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Monday, 23 May 2016

Interview with artist
Oliver Pyle

"Oliver has established himself as a successful landscape artist, predominantly focussing on the United Kingdom which he considers to be a rich source of inspiration; "The British landscape is unique - there is so much diversity that can be found on such a relatively small island; be it the wind-swept spaces of the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, or the dramatic, jagged coastline in the West Country. I understand the frustrations that the British weather confers but as an artist it creates endless opportunities, with the changing light always adding a fresh perspective to each scene."

Interview with Oliver Pyle 2016
Tell me about when you decided to go “pro”. When did you decide to dedicate yourself to your art. Give us an example of what that meant to you. (What pushed your artwork from amateur level to professional?)
Having painted for years before, including a number of private commissions, I was invited to hold  a solo exhibition of my work at the visitor centre in Ashdown Forest, Sussex. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to gauge the public response to my work, and was very successful. It was clear that there was a lot of enthusiasm for my paintings, and that representational landscapes were still very much in demand. From that point I committed to a career in watercolour, setting up relationships with galleries, establish a website and building an online presence through social media.

Please state which St Cuthberts Mill papers you use and why?
Saunders Waterford, and predominantly rough texture in 140lb and 200lb weights. I find that it is very robust and versatile - it allows an ability to lift paint out easily, while at the same time enabling me to glaze areas of the painting without any disturbance of the previous washes. The final presentation of my washes has a real clarity and luminosity with Saunders Waterford.
Millford 140lb - I love using this paper as it allows me a little longer to keep washes ‘alive’ on the surface due to the hard sizing. Its initial resistance to washes creates opportunities for broken washes that are so important in describing different areas in a landscape - clouds, trees and foregrounds for example.

How does the use of these papers enhance your work?  
Knowing the attributes of these two papers is very important and getting used to them is essential if you are to progress as a painter. St Cuthbert’s Mill makes these papers with an exceptional degree of consistency and this is so important. Watercolour is difficult, and I always seek to eliminate as many disturbing influences as possible. Inconsistent paper quality and behaviour would be a major problem, and knowing that I can rely on St Cuthbert’s Mill means that I can focus entirely on my subject and technique without worrying about what my paper might, or might not do.
Is there an artist you admire, did they inspire you to be an artist yourself?
Most definitely - Alwyn Crawshaw. I received a birthday card as a teenager featuring a rather pleasant painting of some boats moored by a river bank. I looked at it and though ‘I’d like to be able to do that!’ So, I bought a set of paints and some brushes, and over time followed Alwyn’s advice through his excellent books and DVDs…...and here we are!
Today, I am very inspired by the work of Thomas W. Schaller and Joseph Zbukvic. Thomas’ understanding and presentation of tone to create drama is outstanding, while Joseph’s ability to construct a painting, while working loosely is exceptional foregrounds for example.

Do you remember the first painting you did that you were really proud of?
Yes - and it hangs on my parents’ wall. It is a scene of boats moored on the River Frome just as the sun is coming up. I look at it now and it has many shortcomings, however I still view it with a sense of pride and mark it down as the first time I felt that “yes, I can get to grips with watercolour!”
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A tearful response to the memories that I evoked for a client’s commission was very nice, and my commission clients are always very warm with their comments. Perhaps the compliment that means the most to me was from a gallery viewer who commented that “I want to live in your paintings.” As I am always seeking to capture atmosphere with my work, conveying a sense of the place, it was a lovely endorsement.

What are you working on right now?
I am currently creating a collection of paintings called ‘London Landmarks.’ Having focused on landscapes and seascapes for the last few years it is interesting and challenging to now move into the city. I am also creating a range of images that will form a new collection for a leading greetings card publisher. I  think that this has a rather nice symmetry to it - my initial inspiration to paint watercolours was from a greetings card, don’t forget!

What’s the one painting you’ve painted that you will always keep?
Funnily enough I become far more attached to my quick plein air sketches than I do to my larger, more considered paintings. Perhaps it is because they represent an immediate response to the landscape, and have a sense of energy and excitement that is difficult to replicate. One such sketch, that I will never sell, was of the Dorset coast that I painted from a high vantage point to take in the sweeping views. Every time  I look at it I am taken back years to the time I painted it, and all the sounds and smells and textures of the countryside come flooding back. It’s wonderful.

What advice would you give to yourself, the artist you were 10 years ago?
Once you find a style that works (i.e. it sells!) then stick with it and back yourself. Don’t be tempted to change because you see other artists painting in other styles being successful. I was tempted to do that several years ago, but I resisted, stuck with my style - which evolves naturally anyway - and now I’m known as the guy that paints the atmospheric English landscapes in watercolour. Get known for something and stick with it, but the trick is to make sure that you don’t turn this into the untouchable ‘artistic integrity’ otherwise you will turn down commissions and opportunities that could be paying your bills.
Anything else you'd like to mention that I didn't ask?
Yes - if you haven’t done so before, start drawing, start painting! More than anything it gives you the skill and discipline of observation, and particularly with natural subjects it opens your eyes to things you have never really taken in before, be it the structure of a leaf or the colour of distant hills at dawn. We are surrounded by amazing objects and places, and drawing and painting will help you appreciate them fully. you don’t turn this into the untouchable ‘artistic integrity’ otherwise you will turn down commissions and opportunities that could be paying your bills.

We'd like to thank Oliver for doing this interview with us - To view more of his amazing work head over to his website!

For more info about Saunders Waterford paper:

For more info about Millford paper:

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