Meet the Maker – Lisa Le Quelenec from Seaside Studios UK
Lisa Le Quelenec from Seaside Studios UK is a painter and printmaker originally from Jersey and now living Dorset. She is deeply influenced by the coast – the pull of the wide open space to the horizon, the mystery of what lies ahead – and uses a combination of techniques to capture the essence of the ocean, seasonal reflections and the life of the shoreline. Here Lisa talks to fellow Folksy seller Abi Jackson from The Sage Apothecary about her creative journey and the elemental rawness of the coast.
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The coast has inspired my paintings and prints one way or another for as long as I can remember. It might be a single shell or pebble washed up by the tide, or the way the light hits the water – everything is possible subject matter.Lisa Le Quelenec, Seaside Studios UK
Hi Lisa. Could you introduce yourself?
Hi Abi. Thank you for putting these questions together for me. I’ve been looking forward to ‘meeting’ you and answering them I enjoyed your interview so much.
I was born in Jersey, studied at college in Falmouth and Southampton, then floated down the coast and washed up on the shores of Dorset, where I now live. Each stretch of coastline has taught me a little more and inspired my work. I still visit Jersey regularly to see family and try to get to Cornwall as often as possible. I love the more rugged coastline and the things that wash up with the greater tidal range.
The coast has inspired my paintings and prints one way or another for as long as I can remember. It might be a single shell or pebble washed up by the tide, or the way the light hits the water – everything is possible subject matter.
I love that you are inspired by the coast. Also being in a coastal location myself, I understand the attraction. But tell me… stormy, wintery, wild plunging waves or sunlight glinting off shallow water waves? Which inspires you the most?
Ooh tough question. I think maybe the plunging waves of a winter storm. When the beach is deserted by visitors and the wind is whipping your hair and sandblasting your face (I know I’m really selling it here) buffeting you along the sand, the extremes of light are exhilarating and there is an intense beauty to it. The sea pounds the shore and roars pebbles into banks that catch along the groynes in Bournemouth. It’s a salty, sensory overload. I think a winter beach is a thing of beauty but to people who don’t live on the coast, the beach is somewhere to only visit in summer and they don’t get to experience the elemental rawness of it all.
What is your creative process? Are you simply inspired by what you see and work from memory or do you document what you see, say by using photography and refer back to that later?
I work in a number of ways but essentially it all starts with sketchbook drawings, notes and experiments. I normally have a few projects on the go at one time and so, to try and stay organised, I keep a book for each one. Often the projects merge and entwine, only to part ways again at a later date. I like working in this way, as it means that, for example, when I have to wait for ink to dry on a print before I can continue, there is still something I can pick up and carry on with.
Sometimes a project will need a bit of thinking time before I can continue, time to brew while I determine which direction to take. There are always numerous rabbit holes stored up in them waiting to be explored. They contain drawings, jottings, sometimes photos, collages, trials – all sorts of things really. I also have a digital ‘sketchbook’ of photographs and Photoshop experiments.
One of my favourites is a book of colour notes – it has bits cut from magazines, experiments in colour mixing, bits from old palettes. Some pages are colour notes of objects I’ve found. Any colour combination that catches my eye gets stuck in, and later I will try to recreate those colours by mixing them in watercolour or acrylic paint. It’s an exercise that has taught me a lot. I often work in tones of a couple of colours and always within a limited palette on each piece.
How did you end up here? What sparked the passion for painting originally?
I’ve always liked drawing and, as a child, used to save my pocket money to buy a ream of copier paper for the school holidays. Every Christmas my nan would give me a box of soft pastels and a pad of ‘proper’ pastel paper. It was always very exciting to look at all the beautiful crisp and clean colours lined up in a row just waiting to be released. I still often arrange my colours before I start a piece.
I can’t really think of a time when I haven’t painted. Even when my son was a baby, I would paint during his naps and this last 12 months, while the world has gone crazy and we were home-schooling, I’ve managed a surprising amount given that I felt like I had done nothing at all. It’s as natural to me as breathing, even when I am not physically making pictures I am in my head.
What does a typical day in your life look like for you?
After the school run and/or the dog walk is finished, it’s straight to my workroom to get on. I am quite a disciplined person when it comes to work and I thrive on routine; in that knowing in advance that Tuesday is blog-writing day (published on Thursday), photo-editing and Instagram planning; Wednesday is printing day – all the preparation is done, paper cut, colour decisions made, table set up; Friday is often admin, printing plate preparation and loose ends; and Mondays and Thursdays are taken up with painting and any other jobs like photography, scanning and shop listings. I have to get things finished in time for school pick-up and I try not to do anything at weekends.
Batching jobs and pre-deciding what job will be done when and listing it in my diary means that nothing is forgotten and not a minute is wasted, which is especially important while my son is young and the hours available for working are not so long. Of course, a lot of this flies out of the window during school holidays and pandemics. This year I’m sharing my workspace with my partner who is working from home, like so many people, so time to work has become even more precious as I find it too distracting to be in the room at the same time.
I have kept the first and the last print from this edition as a reminder to myself that I am always learning and that art is a practice that you have to keep on practising.Lisa Le Quelenec, Seaside Studios UK
If you had to choose just one piece of art you had created to keep, which would it be and why?
After not doing any printmaking for nearly 20 years, I signed up for a short course at Arts University Bournemouth and fell in love with etching and drypoint. While there, I made a small etching plate of an ammonite. After the course finished, I bought a small press and decided to print an edition of 100 prints from this plate. I spent a nearly a year printing them, each a little different from the last, learning the skill of inking up a plate. I have kept the first and the last print from this edition as a reminder to myself that I am always learning and that art is a practice that you have to keep on practising. The act of repetition may be simple but it is, for me, vital to learning. I haven’t done an edition this large since and, to be honest, I don’t think I will again; it felt gruelling at times but I’m stubborn and wanted to see it through. It was definitely a worthwhile project as it gave me so much more confidence with printmaking.
You mention in your bio that your pockets are always filled with treasures you have found on the shore. What’s your most treasured or most unusual find to date?
This one isn’t something that I found. It’s a teeny tiny little topshell that my son found – the first he gave me – and it sits in a little bowl on my desk. He was about 18 months, no more than two, when he gave it to me and he’s been picking things up ever since. In fact, he’s worse than me for picking things up and putting them in his pockets – I never know what I’m going to find when I empty them to do the laundry.
Do you have an artist you particularly admire or a favourite style of painting?
I have quite a list but I love the work of Frederick Cuming, Maggi Hambling, Barbara Hepworth, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, John Singer Sargent, Kurt Jackson, Paul Feiler, Tove Jansson, Norman Ackroyd – I’m sure there are many I have missed. It’s quite an eclectic collection of styles but they mostly have a common thread of water running through their work.
You work in a number of different media. Is there one that you are more drawn to?
I think the answer is slightly in your choice of word… perhaps with all of them, with the exception of watercolour (mostly), it is about drawing. I adore drypoint, which is essentially drawing with something pointy by scratching into a metal, plastic or board base and incising lines that hold on to the ink when you print. I love being able to switch back and forth with different media though, depending on where the work is taking me.
When you’re not painting or combing the beaches, what else do you do in your downtime to relax?
I love to read – all sorts of things – and, like my work, I usually have a few things on the go at a time. At the moment I have an Elementum journal, Nature’s Palette by Patrick Baty (glorious – a real feast for the eyes and panders to my inner colour nerd), Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and a book on Norse mythology. The latter is seeming to be sowing the seeds for a series of new work, possibly.
When I made the leap to self-employed artist, I thought I’ll give it a go and, if it doesn’t work, at least I know I have tried. I still think that. I’d always encourage other people to give it a go. It can be the best step you ever take.Lisa Le Quelenec, Seaside Studios UK
What has been your greatest challenge and greatest achievement in realising your dream to be an artist?
I think the leap from being full-time employed and part-time creative to completely self-employed has been the scariest. I enjoyed my job working in an art shop/bookshop/gallery come picture framers, and learnt so much from other artists who also worked there and those that were customers. It was very good training for the business side of things and also broadened my knowledge of materials and the craft of making images. Also, that the importance of good picture framing cannot be underestimated. These things weren’t really taught at college back in the day and really are very important, so it was a very valuable experience. When I made the leap, I thought I’ll give it a go and if it doesn’t work at least, I know I have tried. I still think that. I’d always encourage other people to give it a go. It can be the best step you ever take.
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time was Abi Jackson from The Sage Apothecary. Abi is clinical herbalist based in Bude, Cornwall, who makes 100% natural, nutrient-dense skincare. Read our Meet the Maker with Abi here – The Sage Apothecary.