Welcome to our blog page. Each month we’ll be stepping into the world of a different Peak District Artisan, looking and their styles of work and what inspires them.

20th April, 2016

This month we’re meeting Michela Griffith

Where are you from/based now:

I was born in Worcestershire, raised in Sheffield, studied and then worked in Edinburgh for 12 years, spent a couple of years working abroad and then returned to Sheffield.  For the past 9 years I’ve been based in Longnor, near Buxton.

About your work

My images combine an early love of drawing and painting with a long-standing passion for photographing the landscape.  It’s the small and sometimes unnoticed details that intrigue me.  An important part of my portfolio continues to be about the interaction between water and light in and around the River Dove, but I’m also experimenting with movement on land and even my own progress on foot through the landscape.  Nature is dynamic, moments are fleeting, and by including movement in my images I feel I’m getting closer to this.  

What do you think people see in your work – what draws them to it?

I use a camera but my prints don’t shout this loudly, and they have often been mistaken for paintings.  I’ve moved away from what many people expect photographs to be – my images aren’t a straight record or the result of a fortuitous combination of location, timing and light.  They are interpretations of things that I see, which others may not always notice.  I think their appeal stems in part from this more individual approach, but also from the fact that they hint at nature’s dynamic.  There is an obvious beauty and colour to be found in water, but we tend to underestimate how this changes with time and how important movement is to our experience of the landscape.  Photographing the river has fundamentally changed my way of seeing, and I’m now looking at the land with new eyes.

What’s your typical working environment?

Most of my images are the result of forays on foot into the Peak District around my home, an area that I have come to know very well.  After a while familiarity can start to feel like a constraint – that you’ve done all there is to do – but this is a positive thing and forces you to become more creative.  Sometimes we have too many choices…..  I can now find interest at most times of day and in most conditions. My observations of the river continue to evolve.  As I play with the dynamic on land, my studies of water are becoming calmer and the colour may be more subdued.  Perhaps this is a reaction to putting together my solo exhibitions last year, a new sotto voce to the frizzante. of Liquid Light.  I also feel it’s time to move on a little.  With reiteration come new ways of seeing.

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

This is less simple to answer now than it would have been in my previous incarnation as a conventional landscape photographer, when several names readily come to mind.  The inspiration for my work now comes from nature; I’ve learnt that with patience vision and technique will follow.  I enjoy looking at work by other photographers, but it doesn’t influence my own.  I’ve been contributing interviews and the occasional article to On Landscape magazine for over two years now, so I’m always looking for people who have a particularly artistic and individual approach to their photography.  The first person that I chose to interview was Valda Bailey; she produces quite remarkable and beautiful images, so if I were to pick one person whose work I find especially inspiring it would be Valda.

How would others describe you?

“Thorough” has come up a few times!  I’m flattered that the word that cropped up most in comments left during my recent exhibitions is “inspiring”, though I still suspect that they are talking about someone else!

If you had to choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

“Curious”.  Possibly in both senses!  But mostly in the photographic sense that I have always wanted to know what was around the corner, or over the next rise.  Now I’ve given myself permission to experiment creatively, to have a little fun and see where it leads…………. very much “What happens if …?”

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

Membership of Peak District Artisans has provided a framework around which I can build.  PDA events have clear branding, great organisation, and PR, and offer visitors and potential customers high quality but supremely accessible art and craft fairs in beautiful settings.  It has opened up opportunities to me that I wouldn’t have had as an individual but has also given me a sense of community and friendship that provides a welcome contrast to the hours spent alone creating work.  

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.  

16th February, 2016

This month we’re meeting Maggie Robinson

Where are you from?

I’m originally from North Yorkshire but now live in Sheffield.

Tell us about your work:

My work is a complete representation of who I am and the influences I have had in my life to date. I grew up in the north Yorkshire Moors in a large, very musical and artistic family so everything I try to create is centred around these memories of the past and current experiences walking in the beautiful Peak District countryside. Because the subject of ‘Landscape’ encompasses such broad scope for interpretation I felt for me that my way of seeing and capturing the essence of a place should be through my understanding of music- hence qualities of rhythm, melody, harmony and mood are all elemental ingredients that I seek to portray in my work. This is how my series ‘The music of the Landscape’ emerged. I work with acrylics, charcoal, and collage, building up layers of work, always hoping that at some point I will find that ‘essential’ something that completes a piece of work and makes it mine.

What is the greatest benefit of being a PDA Member?

As Brian (also a member of PDA) and I only moved to Sheffield from Essex 6 years ago – it was a completely new start for us up here. We do have family in the area but certainly had to start all over again both with making friends, and finding our feet in the art world, something that for us was well established in the South. So joining PDA has been a fantastic solution and has provided us with many friends, many opportunities to exhibit, invitations to give talks and workshops, and introductions to Galleries around the area. In fact – sometimes there is too much going on! It is a great group and I love the fact that although we work in many varying genres – we all share the same dedication and passion for what we create.

What do you think people see in your work and what draws them to it?

I hope that people find a place that speaks to them, or find an element that they can identify with and that is why I try not to worry about places being an exact representation but more about the level of energy from the very peaceful to the excitingly energetic interpretations. Above all – the most comments I receive are always about my use of colour – but believe me I have studied and studied it for years so I would feel I had failed if they weren’t!

What or who inspires you?

Having grown up surrounded by moorland and having spent nearly all of my childhood outdoors- I am totally in awe of our beautiful landscape in all seasons. From the arts world I love the way Barbara Rae interprets her world with strong defining colours and quirky marks – she prevents me from reverting to the literal!   On a personal level my dear hubby has always inspired and encouraged me to achieve my own expression – so many of my paintings are centred around our time together.

What is your typical working environment?

I have always been fortunate to have a studio in our house apart from when we first moved up to Sheffield. In Essex it was the cellar in our old 16th century House and here in Sheffield it is the loft room in our Victorian home. We have always shared our space – it works perfectly. I stand at an easel for hours on end – get in a mess then have a great clear up!

How do you organise your time?

I once said to my accountant ‘Everything is slightly under control’! This sums me up! Everything gets done but in rather a random way. I nearly always end up painting late into the evening – it seems to be my time!

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

Oh Yes! About 20 years ago I was just beginning to really take myself seriously as an artist having made the switch from being a musician. I entered three paintings into ‘The society of Women Artists’ exhibition to be held in Westminster never ever expecting any of them to be even considered. I can still remember opening the post to see that all three paintings had been accepted – it was overwhelming excitement simply because it gave me hope that I was on the right path!