Faye Bridgwater’s enthusiasm for her work is infectious. The Brighton-based abstract landscape painter chats to us about how it felt to exhibit work at Saatchi Gallery last year, her latest paintings, and the huge, blank canvases she plans to ‘attack’ in the future.
Q: Hi Faye, you’ve been extremely busy creating some beautiful work since we last saw you, can you bring us up to speed with some of the latest projects you’ve been involved in?
A: Since launching my first prints with King and McGaw in 2020, I’ve had a very exciting time indeed. I had a solo exhibition at Glyndebourne which, amazingly, sold out in 24 hours. That was a crazy moment for me – I sat there in disbelief!
I have taken part in Brighton Artists Open Houses for years and, in 2021, I finally opened my own home. It was so special welcoming people in to view my studio. I couldn’t believe that I went on to win both Artists Open House of the Year and Artist of the Year awards.
The most momentous event was that I was asked to have two paintings in the In Bloom exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. It was like a dream at the private view, turning the corner and seeing my work on the walls. Boom!
Q: As life begins to feel a little more ‘normal’, what’s it been like emerging from the last two years of upheaval? Have you had time to pause or discover something new about your practice?
A: At the beginning of lockdown, I didn’t have my studio. I am so very thankful to have a dedicated space to paint in now. I now have a space that I work in at home which is brilliant, as I can paint any time, day or night.
I can pop in for a few minutes to look at a painting’s progress or I can spend hours and days in there at a time. I’m a great believer that things happen for a reason and not getting an external studio space made me make a big decision and I LOVE my space at home so very much.
Q: Living in Brighton, you must see some pretty incredible sunsets, do you ever draw inspiration from the Facebook Group you established, Brighton Skies?
A: Absolutely. A continuous stream of inspiring images fill my eyes and I use them as a reference point. I then make extremely quick little thumbnail sketches. When a composition excites me, it gets scaled up onto a canvas.
Q: Your new Limited Editions are absolutely gorgeous – so colourful, energetic and uplifting. Can you tell us a bit about the titles you’ve given them?
A: When I’m working on a new collection of work, I have a notebook with me. As words or sentences come to mind, I jot them down. At the end of the painting process, I lay all the works together and start my titling process. Sometimes it happens immediately and sometimes it takes days!
I get my notebook filled with almost illegible notes and cut them all out into small strips (actually, for this last collection I paid my 12-year-old to cut them!). I have a box filled with all these tiny strips of paper from over the years.
I start pulling them out and reading each one. Most go on the ‘No’ pile. Then, as a title resonates with me, I place it next to the painting. Titling a painting is very important to me. The title will be associated with it forever and will outlast me and my time here, so I want it to reflect who I am and what I’m feeling.
‘I move about the paintings like a dance, adding colour to each one, letting the layers dry and thinking about my next move.’
Q: Your new Limited Editions are so balanced with plenty of eye-popping colours and harmonious layers. Can you tell us how you settled on the final compositions?
A: I start with initial sketches then I let the paint lead the way. I always work on a full collection of twenty-ish paintings all at the same time. I found that it keeps my brushwork energetic and not too tight. I move about them like a dance adding colour to each one, letting the layers dry and thinking about my next move.
I remove as much paint as I add. Adding paint, stepping back, sometimes sitting and looking, sometimes making a decision quickly. The first few layers of paint are big, bold movements and, as the days, weeks, and months tick by, I make thoughtful, much smaller adjustments.
Each collection takes between three to five months and I always need a deadline, otherwise, I’d just keep painting and never stop!
Q: The hand finishing is exquisite. Can you tell us more about the methods you use to add those final touches and the effect it has on the final work?
A: I love my hand finished elements. It gives the Limited Editions a personal touch. I use Derwent lightfast pencils to work into the print, adding great energy and movement with the spontaneously drawn lines.
I have carefully chosen colours that not only complement the colours within the print but also lift them too. While working on them, I adored the feeling of the Somerset Velvet paper.
It has a beautiful thickness and weight to it. The paper and the hand finishings make each of the Editions very exciting indeed!
Q: A lot of thought went into the final presentation of the Limited Editions, can you tell us more?
A: I would like to thank Doug, a very experienced framer at King and McGaw, for his expertise. Honestly, when I was lucky enough to visit and see the Editions being framed for the first time, I squealed when I saw how fabulous they looked.
As they are float mounted, you can see the lovely texture of the hand-torn edges. I also chose for them to be set back in a bespoke box frame which is hand-painted grey which really sets off the colours and makes them look like precious gems. They really look exquisite!
Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: The problem with being an artist is that I have so many ideas sparking all the time. It’s sometimes difficult to know which one to focus on. I can feel the new work starting to bubble up inside me so my new blank canvases will soon be attacked!
My next exhibition is for Art Wave in September. I’ll be exhibiting at Tony Parson’s studio, The Old Diary in Iford, Lewes. An exhibition will follow in either November or December. I’m still on the hunt for that perfect venue.
One of the exciting things with this life is that amazing opportunities always crop up and I’m always keen to be involved. There’ll be a ping in your inbox and all of a sudden there’s a new, fascinating prospect in there.
I would love to bring out a book at some point. I would also love to go massive and paint some large scale work. I’d love to do a public piece of sculpture.
I’d love to have some paintings in some massive shows around the world. I just love painting and creating work!
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