Lesley Birch Artist Blog

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

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New Studio – New Work

busytreepaintinginnewstudioA new studio space in July has changed my practice. The setting is utterly beautiful – an old schoolhouse owned by York Conservation Trust and 8 other artists working in pottery, homeware, ceramics, sculpting, collage, quilting, fashion, video, jewellery — all hugely inspirational and special.  We’re bouncing off each other no end.  Here are my artist colleagues.


We’re at ICE (Insitute for Cultural Experimentation) at The New Schoolhouse Gallery, Peaseholme Green, York City Centre, YO1 7PW.

Since I’ve been there it’s been full-on with my oil and cold wax painting – so busy and producing so much work inspired by my sketches made during my two residencies in Cornwall and in Wales.

priestscoveabstractWe’re open Fridays 12 – 4pm and Saturdays 12 – 4pm for the public to visit.  Oh and there are some special talks happening on Fridays too. Last week, we had the brilliant Kate Walters speaking about her emotional, mystical paintings revealing her thought processes and talking about her residency up in Orkney. Her love of words and her ability to totally ‘tune in’ to her artistic process was fascinating and of course, very inspiring.

For more details of some of the Talks in our Studio space visit:





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The Presence of Trees

darkanddeepeoodinsituThe woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Trees have been inspiring me for a long time – I’ve made collagraph prints and sketched them over the years,  but I’ve never wanted to make actual paintings until now.   I blogged about my recent art residency experience in Corris in Wales, where I found the forests so inviting and full of mystery.  Again, as always, I found the trees compelling, emanating a strange, timeless presence and watching over me as I stumbled through the woodland pathways  (stumbled, because of a bad foot, but that’s another story!)

And so …  this has produced a need in me to paint my response to the feeling of trees.



painting in my new studio space  –  #StudioICE, Peaseholme Green, York


The Rooky Wood, Oil/Cold Wax on Board, 30 x 30cms, ©Lesley Birch 2016

This journey of new oil paintings inspired by the living forest is an ongoing exploration for me.  As I paint, the works at times become more abstracted with hints of unnatural, vivid colour and at times moving away from the square format.    I just follow my intuition, using my sketches  and trying to re-enter the  feeling of the experience …


Through the Forest, Oil/Cold Wax on Board, 30 x 40cms, ©Lesley Birch 2016


Into the Blue Forest, Oil & Cold wax on Board, 30 x 30cms, ©Lesley Birch 2016

The Presence of Trees Collection – You can find out about the launch of this new collection HERE …

Residency – You can find out more about my residency in Corris HERE …


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New Art Book

I mentioned a while back that there’s a new, exciting ART TECHNIQUES BOOK out very soon  – all about painting using the medium of COLD WAX.  I’ve been painting with oil and cold wax for a couple of years now and I’m very proud and excited to be have my paintings in this special book written by American artists Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin.   The book shares techniques and ideas up to 100 artists around the world who, like me,  love to use the medium of cold wax.  Rebecca is an exceptional abstract painter and also a wonderful, generous tutor.  I’ve attended her courses in Ireland and in Italy.  It was in Italy I met Jerry, also an exceptional painter.  What laughs we had at Cascina Rodiani last year.

Anyway, I digress ….


find out more about the cold wax book …




Cascina Rodiani – Italy – the open air studio – painting with oil and cold wax – Course with Rebecca Crowell, August 2015

The Way through the Woodinsitu

A recent new painting using oil and cold wax ©Lesley Birch 2016


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Into the Woods I go …

The Way through the Wood

The Way through the Wood, Oil/Cold Wax, 7 x 7 inches ©Lesley Birch 2016

I’ve been painting on an artist residency in Corris, a small village within the Dyfi Forest in North Wales.  I stayed at a wonderful artist retreat called Stiwdio Maelor.

I’ve spent two weeks immersing myself in woodlands, slate, rivers, waterfalls, mountain paths and lush, wet greenness.  I never really like using green in my paintings, but somehow or other it came to life for me on this exploration.


Green Wood, Oil/Cold Wax on Board, 8 x 8 inches, ©Lesley Birch 2016

not too literal

Using oil and cold wax, I’ve begun a series of woodland pieces inspired by Corris – some on paper, some on board.  I’m not aiming to be too literal, just exploring shape and colour in these pieces.  In fact, it’s colour and shape creating atmosphere that are interesting me and a wee bit of poetry creeping in … Robert Frost, Andrew Marvell are hanging in my mind as I make my way exploring through paint.


Forest & Water, Oil on Arches Huile, 8 x 6 inches ©Lesley Birch 2016

not the first time trees have entered my work

This is not the first time trees have spoken to me –  a while back I made some collagraph and drypoint prints exploring the eeriness of the forest in the Lake District. And the tree outside my bedroom window always had a presence for me. In fact, I ALWAYS notice them and think I MUST go there …  I’ve rather a passion for stricken trees too – there’s something rather moving about them.  Anyway, I’m wondering if this is a theme which may ‘stick’ …


Corris, Trees – donated to Stiwdio Maelor –                  Oil/Cold Wax on Khadi Paper, A4, ©Lesley Birch 2016

so much to say …

There is so much more to say about this residency experience –  the development of my painting practice, the friendly and dynamic  Veronica Calarco, who founded the Stiwdio, the other artists and writers I met whilst there, pinhole photographer Wig Sayell, printmaker and painter from the USA Pamela Dodds, Artist/Curator Eilish Cullen – drinking lovely coffee at one of the top 50 cafes in Wales at Andy and Adam’s, a really enjoyable printmaking session at Aberystwyth Printmakers – the atmosphere of the village of Corris, The Centre of Alternative Technology, visiting nearby gallery of MOMA in Machynlleth ,  playing pool at The Slaters Arms next door, touring the surrounding lakes, waterfalls, coasts and hills, the folly which is The Italian Garden ….  I’ll post more soon …

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ME AND MY WORK? Would you like to receive my newsletters …. news of exhibition updates, freebies, events, new paintings, open studios, courses ….YES I WOULD!!!

INTERESTED IN KNOWING MORE ABOUT COLD WAX? – then there’s a brand new book coming out in December 2016. Do you want to order a copy? …. YES PLEASE!


Cold Wax is the Thing


The Explorers, cold wax painting ©Lesley Birch 2015

You may, or may not, have heard of Cold Wax.  I LOVE it.  I discovered this great medium a number of years ago and then went on a couple of courses with the incredible Abstract Painter Rebecca Crowell who generously shared techniques using this stuff made by Gamblin.


 My order from Jacksons Art.

Rebecca Crowell is writing a book with brilliant San Francisco Cold Wax Painter Jerry McLaughlin.  This book will reveal so much about this special medium … interviews with painters who talk about the techniques they use – colour plates of loads of paintings …  Can’t wait.


Lesley Birch in the Studio, York, UK – ©photograph John Illingworth Photography

Remembermeframed‘Remember Me’  – cold wax painting ©Lesley Birch 2016  – Winner of The Artist Magazine Prize UK 2016 – more cold wax pieces by Lesley Birch


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Wild Beauty of Cape Cornwall

aerialviewI’ve been soaking in the wild beauty  of the Cornish coast on artist residency.  I’ve been reflecting upon my painting practice in the company of fellow artists Clare Maria Wood and Karen Stamper – an inspiring time of creativity –  drawing, painting, playing piano, reading, thinking, cooking, sketching  outside and at the easel inside the artist residential studio of the cottage called Brisons Veor.



Brisons Veor, the cottage/studio – there’s artist Clare Maria Wood outside


#thecambridge3 – Lesley Birch/Karen Stamper/Clare Maria Wood – We call ourselves #thecambridge3 simply because we met in Cambridge many moons ago and have kept in touch over the years exchanging ideas and supporting each other.  So it was with a spark of delight and anticipation that we applied for this residency opportunity in Brisons Veor and were so excited to be granted the chance to go there. Together.


This was the view from our balcony in the cottage.  The weird rock formation in the distance on the right is called “Brisons” (the name is French: brisant, ‘reef, breaker’).  They are 22m and 27 m high and have an amusing nickname: – GENERAL DE GAULLE IN HIS BATH.

I found the presence of other artists too.  The visitors’ book was an immediate fascination.  Who had been here?  What had they done?  How had they responded? We pored over this the day we arrived – over decades of visits. So many creative people have found their way here – painters, writers, sculptors, photographers …  I was moved to find special words from Irish poet, John O’Donohue speaking to me across time. He’s no longer with us, but I’d previously come across his thoughts and words whilst in Ireland.


“May you never place walls between the light and yourself. May your angel free you from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment and despair.  May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, inspire you and embrace you in belonging.” John O’Donohue


Crag Sketches, Day #1

Inbetween reading, reflecting and sharing thoughts with my fellow artists, I felt so free and alive in the fresh air,  walking up the crag, taking the mile and a half walk to St Just to hear local musicians in The Star Inn, playing the piano in the cottage, watching children splashing in the rock pool below and in late afternoon standing  on the cottage balcony my eyes riveted to lone swimmers venturing far out in the tide towards a disant rock. A world of celebration and adventure.


Rock Pool Marks – plein air painting Day#2


soft breezes outside Day#3


Having a nosy –  Jackson Foundation, St Just – Visiting this gallery and marvelling at Kurt Jackson’s stunning paintings was made more exciting for me because we were actually in Priest’s Cove where he paints.

And as the week went on, I reflected and sketched; I thought about my dear Dad and his love of the sea, his boat “Ladybird’ on Loch Lomond and the sea in my family (great great grandad was a sea captain). And I immersed myself in letting the marks and scratches appear loose and free on paper and canvas.


‘Beneath’ – Dad’s boat surfaces from the depths of my thoughts – painting on canvas



Between sun and soft breezes we had stunning sunsets and mysterious mists.


We witnessed the presence and stillness of ancient rocks along the path from the cottage … a life of their own …

And up above the cottage the mine chimney stood tall overlooking the bay  – a beacon and a presence from the past.

mineshaftThis, for me,  was a spiritual, timeless place – feeding my artistic soul.  And I’m certain this is true for every artist who comes here.  What a privilege to experience this.  Now I’m back home in York, mulling over my sketchbooks and drawings, still soaking it all in . . .




The Cambridge 3 hats and aprons





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My Top 10 Tips for Acrylic Painting


©LB 2015 – more on http://www.lesleybirchart.com – ‘Winter Gully’ is on show at The Strathearn Gallery, Crieff, Scotland until September 2016

I wrote an article a long while back about my acrylic painting techniques for the UK magazine ‘The Artist.’  So I was thrilled to receive a copy in the post today and see “Developing your skills in Acrylics” on page 33-35 in the July 2016 issue.  The article features a painting with the working title ‘Mayo Memory’. (later it was renamed ‘Winter Gully’ – but that’s another blog … about titles). Anyway, this painting was inspired by the Benwee coast area on County Mayo, Ireland.   I show the step-by-step process through the painting,  as well as talking about the different mediums I used and also making suggestions for different supports on which to use acrylics.

So what are my top 10 tips?  Well, here are THREE of THEM: use Pip Seymour coloured gesso, use medium rather than water to thin the paint and as you paint, keep a ‘feeling’ in your mind about the place you are conveying.  This is my first teaching article and it’s based on some of my teaching courses which I develop and run inbetween my personal painting time and exhibitions.   I’m really delighted to be published alongside fellow blogger and painter Mari French.  We met through Facebook and have mutual artist mates in Cambridge.   It’s a small world, this art world on the web!!!!

Watch the Painting Stages of ‘Mayo Memory’ HERE …

Want to read the article and find out more tips for acrylics,  click HERE …