'A cliche... but I paint what I love'
Ann Whitfield is a painter based in Barnard Castle who enjoys the remoter corners of our landscape. She has exhibited widely in the North East in group and solo shows. In normal times, she regularly opens her studio to visitors and enjoys the direct contact with customers which this method of exhibiting permits.
Have you always been artistic – and was it always an ambition to establish yourself as an artist?
I have always enjoyed drawing and making things, but I never had any ambitions to become an artist until I started selling my work some 15 years ago. It came as a surprise to me in fact.
How would you describe your style – and what materials do you use?
I work experimentally in a semi-abstract style, using colour to convey mood and atmosphere.
The paintings are topographically correct and place is very important, so although they are not at all photographic, locations are instantly recognisable to those who know them.
My recent work is in watercolour and Indian ink. I like to draw with a bamboo pen, which can be frustrating as the marks can be unpredictable, but it is exciting when things go well.
I use beautiful, big Chinese brushes for the watercolour, using strong primary colours with a view to achieving a lively and distinctive and joyful result.
What attracts you to painting landscapes?
The old cliche is that you should paint what you love… and that is exactly what I do. I particularly love the remoter areas of our beautiful landscape, wild places ravaged by time and weather.
Where do you get your inspiration – is it exclusively Teesdale or do you look further afield?
Many of my paintings are of Teesdale and the nearby dales as that is where I live and where I spend the most time.
However, I also love the hills of the Lake District. I am not a Wainwright bagger, but have walked just about all of the Lake District hills and sketched many of them.
What are you favourite landscapes in the dale?
That is a difficult question to answer. I really do love Kirkcarrion and have painted it more times than I can remember.
Another favourite walk is from Bowlees past High Force and along the Green Trod over Cronkley Fell. The views from the top of the fell are tremendous.
What sort of art created by others do you enjoy?
I think that the more you practise art, the more appreciation and understanding you have of the art created by others, and that extends to all different media.
The answer is probably whatever I’m looking at the time.
Where painting is concerned, I especially enjoy the early 20th century artists, before abstraction became absolute.
Do you have a favourite artist and a favourite piece?
One of my most exciting discoveries in the last few years was Percy Kelly.
He was a Cumbrian artist who died in 1993.
Famously he refused to sell his work during his lifetime, because he said he knew it was important.
His drawing skills are amazing and his strong, apparently simple depictions of the Cumbrian landscape are very powerful.
A host of artists have made their home in Teesdale – what’s the attraction?
I can’t speak for others, but as far as I’m concerned, I love the feeling of space and openness on the moors and in the hills. You can walk for miles with just the birds for company.
Work commitments took us down south for many years, but it was always our intention to come back to the hills and dales as soon as we had the opportunity.
In addition to art, what keeps you busy?
Two years ago, I started playing the hammered dulcimer. Learning to play and playing folk music with friends has opened up a whole new world of self expression.
How important has art been during this period of lockdown?
Like everyone else, I really miss family and friends. But both painting and music are absorbing and engrossing, so my time has been filled very agreeably.
And with the easing of restrictions, what are you most looking forward to?
The freedom to meet with and hug family and friends without the oppressive sense of lurking danger.
Exhibitions and live music at The Witham. And art wise, I am very much looking forward to being able to open my studio to the public once again.
In the meantime, visitors are welcome by appointment, subject to social distancing measures as appropriate.
For anyone interested, where can they find out more about your work?
I have a website, www.annwhitfieldart.co.uk, and a Facebook page Art by Ann Whitfield www. facebook.com/Anns.paintings.Barnard.Castle and you can find me on Twitter @Anns_paintings.
I also currently have a virtual exhibition courtesy of Bowlees Visitor Centre: www.northpennines.org.uk/ bowlees-visitor-centre/exhibitions/ann-whitfield which features many of my most recent paintings of the dale.