Becky Thorley-Fox – Artist interview
Born in Cheshire, Becky moved to the west coast of Wales in 2010, where she finds a constant source of inspiration in the rugged landscape.
Becky is a ‘plein air’ painter, preferring to take her paints and easel out into the landscape to work directly from life, working through a telescope to capture wildlife in the field. Becky loves the challenge and excitement of working from life and the freshness and spontaneity it brings to her work.
There is a direct link when working ‘en plein air’ between the eye and the tip of the paint brush giving each mark a truth and clarity. I work to capture and respond to the transitory effects of nature- the interplay of subtle colour changes and light, observed through all weather and times of day. Every painting represents a unique moment spent in the landscape – a sensory record and personal response to a specific mood, time, and place.
· Firstly how is the lockdown affecting your work?
I would usually be out painting along the coast, on nature reserves or up mountains. Now that we must all stay at home I have been spending time in the garden painting and also in the studio developing past plein air studies.
Image: painting on the coast last year
· Where do you get most of your inspiration?
I’m inspired by wild places, the coast in particular and coastal wildlife, I live just a mile from the sea. I would usually spend hours sketching and painting birds on the shore. I love the openness– the light and atmosphere and enjoy observing the change in light quality throughout the year. I usually like to visit an island each year and have done several art residencies to Bardsey Island. I love having the opportunity to become completely immersed in a wild landscape, surrounded by sea and able to follow the light whilst working from morning until dusk – this is my favourite way of working!
· Do you prefer to work outside/in your studio/a mixture of both?
I prefer to work outside nearly all of the time. Very occasionally I develop plein air studies in the studio. Often there can be time constraints when painting outdoors as the light changes and moments are fleeting!
I have recently completed a studio piece developed from work done on my art residency on Bardsey Island at the end of last September. I had produced numerous studies of rocks and crashing waves in extreme winds and rapidly changing weather conditions and so planned this composition to convey some of the drama of the scene on a larger scale. This painting will feature in the June issue of The Artist magazine this summer, in a step by step demonstration in my article on capturing the energy of the sea in oils.
· Do you have a favourite painting that you have done? If so which one?
There have been many paintings I couldn’t bring myself to sell straight away. This is one of them, a painting of the Little Owl on my first trip to Bardsey Island in 2017. My partner and I spotted it in the Gorse just as the sun was setting with a brilliant blue sky above.
‘Little owl in the gorse at sunset’ Oil on canvas
· How do you find titles for your paintings, does the idea come before or after?
Often my titles are simply descriptive of the painting for practical reasons, it’s also nice to keep them simple and let viewers enjoy the paintings as they are.
· Who’s your favourite artist/artists?
I love discovering other artists work and seeing their creative journeys. Some artists remain a constant source of inspiration for different reasons and I’ll keep coming back to them. For example John Singer Sargent for his virtuosity in plein air painting. John Busby for his beautifully rendered drawings and Lars Jonsson for his delicate depiction of light and colour… to name a few!
· Which is the favourite piece of art by another Artist that you own?
We own two absolutely beautiful oil paintings by SWLA artist John Threlfall. He doesn’t often work in oils and I was captivated by the way he handled the medium. He prefers to work in pastels mainly.
· What could you not do without in your studio?
Good lighting! I have a big strip light now which is essential as windows are small in old stone cottages!
· What does your studio space look like?
It’s really only a corner in a room! A bigger studio is on the wish list…
But not much can top this kind of setting for a studio! (see image below), I’m the dot to the right painting the sunset on Bardsey Island.
Bardsey Island sunset
· How do you feel your work has changed over the years?
Working plein air continues to teach me so much – about colour, light, values, subject interpretation, drawing, brush work…- the list goes on! I continuously strive to develop my work, every painting is about learning to capture something new, or convey that little bit more about a subject.
‘Fishing at the sea’
· Is there a particular time/place or movement you feel influenced you the most?
Moving to Wales 10 years ago is what really brought my interests in art and nature together. I was so inspired by the landscape and wildlife I found myself painting more and more.
I joined the John Busby Seabird drawing course in Scotland for two years running (2015/ 2016) which had a major influence on my work. The whole week is spent painting and drawing outdoors with 20 or so other artists of all abilities, working to capture life and movement direct from the moment. It is a creative mixing pot that really sets you on a course for life!
Painting Gannets on Bass Rock, East Lothian, Scotland on the John Busby Seabird drawing week.
· What other work have you done apart from being an Artist?
Before I focused on my painting full time I worked as a freelance window dresser creating art installations for a line of clothing boutiques.
· What is the best thing about being an artist for you?
Getting to do what I love most- painting and being outdoors whilst being able to grow, explore and develop as an artist.
· Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
It has always been a big part of me from a very early age.
· What sort of painting are you working on at the moment?
Since the lock down started I have had to put my coastal work on hold and find inspiration closer to hand in the garden as the weather has been so beautiful. Early April is my favourite time of year when all the birds are singing and the light has that lovely warm glow. I have been producing multiple studies exploring the light over the river and through the trees in the garden. I’ve also been sketching and painting garden birds too.
· Can you show us some images from your sketchbook?
Here are some sketches from a live stream camera in a Tawny Owl nest box which I’ve regularly been checking up on:
Tawny owl sketches
· What is your favourite medium to work in and why?
Oils are my all-time favourite. They seem to offer the greatest range in terms of colour, depth, vibrancy and mark making. They can be thinned right down for beautiful transparent layers and applied thickly to achieve more impasto marks.
I find oils a really forgiving medium to work with and to my mind the easiest and most versatile. It’s easy to wipe off the canvas to alter a painting. Paint stays wet on the palette for days ready for use! Also unlike acrylic and watercolour the values don’t change as they dry. Retouch varnish may be applied once paintings are touch dry which really brings them back to life again making colour glow and shine.
To see more paintings by Beck Thorley-Fox please click here…