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Interview with Louisa Crispin

Louisa Crispin Lichen on Field Maple ii 2014

1. First of all congratulations on winning our Strathmore Artist Papers prize we sponsored recently for the Society of United Artists exhibition at Bankside. Your work is completely stunning, the delicacy and detail of your nature works are something else. What got you into art in the first place?

Thank you, it was a complete surprise. I was rubbish at Art at School and convinced that I couldn't draw, far more interested in maths and sport, I doubt I could have sat still long enough! But I decided it was time for a change and left my career as a computer analyst. Attending Adult Education classes in Silversmithing, I began to sell jewellery in local galleries and exhibitions alongside bringing up my sons. One thing led to another and I found I needed to be able to draw: someone suggested 30 minutes every day and after a month or so I discovered that I had a talent which I am continuing to explore through workshops, artist networks, books and the OCA. There is so much to learn.

2. Why nature? What is it about it that calls you and why?

I started with birds and flowers, something about the textures and patterns fascinated me. I've always been drawn to shadows, fretwork, black and white photographs, etchings and graphite drawings so it has been lovely to be able to produce my own. I live in the "Garden of England" and enjoy my surroundings, it seems only natural to work with nature. A chance encounter brought a small twig with tiny crab apples. I’m captivated by the way Lichen grows and enjoy searching for just the right stick, studying the detail before capturing it on beautiful smooth Strathmore Bristol Board using ultra sharp staedtler pencils.

3. What is your greatest challenge as an artist?

Making enough space in my busy life to explore new ideas and continue to develop. I wish I could be more disciplined about spending time in the studio but I gave up the 9 to 5 job many years ago and love the fact that I can be more flexible so I just need to learn to say no! I have been surprised at how much admin there is for an artist and how many different roles you are required to fulfil. However it is really important to draw every day and I'm currently reorganising myself to ensure that this happens. 

4. What do you love most about doing what you do? 

I get totally lost in my own little world when I'm drawing, radio 4 wittering in the background of my beautiful light and airy studio at the top of my garden.

Louisa Crispin Lichen on Hawthorne Sissinghurst 20145. You are a member of other art societies as well? 

Networking is critical for an artist and each group I interact with gives me different benefits.

Joining South East Open Studios was the starting point: a mixed group of artists who enjoy sharing their expertise with anyone who is willing to travel; I love opening my own studio now and getting direct feedback on my work.

Selection for Pure Arts Group in 2013 was a game changer for me. I won the Drawing Prize in their Autumn Show and was invited to show at the Strata Art Fair in the Saatchi Gallery in London. This gave me a huge boost in confidence at an important time in my career and their mentoring support took me through to the next level.
Around the same time I joined Chalk Gallery, an artist led gallery based in the cultural town of Lewes, East Sussex which is celebrating it's 10th birthday this year with a retrospective exhibition at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. Chalk encouraged me to apply for selected exhibitions and Art Fairs, as well as giving me an insight behind the scenes of running a Gallery.
In 2013 I joined a small team running the Cranbrook Art Show, an annual exhibition in November of around 22 selected professional artists which started over 20 years ago. It has given me an insight into the complexities of selecting and organising such an event, and an appreciation of how disorganised some artists are! 

Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum is a world away from my normal contacts. The artists involved in this group are more conceptual and I enjoy the challenges of art for arts sake, rather than the more commercial aspects of my business. We have regular presentations and crit evenings, meeting up in the Kaleidoscope Gallery in Sevenoaks. The newsletter from this group gives me access to opportunities not normally on my radar. 

This year I successfully applied for the United Society of Artists which will give me a London base for my work and hopefully introduce me to a new network of artists.  

Louisa Crispin Lichen on Birch Aldershot Common 20146. I see you are a partner at the Artichoke Gallery in Ticehurst. Can you tell us more about the gallery?

Artichoke Gallery opened it's doors in Ticehurst in October 2014 and it quickly became apparent that there is a huge amount of work involved in running a Gallery, especially if you wish to continue to develop your own practice at the same time. Vicki and Liz invited me to join them in November and it has been a whirlwind of activity ever since. We run themed exhibitions, changing over every three months, exhibiting a range of Paintings, Sculpture, Ceramics and Jewellery from all over the Country. The current exhibition is my favourite so far: "Beetles, Bugs and Birds" featuring the award winning wildlife artists Darren Woodhead and Matt Underwood. I have been amazed at how many Makers specialise in nature. Our next show, starting on 2nd October is titled "Modern Rustic" where we will be continuing the natural theme, bringing the outside in: think ancient crafts of our ancestors given a twist to ensure they fit snugly into our modern world.
Running a gallery, you always need to be one step ahead and the experiences I've gained over the last few years have been invaluable.

7. A fun question, if you were a Strathmore paper, which one would it be? 

Bristol Smooth - tough but gentle and very forgiving. 

8. Heaven forbid it should happen, but if your studio burnt down, what would you rescue?

That's a tough one and I would be very sad to see it all go but the most important thing is that no-one gets hurt... and it would give me space to create a whole load more.

9. Final one, what are your website, Facebook and Twitter links so people can get in touch with you?, and

More information about the groups and galleries mentioned above can be found at:

Images shown 

Lichen on Field Maple ~ Hilbert Park, which was the piece of art which won the Strathmore Artist Papers Prize.

Lichen on Hawthorne iii ~ Sissinghurst, which has just been accepted to Draw 15 at the Menier Gallery, London with the Society of Graphic Fine Art  ["well done", Ed.]

Lichen on Birch v ~ Aldershot Common which is one of my personal favourites


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