I was lucky enough to meet Eilidh Tuckett in person a couple of weeks ago when she visited the Gallery to see Louise Day's exhibition. I had actually already met her online as she had contacted me following an interview she had done with another Gallery artist, Louise Oppenheimer. Eilidh's interview was fascinating and offered a real insight into Louise's work. I was, therefore, flattered when she asked if she could interview me! I have to say that it all happened at the best time. Eilidh sent me a list of such thorough and thought provoking questions, taking me right back to childhood. At the time it was lockdown and I was struggling with not being in the Gallery and having my life completely consumed with three children at home and attempting emergency /home schooling. Eilidh's questions reminded me what it is to be me and what I love about what I do. She really made me stop and think. It really was a joy to work with her and how she managed to edit my 30 pages of handwritten answers I will never know.
Eilidh has very kindly and generously offered to work with me and to interview a number of Gallery artists. Where better to start than with Louise Day whose exhibition, 'Shoreline' is open until Sunday 23 May.
You can find out more about Eilidh by visiting her website https://studioninetyeight.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/studioninetyeight_/
E: Hi Louise! Great to chat to you. Your current exhibition, ‘Shoreline,’ at the Tighnabruaich Gallery is sublime. I can’t wait to find out more about your artistic process. You’ve only been based at Loch Fyne since2017 — what brought you there? What inspires you about it? How do your surroundings influence your work?
L: Prior to moving to Argyll, I lived in Rochdale, in the north of England. Over the years, I travelled up to Scotland with my family many times and we were always amazed by the stunning scenery, with its mountains, lochs and coastline. When the opportunity arose to move up to Scotland four years ago, we discovered the Cowal peninsula and found that it contained all these things that we love. For me, working as an artist, this area could not be better as I draw my inspiration from nature. I love the grandeur of the scenery but it is the smaller elements within the landscape that draw my attention and find their way into my work — a seaweed frond, a pebble, a shell, a fragment of pottery washed up on the shore.
E: What brought you to the Tighnabruaich Art Gallery?
L: Tighnabruaich is a place I visited on one of my first trips to Cowal, before moving here. I was thrilled to find such a beautiful village, in an amazing setting, with a lovely art gallery too. I thought that it would be nice to one day have my own work in the gallery. Maybe a year later, having made the move, I contacted Ros, brought some work over for her to look at and started my relationship with the gallery. When she suggested the idea of an exhibition to coincide with Argyll’s Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020, I was very excited at the prospect. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, it had to be postponed but I’m so pleased that it is now happening!
E: Tell me a little bit about the processes behind your ‘Shoreline’ exhibition
L: For this exhibition, I decided to focus largely on watercolours, although I have also included a number of mixed-media works. It felt like a good opportunity to refine and develop my technique and to explore the challenges and possibilities of working on a larger scale. I feel that has been really beneficial and I now plan to spend time leading up to Cowal Open Studios in September, bringing more of a focus to mixed media and textile work. I’m looking forward to seeing where that will lead me!
E: Can you tell me a little bit more about your involvement with Cowal Open Studios?
L: 2021 will be my fourth year of involvement with Cowal Open Studios. It’s a great community to belong to, providing opportunities to link up with other artists in the area, and to open up my studio to the public as part of the annual COS weekend, which this year runs from 24th – 27th September. I have also participated in COS group exhibitions including Cass Gallery, Glasgow in 2019 and, currently, ‘Cowal’s Coasts and Waters’ at The Barony Centre, West Kilbride, which runs until 29th May 2021.
E: The translucent layers of watercolour in your work are mesmerising. It gives your art quite an ethereal quality. Can you tell me a little about your artistic practice? How has it developed to reach this point?
L: I have always had a fascination with translucency, and my work has explored this in various ways. I also work with layers of translucent papers and fabrics. I am interested in the way that shapes, colours, lines and patterns, when built up on top of each other, create interesting and unexpected effects where they overlap.
The translucency of watercolours enables the blending of colours and creation of new shapes where the layers build, which creates texture. I have gradually developed more patience for spending longer on a piece of work, allowing me to add more layers, to take my time and work in a more considered way.
E: What is your workspace like? I love that you’ve given this insight with the gallery wall as part of your exhibition, it’s really unique to have such a window into the creative process alongside the finished product. To see the developments, the ebb and flow of your creative process, makes the art that much more alive.
L: I am fortunate to have a studio in my garden with a big window looking out to Loch Fyne. The white walls are covered with photos, sketches, seaweed, experiments with mixed media, large and small drawings…. These are the things which provide the inspiration for my artwork. Until recently, the spare room was my studio and I was limited to working on quite a small scale. The extra space I now have enables me to create much larger pieces, which is very exciting! My studio is also home to my collection of beach finds and is dotted with pebbles, seaweed, pottery fragments and driftwood.
E: I presume you’ve always been a creative person, how did this manifest when you were growing up? Does your creativity extend to interiors, clothing or cooking?
L: I always enjoyed drawing as a child and loved nature. I still have some paintings of birds which I produced, when I was about ten, using poster paint! I remember being very proud of these at the time! My grandad was a big inspiration for me. Although he didn’t formally train as an artist, he absolutely loved drawing and painting and would never leave the house without a sketchbook.
E: That’s so lovely. Creativity passed down the generations! What a legacy.
I wondered, how do you start a piece? What is your initial stimulus? I saw some works you’d created with the theme of ‘flow’ in mind. Do you often start with a word or sensation that you’d like to convey?
L: The initial stimulus for my work could be a few pebbles, a sketch, a photo, a word. It is often a mixture of strands that I draw together. I never do preliminary drawings to work out a composition but work more intuitively. For a work exploring ‘flow’ I might start by painting a flowing line of sea weed from corner to corner and then gradually add pebbles, and more seaweed to emphasise this effect. The Flow series of work reflects seaweed floating in the water, the way the motion of the sea arranges pebbles and seaweed on the shore.
I paint straight onto the paper without sketching out preliminary lines in pencil, starting with my first layer of watercolour to create the first elements of the composition. The painting then develops in an organic way, with the addition of further shapes, lines and marks, until I get to a stage where I feel that the work is complete.
E: How do you intend for your pieces to be displayed? Do you envisage how they’ll hang in an owner’s home, or a gallery?
L: I don’t generally think about how my work will be displayed until it is complete, and I have a group of work to take to the framer. I like my work to be framed in a simple way which complements the work and which I feel would be appropriate to a gallery or someone’s home.
E: What does it feel like to see your pieces hanging in a gallery?
L: It feels brilliant to see my work as a group, beautifully displayed on clean white walls. It’s interesting for me to see how my work has developed and the links between different pieces of work. It is always good to hear people’s responses to my work –- how it makes them feel, what it reminds them of, which pieces are their favourites. Also, it is fascinating to see how my work is curated, grouped together and displayed by Ros at Tighnabruaich Gallery.
E: The Tighnabruaich gallery really serves you well, the space with your work in it feels so clean and bright. It really allows your work to breathe. It was such a calming experience to walk through, pondering the pieces.
How do you decide when a work is finished? I imagine this must be one of the most difficult things as an artist, especially since your work is so layered.
L: You are right — it is difficult, and I sometimes carry on with a piece when really I should stop. These are the pieces that don’t make it out of my studio! It’s hard to explain how I decide a piece is finished, but it relates to a balance between the different elements that make up the work —the relationship between the colours, tones, shapes and areas of detail.
E: Do you have a favourite medium to work in? Or is mixed media your preference?
L: I have always enjoyed exploring a range of media, finding different ways to approach my subject matter. The medium used brings something particular to the work. If I could only choose one medium, which would be hard, it would be watercolour for its translucency, fluidity and spontaneity combined with the possibility to work in a precise, intricate way.
E: You definitely have a distinct style, your work immediately caught my eye and now it is instantly recognisable to me, in all its modest softness. It made me want to know more, about how it was made, about your creative process. Do you personally feel like you have a ‘style?’ What led you to this point in your art?
L: I have never really set out to have a particular style, it has just evolved over time.
E: What do you do to get out of a creative rut?
L: Sometimes, I will get stuck with my work or feel uninspired. Maybe I have a problem with a piece of work and don’t know how to solve it. In that situation I usually find it is best to leave it for a bit and go onto something else. This might be totally unrelated to my artistic work. I can then come back to it with fresh eyes.
Sometimes I will decide to spend a day exploring mark-making, creating a stack of papers to cut up and play around with. Or I might try to do something on a totally different scale.
I may try to look at my subject matter from a completely different perspective, go back through my sketchbooks or look through my collection of beach finds to seek out new shapes.
E: You said: “I love the freedom and the challenges presented by working large, which contrasts with the intricacy and precision in many of my smaller pieces” — Do you have a favoured scale to work in?
L: This is a hard one! I have always loved working on a large scale, going back to my degree when I created large wall hangings. As I have generally had quite a restricted amount of space to work in, my art has become smaller and I have found that I have enjoyed this too. The detail and intricacy of this work I find very absorbing but there is something very exciting about a huge piece of paper, a big brush and some ink!
E: Do textures inspire you?
L: I do enjoy the textures of pebbles and the challenge of representing this using marks on a piece of paper. I also love the textures on a piece of paper created using overlapping marks.
E: Do you work on impulse or through planning, or a mixture of both? If it’s the latter, how do you plan a piece before you get started?
L: There is an element of planning e.g. I might decide I’m going to work on a group of pieces with the same dimensions or a particular focus. If these are watercolours I will stretch paper on boards so that I can work simultaneously on a number of pieces. This enables me to work on another painting while I am waiting for a layer to dry. Sometimes I will plan what I hope to achieve in the next day/week/month but will quite happily go off on a tangent if something else seems more exciting!
Once I am working on a painting I very much work intuitively, allowing one layer to suggest the direction I will go next.
E: Do you do /have you done commissions?
L: I don’t do commissions. I think I would find it hard to be creative in the the same way. However, I do like the challenge of a set of restrictions and thinking how to work creatively within these constraints. So if someone suggested a commission I was interested in, I might be prepared to go for it.
E: I love the layered effect your translucent paint creates. How do you manage it? What is the thought process there? It’s collage-like.
L: It’s interesting that you describe it as ‘collage-like’. It definitely has similarities. With collage I would be cutting out shapes and layering them on top of each other, whilst with watercolours I am layering the shapes using paint. I always have a number of paintings on the go at the same time as it’s essential for a layer to dry properly before the next is added on top.
E: Do you make studies of work on-site and then refine them in your studio?
L: I do enjoy sketching outside, either in sketchbooks or sheets of paper. My sketchbook drawings are often line drawings using a fine pen, but I will sometimes work on a bigger sheet of paper with inks or watercolours. Once back in the studio, these will be a useful resource for developing ideas for my paintings.
E: Do you turn objects over in your hand to plan the creation of a piece from it?
L: I might pick up a stone and look at it from different viewpoints and also enjoy taking a collection home to arrange them in different ways to create ideas for compositions.
E: And you take home the beach treasures that you discover! I loved how you incorporated them into the exhibition. It was great to see some of the inspiration behind the pieces.
L: YES! My home and studio are filled with my collection of pebbles, shells, seaweed and fragments of pottery found on the shore. They are fascinating and beautiful objects to have around and a constant source of inspiration for my work. Some of my collection is organised into boxes and bags and I have plans to develop some work based on specific beaches and the objects I have found there.
E: All your work is very naturalistic, has that always been the way?
L: I have always loved nature and this has for many years, in different forms, been the inspiration for my work. Although much of my current work is based on the coast , my garden also provides me with wonderful subject matter and is something that for much of my artistic life, has been my main theme. I love organic shapes.
E: Can you tell me a little about your ‘Visual Explorations’ workshop?
L: I have always enjoyed working with people, passing on skills and encouraging others to develop their own creativity. I ran the ‘Visual Explorations’ workshop in Cairndow in 2019. A small group of participants spent a day working with a range of media to explore mark making, texture and pattern. They were encouraged to experiment and given starting points from which to develop ideas in their own unique way. I very much hope to be able to run further workshops from my studio as things start to open up again.
E: Do you think that being an art teacher has affected /informed your artistic process?
L: I worked as an art teacher for several years, whilst continuing to practice and exhibit as an artist. As the different teachers I worked with had their own specialisms, I was able to increase my knowledge of different art forms and processes and I am sure that in some way these have influenced my work. I also feel that by teaching drawing and mark-making skills to pupils, this has encouraged me to think about how I draw and refine my skills.
E: Are you looking to develop / move into any other disciplines? I saw you mention your recent attempt at drypoint etching, can you tell me a little more about it? I also find it really intriguing that you started off in textiles. How does that discipline underpin your work, if at all? Is it something you go back to?
L: I am always keen to explore new avenues and whenever I have worked with printmaking I have found it very rewarding. The drypoint etching was done a couple of years ago in the kitchen of my friend and fellow artist, Liz Bruce. I enjoyed the process of developing a mixed-media piece into etching and loved the subtlety and linear qualities that resulted.
With regard to textiles, my specialism was embroidery and for my degree I was creating very large, machine stitched wall hangings, almost like giant stitched collages. As part of my degree I was also required to learn hand embroidery techniques, something which I wasn’t too enamoured with at the time but now love! My current textile pieces use translucent fabrics which are dyed, painted, layered, machine and hand stitched. They relate closely to my watercolours in their subject matter, use of translucent layers and mark making.
E: When you create pieces for an exhibition, what is theprocess like? Do you try to make them harmonise, or do you allow them to be what they will be and find that they speak to each other anyway?
L: When creating work for the ‘Shoreline’ exhibition, I had a few strands which I was focussing on and developed work in relation to these. I try not to put too much thought into how they will harmonise but that naturally happens as a result of the colours and shapes that I use. If I think too much about it I find that it stifles my creativity. My work tends to evolve organically as I am creating it and the themes, colours and shapes naturally make links between the paintings.
E: Do you have a personal favourite artwork (of your own, and someone else’s)?
L: I am happy with the way ‘Flow 8’ has turned out. This is a painting I am showing for the first time in my Tighnabruaich exhibition. It, along with ‘Flow 7,’ is one of the largest watercolours that I have exhibited. I have been working hard to develop my watercolour technique in a way that works when scaled up and this has been quite a challenge. After several attempts, I feel happy with these and the balance of the various elements within them.
E: Would you consider creating something more ‘commercial’ like wallpaper or wrapping paper? Or do you think that takes something away from the art? A bathroom would be INCREDIBLE papered in your work!
L: I have long been uncomfortable with the distinctions between fine art, craft and design. I think that exciting things can happen when these disciplines intersect. It’s interesting that you mention wallpaper as this, along with printed textiles, have been suggested to me on several occasions in relation to my work. Although I have no particular plans at the moment, I would be interested to explore it.
E: There were a few pieces from ‘Shoreline’ which really stood out to me. Can you tell me a little more about…
- Pool 2 mixed media — are there scraps of maps in this piece? I love the layered effect.
- Grey Pool— this really gives the idea of a rock pool with submerged pebbles
- Flow 7 — there’s an almost hazy element to this, like when you’ve been sunbathing with your eyes closed and you open them and the heat of the sun makes you woozy in a blissful, relaxed way
- Flow 8 — there’s such a gorgeous sense of soft movement, gentle currents in this — it might be a warm pool that the sun falls on. Just lovely.
L: It’s really interesting to hear your thoughts and observations on these pieces.
‘Pool 2’ is one of a series of mixed-media collages I created during lockdown. I created a collection of different papers by adding patterns and marks, cut these up and layered them as collages. Yes, this piece does include old maps, along with waxed and dyed paper, pen, ink and watercolour.
In ‘Grey Pool’, the darker edge suggests the rocks bordering the pool and the effect of looking into a pool is created by use of both negative and positive space. This means that some pebble shapes are painted, while others are suggested by painting the space around them.
I can see what you mean about ‘Flow 7’. That hazy effect is created by painting some areas, ‘wet on wet,’ allowing the edges to blur and the colour to soften.
It’s so beautiful and mesmerising to watch seaweed being gently washed by the flow of the water and the reflection of the sun, with pebbles below. These are the things that inspired me to create ‘Flow 8’ and I’m pleased that this sense of movement came across to you.
E: Have you received any awards for your work?
L: In 2019, I received The RSW Watermark Award. This was for a watercolour, ‘Flow 2’, which was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh in the RSW 139th Annual Open Exhibition.
In 2020, I won the Paisley IS Award, for a watercolour entitled ‘Beach Finds 10’. This was shown as part of the PAI 132nd – Online exhibition.
E: Lastly, where else can your pieces be viewed?
L: On my website (www.louiseday.co.uk), Instagram (@louisedayb) and Facebook(Louise Day Artist). You can also see a selection of my work on the website for Cowal Open Studios. I currently have work in ‘Cowal’s Coasts and Waters’ at The Barony Centre, West Kilbride, which runs until 29th May 2021. From 24th – 27th September you can visit my studio as part of Cowal Open Studios.
E: Thank you for allowing me to explore my own creativity by discovering yours!
L: Thanks also for taking the time to come up with such interesting questions! After a busy time getting the exhibition together, it has been good for me to take some time to reflect on my practice.