Kirstie Trobe – Painter

Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist/maker?

I studied Graphic Design at Southampton and worked in that field for several years before starting a family. 23yrs later I went to a Watercolour Class at my husband's suggestion to escape the drudgery of raising our 6 children, after a few years I was asked to help out with teaching the class and that's how my business initially developed.

I taught at Worcester Arts Workshop and then independently at the Pump House Environment Centre until the pandemic hit and then transferred the classes online and started making Watercolour tutorials.

These were spotted by the company Classbento and I was asked to collaborate with them to make videos for their website:

Having guest tutored at Worcester Arts Workshop's Life Drawing and Portrait Classes I then set up the online Monday Drawing Classes with my colleague Andrew Clacher, where we take weekly turns to demonstrate drawing techniques or run the tech side of the class. This combination works well as we find ourselves discussing our drawing styles and techniques with a fellow artist which really enhances the understanding of the processes involved for the students.

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

If I'm painting a commission or an exhibition piece I find I can easily take up to 10hrs to produce a piece of work. I've recently started working more with Pastel and occasionally Oils but the process doesn't seem to be getting any quicker!

If I'm making a teaching video I try to keep it to 1hr because it's difficult for a beginner to take all the information in if it is any longer.

During our weekly online Zoom Classes I usually spend several hours researching the subject we're going to paint that week. I would then film myself painting a time lapse of what we're going to do and promote it on social media so that my students can see what to expect in class.

If I'm the one demonstrating for Monday's Drawing Class then I try to get some practise drawing in the night before. Being an artist is like being a musician, you need to practise every day to see your hand in. Luckily art is my hobby as well as my job so I don't mind putting the hours in!

Where you do usually work from?

I work from my studio at home in Worcester. I'm very luck to have the space and will return to teaching from here once we are permitted to do so.

Have you developed any unique or unusual techniques in your work?

I'm not aware that I've developed any particular technique but many people say they recognise my work immediately so I guess I've inadvertently done so? My usual advice to my Watercolour students is more water, more paint. That, and not to be scared of making a mistake, it's only a painting after all, and goodness knows how many times I've made mistakes and had start again, it's all part of the process.

Tell us about a favourite piece of work and what it means to you.

My favourite piece of work is possibly 'Blackbird's Nest', it took ages to paint and I had to get new glasses at the end of it as I realised my eyes really weren't up to all the detail of it without some extra help. I suppose I should say the portraits of my children are my favourites but my kids are so used to me painting them they really are very unwilling participants so it's always difficult to get them to sit.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Anything with eyes, usually. I like painting portraits the most, be they human or animal - even though portraits are incredibly challenging. After all an inanimate object really won't mind it your picture doesn't look like it but a model will.

What advice would you have for artists who are just starting out?

Keep on going, practise makes all the difference. The Monday Drawing classes only started in January and the improvement has been tremendous. I always advise students to keep their work, even if they aren't happy with the result, that way they can see how much they've improved over the weeks and it really does boost your confidence.

I remember when I started painting in Watercolour, some of the results were really shocking! But it's good to have a sense of humour and not take yourself too seriously. Some days you feel the love and some days you don't, it's not the end of the world, just try again and learn from your mistakes.

If you sell your work, can you tell us more about how you do this?

Because I use social media a lot to promote myself I generally get enquiries for commissions from there, or word of mouth.
It's pretty much the same for the classes.

Socially distanced Selfie with my painting 'Puppy with red Collar' at the RBA exhibition at Mall Galleries, London.

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

Lockdown has been revelation! I initially found that a lot of my students were unwilling to try new technology, and I wasn't exactly an expert myself. However, teaching online has been immensely rewarding and great fun and my classes have actually grown, which is fantastic from business point of view but also hugely rewarding on a personal level as the students have said time and again how the classes have helped then get through the past year.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

I'm having an extension built so that I can expand my classes at home. Following on from being selected for the RBA exhibition at Mall galleries this year I hope to find more time to produce work that hopefully will be selected in further further exhibitions both locally and nationally.

See more of Kirstie’s work on her Worcestershire Artists page.

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