Lesley Birch Artist Blog

musings of an artist's life in the studio, on the move, in progress

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I painted these  pieces especially for the Lifelines exhibition at Sunny Bank Mills Gallery in Leeds.  The show starts on 19th May to 2nd July 2017.
I began with sketches at Sandsend Beach on the Yorkshire coast – a favourite place of mine –  and completed the pieces in my studio in York.  For me, it’s all about the mark-making with a tension between opaque and transparent paint.

A short film of the creation of these paintings  –  by Emilie Flower of PICA Studios, York –  is available to view by clicking on the picture below:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.45.54


Lifelines – paintings and ceramics – responses to the natural world – a group show with Kate Kenney, Lesley Seeger, Katie Braida

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Bodies of Work


The Centre of Things – Oil – 17 x 15 cms – Stories of Land & Earth Series

In my art practice, I work on several bodies of work all at the same time over periods of years. There are no rules, really.  An artist simply has to follow her own path. Some folks think that there is focus in staying on the same thing and this is of paramount importance.  But, for me, I move – flitting between mediums and inspiration – and yet the work still develops.   And I still feel I’m pushing on.  If I spend too long on something and force the painting, it doesn’t happen.  And so moving between bodies of work helps the painting to evolve, appear and speak back to me.  And I begin to see a thread through ALL the work …

So what are my different bodies of work?

Well, firstly there is my Stories of Land & Earth Series which began around three years ago – mainly using oil and cold wax.


The Moment you Know – Oil Painting – 43 x 43 cms Stories of Land & Earth Series ©Lesley Birch 2017

These pieces relate to my family and mainly my Dad.  He had a boat on Loch Lomond which he refurbished in a huge shed on the Island of Inchmurrin.  I like the idea of his soul resurfacing into life through the marks I make and the colours I use. The pieces are my emotional connection to him, the past, Loch Lomond – they are all about ‘feeling’.


The Place Within – Oil – 43 x 43 cms –  Stories of Land & Earth Series ©Lesley Birch 2016 – ‘Ladybird’ the name of Dad’s boat is scratched in – text is beginning to appear more often in my work

Since I moved to PICA STUDIOS, these Stories pieces have appeared more often and so I’m just following this.  They are not large paintings – some 12 x 10 ins and some 14 x 14 ins.  It doesn’t feel right for these ones to be big …. that’s the way of it.  A number of my Stories of Land & Earth Paintings can be seen and are for sale at Carina Haslam Fine Art, Buckinghamshire.

You can also see more of these on my website – Stories of Land & Earth Paintings


The second body of work relates to my residency in Corris, North Wales, where the surrounding forests and waterfalls blew me away.  It led me to a big play with greens – a colour I don’t normally like to use.


Forest Green – in the Studio – layers

As the series progressed, I began to move into deeper blues and indigos, layering more and more paint and cutting in pathways, lines, limbs.  I was painting more and more from memory and as interested in the medium of paint as I was in the subject.

FIND OUT MORE ON MY CORRIS EXPERIENCE HERE: The Presence of Trees and here Into the Woods I go


The Blue Rustling Wood – 20 x 20 cms ©Lesley Birch 2017

The third body of work comes from my experiences of coasts around Scotland and, more recently, Cornwall where land, sea and sky are my themes.  But I like to play with colour, imbuing the paintings with a sense of the moment in time.  Some coastal work relates to Flamborough and Sandsend in Yorkshire where I live.  These pieces are becoming more abstract – particularly the mixed media sketches, which are, in themselves, really small paintings.  More of them on another blog.

Of course, the support used and the media used all affect the look of the painting – so my decision-making here is in amongst all these thoughts too …  Paper? Printmaking? Board? Canvas? Aluminium? Oil? Acrylic? – It’s all there and sometimes I just grab whatever is to hand in the studio – the intuitive element is a big part of my painting life.

So when does a body of work end?  That is the question.

I supppose, it ends when it has run its course and I have nothing more to say. Or it ends, when I decide to make myself stop.  My Figures in Time work may well be a case in point here, though there are still a few appearing in my home studio – wistful landscapes with a girl (is it me?) somewhere in time.


The Blue Dress – Oil – Figures in Time Series

And, in between all that, I have my printmaking and my sketchbooking, which feeds into my practice, allowing me to develop my observational skills and simply enjoy the process of drawing.


NEXT EXHIBITION:  at Silson Contemporary Fine Art – Spring into Summer Exhibition Lesley will be showing pieces from her Corris Collection



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A Mural in the Loo at PICA

After an 11-hour drive back from Cornwall last week,  it’s Open Studios time here in York and I’m busy again –  and excited to be showing paintings in situ in my studio space at PICA.  You can see our new mural in the loo and view the other studios in the space – Evie Leach Jewellery, Rebecca Carr Bespoke Clothing and Emily Stubbs Ceramics.

YORK OPEN STUDIOS IS OPEN THIS WEEKEND on Friday 21st April, 6pm – 9pm – Saturday April 22nd, 10am – 6pm; Sunday April 23rd, 11am – 5pm.


There’s also a wee series of films made by Emilie Flower – a PICA member – little sketches of artists in our space … Do check out ….   Generally, I’m talking about how I ‘play’ in the studio before beginning work on bigger paintings …



Rolling in the Downs, painting on show at York Open Studios 2017 – VENUE 41 Pica Studios, 7a Grape Lane, York YO1 7DL


PICA Studios – VENUE 41 – 7a Grape Lane, York YO1 7DL



Yorkshire Coast

I spent last weekend at Sandsend on the Yorkshire Coast and enjoyed some time sketching and walking ….


Sandsend, Yorkshire Coast, March 2017


Making a quick contour ink drawing from Port Mulgrave looking back along the coastline


I sketch what I see – love simplifying everything …. these stones with holes on the beach on the walk from Sandsend to Whitby are black and full of holes.  Weird, coz the ones at Bridlington, just slightly further down the coast, are white with holes.  Apparently, they’re known as ‘Witches Stones’.  Very gothic.


again simplifying shapes down to the basics – this is Sandsend headland


And later, back in the studio – ‘Sandsend with Pink’, oil on Aluminum



Looking down to Staithes – Yorkshire Coast

Staithes is fascinating – this seaside town was home to Captain Cook and its strange beauty has attracted many artists over the centuries.  Every September the town hosts Staithes Festival – well worth a visit …

Here are some more  of my posts about my painting visits to this beautiful coastline:

Sunlight and Shadows at Sandsend

Sand, Grit & Cliffs at Staithes

Sketching on the Move





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Little Abstracts


Inspired by Salem Chapel, Corris

Looking over work I’ve created this year, I feel pleased with my little abstract collection created at Corris in North Wales whilst on residency there.  It’s always useful to work small – in this case 8 x 6 ins – for an immediate response to the landscape.  These  are now inspiring new paintings … further down the line …. and my confidence in mark-making increases … and I feel that my sense of colour develops …


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Sketching at Flamborough

flamboroughhead2Having been ill for about 5 weeks, I’m now back on track and heading out to the Yorkshire Coast for inspiration.  Flamborough Head is a wild and windy experience at this time of year – bracing and invigorating.  Just the ticket for a wee bit of fast sketching.  And a super cafe nearby for a scone and a cuppa.


breaking down shapes – sketch in watercolour and ink – 6 x 6 ins

I’ve always loved the work of Nicolas de Staël and his skill in abstraction.   I’m fascinated by his choice of colours and placement of shapes.  And I just love the thick paint.  Seems simple, but is not.  So I’m disciplining myself to break down the landscape more than usual and play with the shapes…  These sketches may well turn into paintings.  I shall have to see.


Nicolas de Staël – ‘Marine à Dieppe’ (1952), oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cms – I just love his composition and sense of colour


sketch in watercolour and ink – the little stack at Flamborough, 6 x 6 ins

The little stack at Flamborough reminds me of rock formations and stacks on my painting trips to Ireland and to Scotland.  The colour here in Yorkshire though is different and the feeling and atmosphere again, different.  In what way, I’m not sure.  Yet.  I’ll have to wait and absorb.

flamboroughheadFlamborough Head is a promontory, 8 miles long on the Yorkshire Coast of England, between Filey and Bridlington bays of the North Sea.  It is a chalk headland with sheer white cliffs.

Landscape Study 1952 by Nicolas de Stael 1914-1955

Nicolas de Staël – ‘Etude de Paysage’ (1952), oil on Millboard, 33 x 46 cms – simple and beautiful

More about Nicholas de Stael

Using Sketchbooks in my Art Practice

Sand, Grit & Cliffs at Staithes



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A Peek at Printmaking



Making prints runs alongside my painting practice.  I just love the painterly quality of monoprints – and that’s what I’ve been doing this week in the print room at The Arthouse in Wakefield

So what is a monoprint?  For those who don’t know here’s the definition:
noun: monoprint; plural noun: monoprints
  1. a single print taken from a design created in oil paint or printing ink on glass or metal.
I’m working small this week, playing with my ideas from my residency and memories of Inchmurrin Island on Loch Lomond where we went as kids most weekends.  All this work will feed into my painting practice.  And I’m planning to show new prints in an exhibition in the New Year …  at Kunsthuis Gallery in Yorkshire.


So above are pix of the printing ink, a roller a paintbrush and on the right my plate on which I’ve made a painting.

Pop through the press onto lovely Somerset Paper and hey presto:


Priest’s Cove, Cornwall


Inchmurrin Island, Loch Lomond

So who made monoprints in the past?  Well, Degas and Turner caught the bug and produced exquisite pieces.  So I’m in good company.


Degas – a master at the technique – FIND OUT MORE >>>

OK, so there’s a lot more to explain about monoprinting …. watch out for more on me blog posts!




an early print which won me a Highly Commended at The Harrogate Open many moons ago – ‘this quiet morning’ – monoprint with drypoint ©Lesley Birch 2008