More about "My Corner of The Field"

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Why have you chosen the title "My Corner of The Field"?

My Corner of The FieldThe title has a double meaning. I am always out painting in the fields, but the title also reflects the fact I have been painting for over 45 years to establish "My Corner of the Field" – my distinctive genre which has evolved into my own very personal creative way of doing things.

Do you live where you work?

I'm very fortunate to live in a medieval Suffolk long house tucked away in a tiny hamlet where I can virtually fall out of the door onto bridleways, ancient tracks and fields. This is where I find all the things I love to look at and paint. My garden is like a sanctuary – very private and peaceful which is what I need for my creativity. Being quite secluded, the garden attracts all sorts of wildlife, especially birds, butterflies and bees. I fill many sketchbooks with detailed studies of the flowers and plants which grow in my garden.

Can you describe a typical day?

I usually get up at around 6 o'clock in the morning and my day starts soon after that. Each day will vary depending on the light and the weather. On a studio day, I often walk to a local place and sit there to make drawings and studies. I'll then return to my studio and work on a painting for the rest of the day. On other days, I'll take my art materials and search for a suitable location to paint en plein air for the whole day which is where one enjoys and learns the most. It might be that the light conditions suddenly change for just a few moments. The light may come through to highlight something in the landscape. Had you seen this same scene on a grey day, you could easily pass it by. To try and capture that moment with shadows and light – it makes something you wouldn't normally notice 'ping' in a lovely way. As Turner said, 'Light is everything'. I feel the experience of these special moments shine through in my work.

My perfect day would be a winter's day, when the rain is throwing it down and it is dark, miserable, wet, cold and nasty. But I'm in my studio, which is a lovely warm space with lovely music to listen to. I'm experiencing deep joy from creating a painting. At the end of a day like that it feels perfect.

Why do you work such long hours?

I've always worked long hours because it is my passion to paint. If I go a day or two without painting I start to get withdrawal symptoms — it's like a drug. The more I paint, the more I learn and the more aware I become. I feel that if I work hard, I'm rewarded in all sorts of ways.

My Corner of The FieldWhen I was growing up my father instilled in me a strong work ethic by telling me on many occasions that 'you only ever get out of life what you're prepared to put into it'. I took this to heart and believe that if you work as hard as you can, good things will come back to you. Having a positive attitude helps too. When I was young and at art college, I spent evenings and weekends out in the fields on the edge of Brighton drawing and recording. I used to walk to a tiny village called Ovingdean which has the most delightful little church. I went there one Christmas Day, even though it was very cold and I had to walk a long way over the downs to get there. I wanted to prove to myself I was committed to spending the rest of my life painting. I gave up my entire Christmas Day to paint. When I returned home I was on cloud nine because I felt I'd achieved something, learnt so much and was enriched by the experience.

Since then, all I've ever wanted to do is paint because being creative makes me feel so good. At the end of each day I feel elated and a have a huge sense of achievement.

Where does your art come from?

It probably all started from a painting by numbers set I was given one Christmas when I was eight years old. I progressed to doing my own drawings and paintings and I ended up going to an art evening class. Two of my school friends were both absolutely brilliant at drawing and I used to ask them to teach me how to draw. From a very early age I was driven to improve my art and I knew I had to work hard. Ironically, I was the one who went to art college. One of them became a bricklayer and the other landed up working in a timber yard.

I also believe I inherited some of my creativity from my father and my grandfather who were both cabinet makers. Like me, they were perfectionists and worked long hours. I was very fortunate that my parents always encouraged me to do something that I loved to do, which was painting. Many people don't find their true calling and become lost in life. I am lucky in that there is never a day when I don't feel grateful that I found mine.

How did your style develop?

My painting has evolved in a natural way over a long period of time. I learnt how to use materials and develop techniques and some of them are quite unorthodox. This method of working was instilled in me during my foundation year at college where my teachers pushed me to experiment with unusual ways of doing things rather than using traditional techniques. I then experimented and applied paint in a variety of ways. Now, I combine many techniques, paints and inks. I enjoy mark making and also creating unusual textures which can help to achieve an original vitality. I've been told by many art lovers that my paintings have a distinct 'Paul Evans look', like a recognisable font.

Where did you get your knowledge of the countryside?

My Corner of The FieldMy parents were country folk. My grandparents on my mother's side worked on a farm and I was taken there from a young age. I was always made aware of wildlife, plants and the countryside around m and I had a thirst for knowledge of our wonderful natural world. I loved anything to do with wildlife, especially birds, butterflies and plants. As a child, I read lots of books and even tried to learn the Latin names of British birds. I often think about how times have changed. Centuries ago, we used to make everything that we used. We wove our own baskets, made our own dishes and spoons from pieces of wood. Everything was done for practical purposes and we had a far greater knowledge of things that were natural to us. When we lived in the countryside, we learned how the seasons effected everything. We understood about herbal medicines as we had to use whatever was to hand and we were much more connected to our environment. Today, many people live in a town or a city and are removed from nature. Yet in truth, the closer we get to nature, the better we feel.

Do you have a favourite place?

Yes. I have several special places. More recently, I have painted Felsham church in Suffolk many times and the other is Hamsey near Lewes in Sussex. Hamsey has even more meaning to me as I was taken there by my parents when I was very young. After I left art collage, I bought my first house in Lewes which was even closer to Hamsey and I would walk there 3 or 4 times a week to paint the church and the lovely old barn. I got to know the place so well and I still go back there today, 40 odd years later.

What weather do you like best?

I've always had a fascination with snow to the extent that as a child in winter I was obsessive about checking the weather forecast. I'd pray for snow and, if it did, I was out in it until it melted. It's the same today. If it snows, I go out first thing and return when the light has faded. These days we rarely have snow in Suffolk so it's essential for me to get lots of reference when we do to keep me going after it disappears. I enjoy the contrast snow provides - the bare bones and the simplicity of the landscape as opposed to rich summer vegetation.

What keeps you interested in your work?

There's so much out there—every day is different for an artist - with the weather, the light, the seasons and agriculture changing the landscape constantly. It's fascinating going back to places you've been before or exploring new ones. I can be driving along and purely because the light is doing something unusual, I'll pull over and record that fleeting moment. To give an example, if I'm looking at the sea, changes take place within minutes. If I do a quick sketch every half an hour, it's quite different each time if the weather is changing rapidly.

Are you critical of your work?

Yes, totally! Being self-critical drives me even harder to improve but I think it's a healthy way to stop becoming complacent. I'll keep going until I drop – and I like this idea. There's no way I could ever retire from painting—as long as I can see and I'm able to paint, I want to carry on until I can't do it anymore. The joy and pleasure of painting keeps me going.

My Corner of the field

It's where I stand
Much time has passed
Much have I seen.

Summers of brilliant gold
Autumns full of orange, red and copper browns
Winters of blanket white hanging from
Dark fragile skeletons
Springs of vibrant green, bursting with promise

It's where I stand – it's where I've stood
Learning more in the here and now
Than can ever be learnt from a library of words.

Flora Olney

What do you like about your work?

I enjoy the process of painting and everything it entails to create the best paintings possible. I chose to be a landscape artist because of my love of nature and our beautiful English landscapes. It is my passion.

I also adore using and playing with paint, starting with a blank piece of paper and seeing it develop to completion. I get moments when I'm really pleased with a piece of work, but for me, painting is a constant learning process. I gleen something new each day. It's more about the journey for me and it drives me to learn even more about everything.

Also, I'm very much hands on and steer the business side of my gallery. Going through the whole process of composing and developing my paintings to finished pieces of work, framed and displayed in my gallery is extremely satisfying. At the end of each day, it's wonderful knowing I've done something worthwhile. I'm very fortunate that people like my work and are prepared to buy my paintings. This is wonderful. Having said that, painting to me isn't about money or materialism in any way. Being creative just gives me a good feeling and a great sense of achievement.

Is it a lonely life?

It doesn't ever feel lonely because I get so engrossed in my work. Even if I start very early, the day goes so quickly I don't feel alone. My studio is surrounded by wildlife and the countryside and it's always a joy to hear bird song while I'm working.

I'm very lucky to have my own gallery so I get my social fix by meeting people who come to see and buy my paintings. I have nice chats with them which is really interesting and stops me from losing the ability to communicate!

Have you made any sacrifices being an artist?

If I were to die tomorrow, I would die a very happy person. I've worked very hard to achieve all the things I set out to and I'm just grateful that I have been able to paint for a living. I cherish every moment and feel totally rewarded in myself and wouldn't have wanted to do anything else.

Do you have time for any other interests?

I enjoy being with my partner Sue, travelling around and exploring the countryside. We travel widely in England visiting gardens, National Trust properties and other historical buildings and villages. Perhaps surprisingly, I play table tennis, competing in a local league. Table tennis is the complete opposite of painting — it's a fast, physical sport in which you have to make quick decisions to find your opponent's weakness. I 'm very competitive, so this is great fun for me. To unwind, I read books on artists and their lives, archaeology and Neolithic, Celtic, Iron Age and Roman history. In my studio, I listen to Radio 4 and have an eclectic taste in music. Gardening has always been a passion and is very therapeutic.

Why have you been so successful?

Success to each person means something different. For me, I was always determined to paint for a living. I believe if you are positive and want something badly enough, you can make it happen. I benefitted greatly from the 4 year illustration and printmaking course at Eastbourne College of Art and Design. During my time there, I was taught life drawing and helped an enormous amount by both Robert Taverner (a wonderful illustrator and printmaker) and Trevor Kemp (a gifted printmaker and painter). Whilst I was studying, the Ralph Lewis Gallery in Brighton sold some of my work which gave me enough confidence to try and make a living as a full-time artist after leaving college. Over the following years I developed unshakable self-belief that I was going to make it work and there simply wasn't a Plan B. Fortunately, things just clicked for me and I have been able to consistently sell my work ever since.

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My Corner of the Field

2017 Exhibition

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