Louise Pilditch – Painter

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

The impulse to make marks has always been part of who I am. I have had 5 years of formal art education as well as a lifetime of drawing and painting.

"What Do We Know?" Acrylic on canvas 79cm x 89cm My favourite piece of work.

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

My landscape paintings start in the landscape. I don’t make a single mark until I have observed and then observed some more. The first thing I do in my sketch book is note the date, time and location and any intention or idea inspired by the landscape. My sketches tend to concentrate on the big shapes, movement and colour studies. I take photos for reference but generally they are more useful as a backup if I later want to modify my intent or composition. I make the paintings in my studio with additional sketches inspired by my memory of the landscape. Sometimes a haiku poem might emerge to give extra clarity to my intention.
My favourite stage of the creative process is at the beginning, when anything is possible. The finished painting might have taken on a life of it’s own, which can sometimes take a while for me to accept.

Where you do usually work from?

I have a 6m by 4m studio in the garden, it came as an enormous flat pack of 2” thick planks from Finland. It is my all time favourite place.

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

Like many artists I like building up layers in my paintings. These can be physical layers of paint: gesso and acrylic, or oil paint and cold wax medium or encaustic wax layers. Most of my paintings also have a layer of symbolism, the images represent an abstract idea.

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

One of my favourite pieces of work is a painting I made in 2010/11 titled “What Do we Know?”. I made this painting in response to the unfolding effects of the 2008 financial crisis and the growing concern about climate change.

The pictorial space in this painting is an imaginary cave wall. The subjects in the painting concerning climate change are the polar bear skull and the female form. The polar bear skull is a symbol of the consequences of climate change. This bear had painful wear and tear of it’s teeth, evidence of the harshness of life in the polar regions, a life that will become even more difficult with the loss of sea ice. The female forms from the Palaeolithic appear to focus on the reproductive aspects of femininity. Many images of women in modern times are more often associated with advertising. Advertising that rarely references successful childbirth. The female form in my painting makes reference to our conspicuous consumption as well as global population growth, both of which are factors in climate change.

The subjects in the painting that reference the financial crisis are the birdman figure and the enigmatic little face. The bird man is a motif from Lascaux Cave, Dordogne, 22,000 to 17,000 years ago. It is possible this image could represent a shaman, a revered person who is transformed into an entity who can communicate with the spirit world, to gain wisdom. My figure represents hubris. The hubris of those people in the financial world, with their arrogance and assumption of knowledge, who facilitated the banking crisis. I have exaggerated his phallic pose.

The strange little face above the skull was engraved in Gabillon Cave, Dordogne, 22,000 to 17,000 years ago. Who knows what the maker of this little face was thinking.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

I am inspired to paint the wilder spectrum of landscapes, from Wales to Svalbard, Norway. News, museum visits, poetry, modern dance, life drawing and pre-historic art are also sources that inspire my work.

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

Do whatever it is that you do as much as you can. Do not be discouraged by the constant juggling act of being creative, being with your family and friends and paying the bills. Many artists have a “day job” to support their art. I recommend Crista Cloutier’s “The Working Artist”. A supportive, online course that will surely help you get your act together. www.theworkingartist.com

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

I am an artist member of an art and craft co-operative. We are 14 artists and makers who have a gallery, “Made in Ross”, The Market House, Ross-on-Wye. I make most of my sales from the gallery. WOS and h.Art week are events that are fun and provide some sales for me. I advise you to keep entering open Exhibitions that suit your work. Keep researching possible galleries for your type of work. Always find out how the gallery likes to be approached by artists. (It is never a good idea to turn up unannounced with your portfolio).

"We Have Been Here Before" Encaustic on birch panel 85cm x 60cm Painting in response to lockdown.

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

At the start of lock down I felt quite discombobulated, such an interruption to normal routines. As the lock down progressed I found Zoom life drawing, which proved an excellent return to studio practise. Inspired by my life drawing sessions and my interest in prehistoric art I worked on two paintings in response to the daily news bulletins and afternoon Covid 19 briefings. “We Have Been Here Before” was first realised as an acrylic painting, and secondly as an encaustic painting.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

My next studio project is to experiment with oil paint and cold wax medium. I think this medium could be a happy combination of the ease of working with acrylic paint and the interesting textures and sgraffito property of encaustic paint. (Sgraffito is the technique of scraping off a layer of paint to reveal an under layer of paint)

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

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