Originally from Fermanagh but now based in Edinburgh, Alison Dickson is a landscape artist at heart who finds the beauty of her homeland very inspiring. Here she tells this newspaper about her most ambitious piece to date, where she exhibits her work and how The Impartial Reporter features within some of her pieces.
JC: What is your artistic background?
AD: I’m a self-taught artist. When I was at the Collegiate I considered going to art college, but decided against applying. I then continued to keep up painting, gradually developing and eventually exhibiting. I now live in Edinburgh, which has a really vibrant art scene and I am lucky to be surrounded by fantastic galleries.
JC: What inspires your art?
AD: I take my inspiration from nature and growing up on the family farm at Springfield instilled a strong awareness of the passing of the seasons and the growing cycle. I’m at heart a landscape artist and find the beauty of Fermanagh very inspiring as well as the wild places in Scotland and the West of Ireland. Edinburgh, whilst an amazing city hasn’t inspired me to pick up a paintbrush so far – but who knows, I might give it a try in the future. Recently I’ve been doing a lot more still life work and I really enjoy painting flowers. In these, I’m interested in creating a narrative, prompting the onlooker perhaps to consider the story that lies behind the objects on a table or the view through an open window.
JC: Who/what are your biggest influences?
AD: I love the work of Joan Eardly who was a fabulous landscape artist, she also painted street children in 1950s Glasgow. I’m also a great fan of Barbara Rae a landscape artist and printmaker and the still life work of William Scott is very inspirational.
JC: Is there a specific place that you do your work?
AD: I have a studio in an artist complex in Edinburgh, I also like to paint at home sometimes and sometimes en plein air. On a recent trip to Fermanagh, I set up in a barn loft with an easel borrowed from fellow artist, Jill Mulligan.
JC: What has been your most ambitious piece to date?
AD: I think the most ambitious enterprise I undertook was producing 32 paintings for a solo show in the Clinton Centre in 2007. More recently, I did a 15 painting commission for a client – who needless to say, owns a very large house. It required a lot of back and forth about the requirements and was a very satisfying project to complete.
JC: What different artistic mediums do you use and which is your favourite?
AD: I often use acrylic paint but increasingly I’m enjoying using oils. It very much depends on the painting and the effect I like to achieve. I sometimes use watercolour as well as printing techniques. For some paintings I use paper collage to create texture and have even used torn up pieces of The Impartial Reporter! You can perhaps see some of the print in the photo of Rossnowlagh.
JC: What are you currently working on?
AD: I’ve just finished a commission of a large seascape for a home in France to fit into a specific space as well as large still life work for the Doorway Gallery in Dublin. I’m working on some landscapes too including one of Fermanagh farmland.
JC: Do you exhibit your work anywhere?
AD: I currently have work in the Doorway Gallery Dublin who I’ll be exhibiting with at the Amsterdam and Edinburgh art fairs amongst others. Also locally, Hambly and Hambly, Gallery 1608 in Bushmills, as well as galleries across the water. I will have limited edition prints and cards on Etsy soon as well as original work available from my studio.
JC: Any new artistic ventures planned?
AD: I’m busy getting work ready for Autumn and Winter exhibitions. I’m going to be exhibiting in Amsterdam for the first time with the Doorway Gallery and am also doing an open studio event in Edinburgh in November. Looking much further ahead, I’ll be having a solo show at the Doorway, Dublin in 2021 which is a very exciting prospect.
JC: What has been your favourite project to date?
AD: It’s not so much of a project as an experience. As a result of winning first prize in the Summer Show a few years ago at the Clinton Centre, I was lucky enough to go on a two week residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, County Monaghan, where artists from all disciplines can find peace and quiet to develop their work, as well as an environment enabling a rich cross-fertilization of ideas. It was an amazing experience and it was fantastic to mix with people from all sorts of backgrounds – writers, musicians as well as visual artists in beautiful surroundings.
JC: What are you up to when you aren’t painting?
AD: I love getting into the outdoors. When in Fermanagh, I go out for walks round Lough Erne and the forests as well as heading further West. Probably the thing I like doing best is meeting up with friends and family. My daughter, Alice (Campbell) who is also an artist, has just moved to Glasgow, so I enjoy visiting her with my husband, Adam, getting to know the city. I like reading, travelling, listening to music and of course going to art galleries.
JC: How would you describe your artistic style?
AD: My style has evolved over the years, which is good, I think it keeps things fresh. I usually start off a new painting with an idea, based on sketches. I suppose my landscapes could be described as semi-abstract, as they aren’t true to life, often involving building up layers and scraping back to reveal layers below. In my still life paintings I try to achieve simplicity and subtlety of line and colour, often simplifying shapes and playing with perspective.
JC: What does your art mean to you?
AD: Art is very important to me and it’s something that I really enjoy doing. It doesn’t ever feel like a chore and I like everything associated with it like framing, dealing with galleries etc. Wherever I go, I love looking at art and spend a lot of time in galleries. I think it is something I will always do for pleasure, it’s a very rewarding and satisfying pursuit. If you haven’t tried painting or doing something creative, I would recommend it – you never know, you may well have hidden talents and it’s never too late to start!