In our latest feature on North East creative talent we talk to artist Fiona Carvell who is based in the Northumberland countryside near Shotley Bridge.
Where exactly in the North East are you based?
On the border of County Durham and Northumberland, perched on the edge of the Pennines – beautiful space! Fine Studios at Fine House Farm, Kiln Pit Hill, Consett. DH8 9SL.
How would you describe your work?
Ideas-led, which means I let the subject matter inspire and direct how I respond (as opposed to working in the same way, or having a ‘style’ regardless of subject). Visually, I am interested in line and space, the connections between objects and relationships of pattern in nature.
Tell us how you first started out as an artist?
I graduated as an illustrator and moving image designer, which led to work both as a freelance Illustrator in publishing and then a career in broadcasting. I later moved into teaching but throughout all of this never stopped drawing. I would finish a shift for doing the on-air graphics for Sky News and then go straight to a life drawing class! Teaching in F.E. meant I could spend more time experimenting with materials but it wasn’t until I started running community-based art classes that I finally realised I needed to create more of my own art. It was clamouring to get out!
My love affair with pastel started around this time and a few years later I entered a piece for the Pastel Society Open Exhibition in London which made the first selection round. I was invited to be a Unison Colour Associate Artist soon after this, which I am immensely proud of, especially as they are a North East company and sell around the world.
I was offered studio space at Fine Studios at the end of 2016, which is perfect for me as it’s just a few miles from home and an amazing place to run workshops from.
Which work are you most proud of?
Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’, which was the first of my seaweed series. It was very big (over 3ft high once framed) which is huge for a pastel piece, and incredibly detailed.
What inspires you?
Lots of things – I go through obsessions! I had a thing about grasses and then trees for a while last year and my current theme seems to be seaweed. I am drawn to connections in nature – patterns of line and surprises of colour, that echo from one life form to another.
What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?
The North East has a wealth of inspirational landscapes. From the Pennines to the beautiful Northumberland coastline, there is so much to draw upon. My parents live on the coast and so I spend quite a bit of time photographing and sketching at beaches and castles.
What has been your most challenging creation?
Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’. There were so many colours in each tiny section, that I would cover only a few inches a day at some points. It drove me to distraction. I would often go to the studio in my running gear so I could run a few miles of tension off in between pastel painting!
Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?
Work hard, be practical and approach what you do as any profession. If you seriously want to develop a career as an artist, you must get the balance between personal creation/production and all the other stuff that makes it possible. Admin, promotions, attending events, keeping galleries supplied and happy are all part and parcel of the job. As a qualified teacher I still enjoy teaching workshops and have found this a valuable part of my practice as it helps to develop my own artwork.
Which other artists or photographers inspire you?
My favourite pastel artist is probably Sarah Bee. Just gorgeous line work and energy. The most inspiring exhibition I attended was in Paris a few years ago by fashion designer, Issey Miyake. He presented fabric as lines and forms of pleated colour in the most astonishing display that played with light and shade. I am a great believer in looking at everything the world presents to you for potential inspiration – it can come from anywhere.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I have just returned from running my first pastel workshop in France, (which was fabulous!) and I now have another planned for May 2019. I am also in the midst of planning my workshops at Fine Studios for 2019 alongside exhibitions at various venues across the country.
Long term, I would love to exhibit with the Pastel Society, that would be an achievement and a great honour.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My work is currently on display and for sale at Number Four Gallery, St.Abbs, Scotland www.numberfourgallery.co.uk
You can also buy my prints at Gallery 45 in Felton www.feltongallery45.co.uk
and at The Links Gallery in Whitley Bay www.linksgallery.org
You can catch me in person and my latest work at Art in the Pen, Skipton, Yorkshire, between August 11th and 12th. www.artinthepen.org.uk
I am also available for demonstrations or to to run art workshops in pastel and drawing at art groups and societies.
See more of Fiona’s work at: