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Vivien Wilson

16th March, 2016

This month we’re meeting Vivien Wilson

Vivien Wilson

Where are you from/based now?

I was born in Staffordshire and lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire before moving to Derbyshire. I work from my home studio surrounded by open countryside in a small village near Ashbourne.


Tell us about your work

I paint all kinds of plant life but especially flowering plants. I prefer to paint what really inspires me, whether it is a dramatic colour or an interesting shape, but I also work to commission. When I paint a plant’s portrait it is usually on a white background so that the detail stands out clearly. Increasingly I am fascinated by the individuality of plants growing wild. My work is in watercolour or pen and acrylic inks. I always try to show a plant’s character and the way it relates to other plants, as well as the botanical accuracy. I particularly enjoy composing groups of plants to show how they harmonise and create pattern.


Can you describe how and why your career as an artist began?

Probably when I was about three, when I used to draw on the walls at home! I studied art at college and enjoyed developing children’s artistic abilities when I was teaching. During my time as a primary school headteacher, I also did some illustration work for educational projects. The enjoyment I gained from this led to my decision to leave teaching and study for an art degree – Graphic Design. An inspiring course in Botanical painting followed and this has been my main focus ever since.


How long have you been a member of PDA?

I have been a member of PDA for 10 years. I really wanted to join after visiting several PDA shows at Buxton and talking to the inspirational artists there.


What’s the greatest benefit of being a PDA member?

Being part of such a varied and lively group of creative people, sharing ideas and supporting each other in our work. I value the sense of companionship knowing that we are all engaged in creating and making, rather than feeling isolated working alone. And there are great opportunities for buying individual pieces of work too.


What / who inspires you? Is there anyone specific that inspires you – either from the arts world, or on a personal level?

My inspiration comes from the countryside. During my walks in the fields around our garden, I make sketches of wildflowers and trees as they change through the seasons. I often return with an interesting assortment of plant material, which might be twigs, berries, ears of corn, seedheads, whatever appeals to me. When I am searching for something in particular for a commission I am also known as a raider of local gardens – mostly with permission!


What’s your typical working environment?

I draw and paint in my studio at home overlooking our garden and the fields and brook beyond. I always work from living plants so my two desks are filled with jars containing flowers related to the work in hand or dried specimens for future inspiration. It’s not a very tidy environment but there are places for everything! These include two bookcases, a large hamper and two little filing cabinets. My favourite storage item is one I bought with my first illustration fee - a hand painted cupboard with nine doors – and I’m never sure what is behind each one.


Do you have a favourite or defining moment during your career as an artist? Can you describe it?

I think it was the excitement of working on my first illustration job while I was still teaching. I had to draw items from the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth for an educational book. It was fascinating being allowed to wander around the house when it was closed to visitors, drawing such diverse items as the silver chandelier, the Canova lions and the colossal marble foot. But my biggest commission is the most recent. It’s for The Woodland Trust’s new tree identification app that I’ve been working on daily for the past three months. All this time researching and painting 3 images for each of 76 trees and I’ve finally finished. So I’m out of the woods now.  



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