The Cotswolds has been inspiring artists for centuries, so it's no surprise that Tracey Elphick — a painter and mixed media artist with a passion for landscapes and still life — chose to have her studio here.
For the fourth instalment of New Brewery Arts' meet the maker series, SoGlos caught up with her to talk about her creative process, what inspires her and when people can see her at work in Cirencester.
Tell us a bit about your craft.
I am a painter who works with a range of techniques and processes. I am probably most identified with my mixed media street views, harbour scenes and seascapes, combining acrylics, inks and collage. I also create still life work in both acrylics and oils and have a series of birds in oils.
How did you get started?
After gaining a BA in fine art at Falmouth University, I studied for a PGCE and spent 10 years working as head of art at Kingshill School in Cirencester. During this time and after leaving teaching I continued to experiment with my own work in painting, drawing, making and ceramics.
After leaving Kingshill, while my children were young, I taught workshops at New Brewery Arts and created my own range of jewellery from recycled materials. I took on my studio in 2012 and haven’t looked back since!
What attracted you to painting and mixed media?
Throughout my artistic life I have always enjoyed experimenting and trying out new techniques. I love the range of marks that can be achieved with mixed media, combining detail with abstract qualities — the outcome is always unexpected!
When creating a new piece, where do you start?
In my mixed media work I start with the subject. Using both photos and sketches I make a series of thumbnails to work out the best composition. I apply large collage pieces randomly onto a primed panel then splash on inks with a wide brush and spray bottle to give an exciting underpainting before building up many more layers.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Landscapes comprise of familiar places that hold a great deal of visual interest with plenty of colour and structure. Still life work has played an increasing role in recent years, inspired by the flora and fauna of the Cotswold countryside, together with my vast collection of vintage and contemporary ceramics and glassware.
You often use the ‘Alla Prima’ technique in your paintings – can you explain what this is and why you enjoy it?
All of my oil paintings are painted ‘Alla Prima’, which means to paint in one sitting using ‘wet into wet’ paint. The subjects are either still life or garden birds, usually fairly small pieces painted with large brushes. I apply a minimal amount of quick spontaneous brushstrokes to capture the shape and form in just a few hours, enjoying the instinctive marks and luscious oil colour.
In your mixed media works, what kinds of things do you incorporate and why?
In my mixed media work I like to use cut and torn collage such as local newspapers, magazines and sewing patterns. Combined with acrylic paint and ink, this layering of media gives movement and excitement to the work. I love the range of marks that can be achieved, spraying, splashing, sponging and sgraffito.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created recently?
I recently painted a pair of large panoramic paintings of Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. I used collage material taken from Time Out magazine and the Evening Standard to give an entertaining and visually pleasing dimension to these fresh and bold paintings, now being shown in Cotswold Contemporary gallery.
When can people see you at work at New Brewery Arts?
My studio in the courtyard of New Brewery Arts is a large, bright space full of colourful original works, together with limited edition prints, an extensive range of greetings cards and beautiful, vibrant, velvet cushions.
I am usually open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm and welcome all customers!