Striking impressions of landscape
As an artist she finds inspiration everywhere around her, but Bridget Skanski-Such says there’s nothing like the Lincolnshire countryside to awaken her imagination.
Living in a stone cottage surrounded by woods and farmland, the hares, foxes, badgers, deer and rabbits she encounters daily are prominent in her striking impressionistic works, which also include vibrant landscapes.
Bridget, who grew up in Nottinghamshire but now lives in Oasby, near Grantham, has always been passionate about art but only started exhibiting her own pieces after turning 40.
Since then she’s shown both locally and nationally, including venues in Windsor, Reading and Teddington, while closer to home she also exhibits smaller pieces in her local pub The Houblon Inn.
“Art was always what I liked to do at school, and what I liked best at home. My mum was fairly artistic, more in a crafty way and had a business making soft toys, so the house was always full of sewing machines and fabric,” she recalls.
“After school I went to Trent Polytechnic and did a teaching degree that was allied to a BA in creative arts.
“Coming from a working class family I was probably the first generation to go and do a degree. My mother wanted it to be vocational, I think she found it hard to believe anybody could make a living from their artwork. She was quite practical, so I was pushed towards teaching.”
On leaving university, Bridget’s first job brought her across the county border to Grantham, where she bought the house she still lives in. She worked in a number of primary schools as an art specialist, before making headteacher in her thirties.
“By the time I was 40 I wanted to do something different,” she says. “So I started exhibiting my own work in around 2000.
“It was hard when teaching, having the time to create my own pieces, but once I started exhibiting and selling it was a great motivator to produce more; lots of people dabble but what helps you get better is the pressure to keep producing your own work and I eventually found my own style.
“Art is just like other jobs – you don’t feel like doing it every day. Some days you are really inspired and have a brilliant idea that you must work on straight away, and there are others when you don’t but you still have to do it.”
Bridget still combines her art with teaching; she’s been artist in residence at Donington Primary School for fifteen years, where she works part-time as a specialist art teacher and music teacher. Her pupils have won many prizes over the years in the annual Corby Glen Willoughby Memorial Gallery Open Art Competition.
For her own work Bridget mainly uses acrylic paint, as it gives her the freedom to create multiple layers quickly, while her favourite place to paint is outside.
“I tend to work in the kitchen. I have got a room upstairs but it’s quite dark and both the kitchen and conservatory are great places to paint, because a lot of my pieces can be quite splashy and splattery. Really they’re better done outside because of the mess!” she says.
“This summer has been great for being outdoors and I definitely prefer to be out there.
“Where I live, you drive through lots of little lanes to get to the main roads and the wildlife is everywhere – there’s always something to encounter. I hear owls hooting in the trees around my house, I see hares, foxes and badgers, squirrels and hundreds of rabbits as I walk and drive around here, as well as owls and lots of other birds of prey, kestrels, buzzards and the like.
“I have never tired of watching the changing seasons and the magic of the natural world unfolding around me every day. My works, both in paint and textiles, are influenced by the changing cycles of the rural landscape and the folklore associated with it.
“But I find inspiration everywhere around me. Other artists inspire me – there’s always something to take away, their composition of colour, their use of different shades together.
“Even going into someone else’s living room – you start to think about the colours in your head and how you could use them.”
Bridget works to commission too and has taken on projects including pet portraits, a canal narrowboat as well as houses.
“If somebody has thought up something in their head and I can interpret it in my style then I’m happy to take the project on. I had a lovely commission recently from a couple who’d promised themselves an original for their wedding anniversary.
“They wanted a path going through a forest with their children silhouetted along it; it was so nice to take on something where I feel it suited my work.”
As well as painting, Bridget is currently working on her contribution to a book about oil and acrylic painting techniques, after being approached by an American publisher.
She also plays the fiddle in folk band The Mickey Money Boys and enjoys countryside walks both in the UK, Greece and Crete.
“I grew up in West Bridgford and even as a child I desperately wanted to move to the countryside. When I bought my house I missed city life to start with and used to go back every weekend to be with my friends, but now, nothing could convince me to leave.
“I did wonder how long it would take for me to become blasé and take it all for granted but that’s never happened. Waking up here every day I find it such a joyous experience,” she adds.
You can find Bridget’s work for sale in her online Etsy store – Hedgebottom Gallery – and via her Facebook page Bridget Skanski-Such Art.
Bridget is also exhibiting in several places in the run-up to Christmas including the Pot Shop, Steep Hill, Lincoln, during the weekend of the city’s Christmas Market, and with the Lincoln Artists in Castle Square on the first Saturday of each month.
Her work will also be on show at Doddington Hall Winter Fair (5th–6th November) and the Craft Show at Lincolnshire Showground (13th November).