichol

July 26, 2010 by · 4 comments

Interview with Sue Nichol by Galya Mladenova


Sue Nichol is a British artist who paints places with which she has strong associations and knows very well. She’s attracted to the ‘edges of the land’ – fabulous and varied coastlines or the rocky edges found throughout the British landscape. She paints using oils, acrylics and ink and revels in the flexibility of these medias. She also uses brushes, fingers, sticks, knives, pens or anything else at hand to mark the canvas and various materials, such as sand, paste, and even sea-coal to create texture. Her paintings are a mixture of bold strokes and impasto effects with more subtle areas, created through the use of glazes and fine brush work.

Since working as a professional artist she has had the opportunity to participate in mixed National and International shows as well as a number of solo exhibitions. She is a featured artist in three galleries in the UK and her paintings are held in private collections around the world.

When did you start painting? Have you always dreamed of becoming an artist?

I started painting as a young child. My father was a keen painter and very good at drawing. He saw that I showed some aptitude and encouraged me to develop my emerging skills by arranging for me to attend an adult’s art night class. So, from an early age I dreamt of becoming an artist.


You became a full time artist in 2008. What did you do before that?

I headed a service for teaching Gypsy, Fairground and Circus children.

Did you hesitate a lot before making this big change in your life?

No. I had been thinking for a few years that I would like to make painting my full time career and already had two galleries taking my work and sales were promising, so when I was offered residency I decided the time was right to take the big and exciting step to professional artist.


You’ve been a tutor in photography. Why did you decide to become a professional painter and not a photographer?

I have always had interest in photography so when my children were small I concentrated on developing my skills in that area as it was easier to combine with being a new mum than painting. I joined a photography club and then I was asked by a gallery to show my black and white photographs depicting the daily life of nomadic Gypsies in the foyer of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I also met my partner through my involvement with the photographic gallery.


You love painting the sea. Why is that?

The sea is in my blood. I was born on the North East coast of England and my childhood was spent on the beach, swimming and sailing the boats that my dad built. I return to the coast as often as I can and one day will live by the sea again.


Your passion are ‘edges of the land.’ Do you have a favorite one, maybe a place you often visit for inspiration?

Yes, a place called Staithes near where I was born. It is a small fishing village and holds many family memories as well as being the place that has inspired artists for many years and still does today. During the 19th century a colony of artists lived there who became known as the Staithes School or Northern Impressionists. One of the artists was my all time hero, Dame Laura Knight . When I visit Staithes I stay in a cottage that was once her studio.


Is there a place you would like to visit and paint and you still haven’t?

I have always wanted to visit Cape Cod as the pictures I have seen remind me of Cornwall which is another area I love to paint. I have recently discovered I have family living near Cape Cod so one day I will go and paint there.

Where do you usually work? Do you often paint outside, in the nature?

I mostly work in the studio but my initial inspiration comes from the outdoors. I sketch and take photos to use as inspiration and resources for paintings but I do sometimes paint en plein air.


You have been a teacher of art in middle schools. What do you consider the most important lesson you taught your students?

I hope that I encouraged them as my father did me. I was shocked to discover that so many young children already believed they couldn’t draw so I tried to build their confidence with fun demonstrations. The children called me Rolf after a TV presenter (Rolf Harris) who painted whilst singing and was very popular at the time. He is still on TV and has even painted the Queen.


On the other hand, did you learn something from the kids in your class?

Yes, and I am reminded of what Picasso said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”

Do you have a picture you painted in your home? What’s on it?

There is one painting I will never part with and it is one of Staithes that I did partly from an old photo and partly from my imagination.


Other than landscapes, you paint sheep and they even have a separate section on your web page. Why is that?

As a child if it wasn’t warm enough to go to the beach then we went for picnics on the North Yorkshire Moors. The sheep that live on the hills are mostly Swaledales, a very hardy breed, and both the ewes and rams have horns. They are integral part of the landscape and I think they are great fun to draw and paint.


Your New Year’s resolution for 2010 was to do more drawing. Are you satisfied with the results?

I am pleased to have done more drawing and have taken up life drawing again which is a great way to improve one’s skills but I am never quite satisfied with my results. I always hope the next painting or drawing will be better than the last.


If it were New Year’s Eve, what would be your resolution for 2011?

I want to keep on improving and stretching myself so by next year, in addition to my paintings and drawings I hope to be producing prints of my etchings. I hope viewers of my work are able to discover some of the magic I feel in the places I am inspired to paint.

You can see more of Sue Nichol’s works here.

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