Andrew Farmer ROI

As we approach the opening of his solo exhibition, North Landing, in October, artist Andrew Farmer talks to Mag North‘s editor, Colin Petch about his work, his inspiration and why he loves to paint en plein air.

There is something immediately likeable about this accomplished painter, as we talk in his studio, anonymously situated at the bottom of the garden at the family’s South Yorkshire home.

Anxious to convey the philosophy behind his practice, the artist, who still appears genuinely baffled by the ever-growing appetite for his painting, explains: “I’m all about anti-commercialism. If something’s selling – I get suspicious.”

“At the moment, there’s a real thing about plein-airism. I don’t care what anyone else is doing. It’s not tunnel vision – I am aware of what’s going on, but I don’t let things kind of sway me – and if I know that the in-thing is green as a colour, I don’t go and make loads of green paintings. I just stay on my own track and watch everything else pass me by.”

Although currently gravitating to working more in the studio, Andrew Farmer is a key member of ‘The Northern Boys’ painting group, whose members are the recipients of three national British plein air awards and for which ‘en plein air’ is in their very DNA, so one imagines it won’t be too long before the artist is back in the fresh air.

Like his philosophy, Farmer’s style too is definitely his own: “A lot of my paintings are very loose. When I started out, I did the groundwork, so underpinning my looseness – this kind of fresh approach – is this underpinning of structure. It’s been a real progression to get to this looseness.” His language of painting and explanation of his practice is an education.

“There’s a big thing about ‘finding a style and then sticking with it’ – but I feel as an artist I should be free as a bird.” You can only agree. His latest exhibition is a case in point.

Farmer is captivated by ‘light’: “A lot of artists – when starting a drawing, they’re thinking about how dark is the dark – how light is the light? I’m thinking how much light is there in the dark? People have commented on my work – that they’re quite light. There’s no real black. Just a suggestion of darkness. For me: that’s how I see life – there’s light in the dark always – and the impressionists knew that. Their shadows weren’t grey or black – they’re colours.”

Did art click for him when still at school? “We have key memories from childhood. One when I was age 7 or 8, at home drawing my name in 3D letters – and found I could do it. A relative said: “That’s good. What do you want to be when you’re older?” “I’m going to be an artist!” That was the first time I said it – and always said it from that point.”

After school, Farmer headed to Doncaster College of Art, which he describes as incredible, before attending Canterbury – and the Art School established by David Schutt. At both College and University, sculpture, print making, life drawing, still life and landscape painting featured constantly. Farmer is clear the artist learns so much from doing.

And when did it became clear to Farmer he could excel with oils? “Foundation year at college – during a landscape project. “I was entranced by the material. The buttery quality. The smell. It’s delicious.” Farmer believes there’s something about oils that acrylic just doesn’t have.

More by accident than design, Andrew Farmer is certainly a pleaser of crowds. His wonderful new paintings and drawings of the Yorkshire coast and Cleveland Way for his forthcoming solo exhibition North Landing (at Watermark Gallery from 14th Oct to 12th Nov) are being eagerly anticipated far beyond his Yorkshire home.

By Colin Petch

Editor of Mag North

New Yorkshire Landscapes by Paul Talbot Greaves

New to the gallery this month is a collection of work by Yorkshire-based, contemporary watercolour artist, Paul Talbot Greaves.

Having recently spent time in well known parts of the Yorkshire Dales, Ribblesdale and Swaledale, it’s no surprise to see paintings of Linton Bridge and Pen y Ghent feature in the range. However, quite often Paul’s work focuses on detailed elements of the landscape; a gateway, field entrance or wall, all of which are likely to show his main inspiration – the light – and the way it casts its shadows to create contrasts on the scenery he observes.

When Paul isn’t out in the Dales painting he is often found writing – Paul is a regular contributor to The Artist magazine and has also written several books. He also teaches and regularly gives online tutorials in painting techniques as well as organised study tours in the UK and overseas.

At Watermark Gallery we hope you enjoy this latest body of work, all available to buy online or in our Harrogate gallery on Royal Parade. Prices for original paintings by Paul range from £240 -£650.

Read more about Paul Talbot Greaves here.

Rough Grass and Pasture by Paul Talbot-Greaves

Michele Bianco

There are a number of exquisite pieces of work at Watermark that instinctively make you want to reach out and touch – although you probably shouldn’t. Key among them are the natural-world inspired forms of Inverness-based Ceramicist Michele Bianco.

Along with fellow artist and friend, Pascale Rentsch, Bianco will take centre stage at the Gallery in March 2022, with a perfectly-titled ‘Off The Beaten Track’ exhibition.

Michele Bianco grew up in North Yorkshire and as a child, always loved to draw, write and illustrate stories. She explains she “was always an ‘outdoors’ child too and enjoyed creating hideaways and secret dens out in the woods with my older sister”. The natural forms, patterns and textures of nature, that were her playground then, are a clear influence on her work. Bianco’s inspiration is linked directly to being outside in wild and empty landscapes.

“I sketch outdoors and am inspired by nature – the patterns, the textures, the colours. From my studio, I can look out onto the amazing landscape and translate my sketches, ideas and impressions into three-dimensional forms. The process is intuitive and very absorbing.” Bianco is clearly fascinated by the world around her. She also enjoys considering the passage of time and the way changes occur and are evidenced in the geology and forms of the landscape.


Initially encouraged to follow an academic path, the artist studied Architecture at university. However she quickly realised it wasn’t ‘hands on’ enough for her and after graduating went back to art college.”

After study, Bianco established her own gallery: “I set up and ran it for 10 years, showing work by emerging and nationally renowned artists. I gradually became more and more interested in the ceramics and sculpture that I was exhibiting and started doing various courses in those disciplines.”

Predominantly using stoneware clay, Bianco hand-builds her pieces using a range of techniques. The form is made initially by pinching and coiling the clay, then refined as it dries, by beating, smoothing and scraping. Once happy with the basic form, she hand-carves into it – and those shapes are informed by the curves and outlines of the form itself. “I love clay because it is endlessly challenging and so versatile. You can use it in so many different ways in terms of the physical making techniques and then there is the added interest of firing and glazing. It seems like there is so much to learn about clay that I’m constantly finding new possibilities and creative processes.”

Coming to clay from a sculpture/architecture background, Bianco is much more concerned with making visually interesting objects, than with functional items. She also likes to work slowly – and hand-building lends itself to that. “I started carving into my forms at the beginning of 2018 and this has become my principal way of creating my finished forms. It is slow, delicate work which I find totally absorbing and allows me to become completely focussed on my work.”


The artist readily admits that her practice is one of constant evolution: “I think I tend to work quite intuitively and I’m not sure I’m really organised enough to have themes as such. My work does tend to evolve quite quickly and really is just a natural process of development. My early work was quite architectural. I made geometric shapes, burnished them and used smoke firing techniques to create interesting surfaces. Subsequently I started making vessel forms with surface decoration made by hand cutting intricate stencils and developing glazes and slips to layer colours. These pieces were very much inspired by nature and in some ways the work I do now is a more three-dimensional development of that work.”

The individuality of each Michele Bianco piece must create challenges? “Each piece is different, but the initial making process usually takes place over 2 or 3 days. On day one I form the shape, usually using a mixture of hand-building techniques. Then I allow it a ‘controlled-dry’ overnight. The following day I draw onto the surface of the form to indicate the shapes or patterns that I want to carve. The initial carving is done usually using a ribbon tool and then the carving is gradually refined over the next day or so, using various tools – metal ribs and metal sculpture tools. As the piece slowly dries, the carving can be refined by degrees. After drying, pieces are fired to 950C. My pieces are often only partially glazed, so I apply latex resist to areas I don’t want glaze or slip before dipping in glaze. Once dry, the pieces are again fired to around 1200C (depending on the glaze used).”

It seems almost pointless and slightly insulting, to ask an artist such as Bianco, who she might cite as inspiration. But she readily answers: “My sculpture hero is Eduardo Chillida. I find the positive and negative spaces in his work intriguing. I also love the wood sculpture of David Nash. Wood carving is a big influence on me, because the material lends itself to carving and creating wonderful textures. In terms of ceramics, I’m in awe of the amazing sculptures of Dorothee Loriquet – both for the wonderful shapes and subtle surface textures and colours – and the work of Annie Turner is endlessly fascinating to me. I’d love to watch her work!”

Although based in her beautiful studio in the remote Scottish Highlands – Michele Bianco remains at the epi-centre of current creative thinking: “The most important element of the outside world in my creative process is Instagram! It’s such a positive creative community and particularly during the pandemic has been a wonderful way to stay connected with other creative people and see what is going on around the world. It’s also a great way to get feedback on ideas or technical issues.”

Bianco believes that ceramics are now getting more attention as an art form, which is very positive. “I think ‘craft’ should be considered of equal artistic value to ‘fine art’ and I’m really encouraged by the interest that there currently is in all forms of making.”

Characteristically humble, she says: “I think I’m just trying to make work which expresses in a small way, the beauty that I see around me in nature and the way it makes me feel.” She is certainly doing that.

In addition to preparing for our 2022 exhibition, Michele Bianco is currently making ‘50 walks/50 works’ – to celebrate a rather significant birthday. Her beautiful accounts of the journey which will ultimately take her from the North-East coast to her Inverness studio are a joy to read – and further reinforce the creative credentials of this extraordinary artist.

This article was written for Watermark Gallery by Colin Petch

Gardening as Art: Tessa Pearson

Gardening as art – and gardens as inspiration for art. Tessa Pearson appears to exist perfectly, somewhere between these worlds.

It’s not actually clear where her studio (in the garden of her Surrey home) ends – and the exquisite planting of the surrounding beds and borders begins. What is abundantly clear, is what Pearson sees all around her in her acre, is ultimately reimagined on sumptuous Arches or Saunders Waterfoot Cotton Rag paper – and the end result is incredibly special.

Paintings of gardens recur throughout history. From Adam & Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, (1526), to Golding Constable’s Flower Garden by John Constable (1815), the study of nature – and ‘the garden’, has always represented a channel for artists to explore meaning and expression. Although firmly categorised as a symbolist painter, Gustav Klimt’s Flower Garden from 1906, presents a floral impressionist style that arguably connects the viewer not only to Van Gogh’s work, but more than a century later, also to the vibrant depictions of colour and pattern, that makes Pearson’s work much sought after.

Tessa Pearson painting in her Surrey garden

Pearson lists Matisse and Hodgkin among sources of inspiration, in addition to the late Albert Irvin, with whom she shares a very special ability to employ the boldest of colour and mark – to create sensitive and delicate works.

I may be over-thinking it: “Basically – I paint flowers because I love them” Pearson pointedly explained to me recently. “I’m also at the age I don’t care what people think”.

After studying Printed Textile design at the Royal College of Art, the artist went on to produce printed silks from her own studio and gallery in London. Among many high-profile admirers of her work, a Liberty of London commission firmly established Pearson as a maker held in the highest regard. She readily explains that the arrival of her three children changed both her priorities – and her practice.

Watercolour painting now represents an important strand of Pearson’s work and it’s her beautifully framed pieces that can be viewed on Royal Parade this month. ‘The Artists Garden’ is the latest exhibition by the former ‘Surrey Artist of the Year’ and adds Watermark Gallery and Harrogate to an esteemed list, that includes previous exhibitions in Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore and – closer to home – Hampton Court.

Pearson’s garden and planting designs aren’t accidental. “I plant for painting” she tells me. Her Instagram images provide the best way for most of us to experience how natural detail in a Hot or Prairie border, travel across the pages of her sketch book, before heading into the studio to finally become vibrant and happy works of art. But until 30 September, it’s highly recommended that a Watermark viewing isn’t missed.

In addition to the exhibition, there is a unique opportunity to join Fabulous Florals an artist-led workshop on 24 and 25 September, as Tessa Pearson shares how she finds inspiration for her paintings from flowers and gardens.

The Royal Horticultural Society tell us that the month of September in the garden is all about harvesting produce, preparing for the cooler weather and planning for next year. While there is still colour in abundance, many of us are mindful that the growing season is slowing. Thankfully Pearson’s The Artist’s Garden exhibition is filling Watermark Gallery with the happiest colours and most joyous works throughout this month.

By Colin Petch


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