Her love of animals and wildlife inspired portraiture in pastel and her love of the countryside influenced her landscape drawings and paintings. She attained a BA in Fine Arts at Gloucestershire college of Arts and Technology in 1985. Fiona is a member of The Lake Artists Society, and was elected into the Society Of Wildlife Artists in 2013.
We caught up with her over a virtual coffee.
What inspires you, Fiona?
The Landscape, wildlife and flora through the changing seasons, weather and light. First light and dusk are my most favourite times to paint ‘en plein air’ when contours and colours are softened and there is often a stillness to the air. My own garden, untamed and planted naturally to attract birds and insects also provides much inspiration.
Where do you go to look for inspiration?
The beautiful countryside at the head of Morecambe Bay provides a wealth of wildlife habitats living so close by, I am lucky enough to visit these places regularly. The estuary with its soft layering of colours of sea and sand, reflections in the channels and birdlife offers so much. The surrounding mosses, especially Lord’s Plain, where I walk most days, are constantly changing, often flooded, always interesting. Usually, I head up to Scotland for my annual intensive painting retreat, where I explore the magnificent habitats of cliff, sea and mountain expanses. Sadly, not since 2019.
How do you work and gather your research?
You’ll see me out and about making observations with a small pocket size sketchbook and I use my phone camera as a reminder. Sometimes I will make more involved studies in gouache and mixed media on tinted or heavy watercolour paper. I work quickly to capture the fleeting wildlife and transient elements. Sometimes I work directly from the landscape in oils on board. I love the richness and versatility of oil paint.
What have been working on during lockdown?
I am currently working on a large commission, an acrylic painting of a garden in mid-summer. Over the last two years, I have worked mainly in gouache on paper, overlaying thin washes to create depth. Now returning to the use of acrylics is interesting, but I am trying to apply the same technique, keeping the background very fluid, then slowly building up the layers of vegetation, flora, birds and insects.
Alongside the commission, I am continuing to paint and draw still life. It might be a vase of spring flowers or a dried seed head. I am increasingly drawn to plant forms, their architecture and patterns.
I was involved in several exhibitions in 2020- some for real others online. My solo show ‘Waterlands’ at Gallery 68 in Ulverston opened on 21 March but immediately closed due to lockdown. Artists Rosie and Tina, who run the gallery were brilliant and continued to promote the exhibition online and thankfully we sold work.
The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) annual exhibition, The Natural Eye at the Mall galleries in London is renowned for showcasing the very best fine art inspired by the natural world. I had eight pieces in last year’s show. The exhibition is so diverse and is one of the most popular exhibitions run by The Federation of British Art.
The team at the Mall galleries did a great job making ‘The natural Eye’ happen last year, and you can still view works online.
Where is your studio?
I am to be found at Halecat House and Gardens in Witherslack. Halecat, over several years has become a hub for artists and craft makers. It is great to work alongside other creative souls and be part of the life of the estate. It is a magical setting surrounded by ancient woodland, fruit orchards and gardens, and with Abi and Tom’s nursery there too, there is much immediate inspiration.
Back in my studio, usually listening to classic FM I work up paintings and drawings made out in the landscape.
I am very drawn to colour but have always loved the drama of working in black and white, I have over the years made many large tonal drawings in graphite and charcoal. Through my work as a visual artist, I want to convey a sense of interconnectedness of all life and to share the wonder of the places, wildlife and plant life that inspire me.
Fiona welcomes commissions and visitors to her studio by appointment. www.fiona-clucas.co.uk
Take a look at our collection of New Cottages – a visit to this magical corner of the country may just inspire you to pick up that paintbrush, too.