Published on 21 May 2020

Continuing on with our artists chats, we are delighted to introduce you today to  an artist of great technical skills, sensitivity and perceptive insightfulness into what makes us human, a particularly poignant theme in these times. 

The work submitted for this chat has been specifically created as a response to the Covid19 pandemic, with the exception of Self Compassion which was painted earlier this year.

This collection will be available as part of our first ever online Spring exhibition to be held at the end of this month.

For this reason, they are not yet part of our online shop, although you are welcome to enquire about them by clicking on CONTACT US, here or at the bottom of this chat. 

In the meantime, let us now welcome GILL WALTON!


Windows to the soul
with Gill Walton

Gill, Hi,  I’m starting to really missing seeing you and all of our artists, but hope you are well and keeping safe. Just to inform our friends out there, could you say a few words about yourself?
I was brought up in Rochdale and did a two year foundation course there, then I did my fine art degree in Cheltenham, that was 30 years ago, I lived in Cheltenham for a few years after that and moved to the Scottish Borders about 20 years ago. I have done one or two weird jobs along the way but I have been an artist all my life and I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

Apart from the time you spend as a professional artist, do you also have other occupations, such as part time lecturer/tutor?
Yes, I have always taught art alongside my studio practice and I love it! I learn just as much as my students do and I find it keeps my own work fresh. However, during the pandemic all my workshops have been cancelled and I am missing them. 

Where do you work? Do you have a studio/workshop? Tell us a little about this special place.
My studio is in my home, it is actually the smallest I have ever had but by far the warmest. I can work in comfort all year round. I was once working, in my previous studio, on a portrait head in clay that was to be cast in bronze. The subject lived 400 miles away and I had made several visits and put in hours of work. We then had a cold snap with several days of freezing temperatures. I wrapped it up and retreated to the house. When I returned I began to take the wrappings off and the whole thing crumbled before my eyes. It had frozen all the way through. I had to start from scratch, so I really value being warm!

How has the lockdown affected your time in the studio/workshop?
Things have changed, I probably have the same amount of time but I find it difficult to concentrate and the work I was doing before doesn’t seem right. Instead, I have been doing some very small works that have that feeling of being hemmed in. I have also been recording video demonstrations of workshops I would have been delivering in the spring. These are currently on my website.

Describe a “typical” approach to your work practice
I work more than full time, as an artist, but that doesn’t always mean I am always in the studio. No two days are the same. I can be in the flow of it for a few days but then I will have to do some research or the dreaded admin, it is amazing how much admin an artist has! There is also delivering work or meeting collectors. My favourite days are the ones in the studio when all is going well and you are ‘in the zone’.

Are you a “must have total silence” kind of creative person, or do you listen to music whilst working?
It is mainly radio 4, all day.

What is your fave music you like to work to?
I like to think of it as sensitive and soulful music but it has been described by my family as dismal dirge music. Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake are favourites.

What did you listen to, last?
I was listening to Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed this morning.

What is the main subject of your inspiration?
It has to be people. A painted face can express so much more than a photograph can. My work is all about what it makes the viewer feel.

What medium and techniques do you use to translate your creative ideas? Tell us a little about your creative process.
My degree was in sculpture but I mainly paint in oils on metal now. I use aluminium and copper because of the super smooth surface, it allows me to use very thin transparent layers of paint which are perfect for skin.

Self compassion – oil on aluminium, 42cm x 62cm framed, £980

Looking at the history of art in the Western World at least, where would you place yourself, spirit and style wise?
I am a contemporary figurative artist but I am deeply influenced by Dutch Baroque artists such as Vermeer and Van Dyke

Some people have ‘studio pets’. Do you have one? What’s their ‘contribution’ to your creativity?
I have two cats and two dogs, they are not supposed to come into the studio but I often find my cat BoBo in my life drawing drawer. Their hairs get into the paint. I often watch those programs where conservators x ray the paintings of DaVinci and Rembrandt to analyse what materials they use. I wonder what they would make of mine with ginger cat and wiry terrier in the mix!

What did you do at first to try and adjust to this new ‘lockdown’ situation?
I must admit that for the first week or so I didn’t do anything apart from watch the news all day. Now the small paintings I am doing are helping me to process the situation. 


LEFT: Agnes –  oil on aluminium, 10cm x 14cm, £200 unframed
RIGHT: Beatrice – oil on aluminium,10cm x 14cm, £200 unframed

These portraits and those below are recalling Medieval times in their iconography (hence their titles). The silver leaf on the drawings, hinting at the wearing of masks, are also making a reference to the use of colloidal silver as a treatment for the Plague. 


LEFT: Hope – graphite, beeswax and silver leaf on Arches paper, 13cm x 18cm unframed,  £100
RIGHT: Compassion graphite, beeswax and silver leaf on Arches paper, 13cm x 18cm unframed, £100

What is your favourite pastime? Has the pandemic impacted on your ability to enjoy this?
I wish I could say I have hobbies but everything I do revolves around art, I am missing going to galleries.

Can you while away the hours with a “good book”? or do you need to do something more active.  Any particular title you would recommend as a “must read once in a lifetime”?
As I said before, it all revolves around the art, when I read it is usually art history books for research. I am currently reading David Hockney’s book ‘Secret Knowledge’ about how artists since the 1400s used optical aids like convex mirrors and camera obscura to help them with their paintings.

What about films? What is your favourite film of all?

I suppose that is where I really escape, I have many favourites. Blade Runner, The Piano.

Tell us of one of the most beautiful or happy moments in your life?
Swimming in a deep turquoise Mediterranean sea and watching tiny silver fish swimming between my fingers.

What inspires you in life and in art?
Oh, that’s a difficult one. People.

Who is up there in your esteem in terms of artistic excellence? What is/are your favourite artist(s)?
I am moved by many but Jenny Saville has been a great influence for my whole career. The way she paints flesh is up there with Rembrandt.

Constance – graphite, beeswax and silver leaf on Arches paper, 13cm x 18cm unframed, £100
Any pet hate? – we all have one, it’s OK to say it.

Paintings of Highland Cows, especially rainbow coloured ones or those wearing hats! Sorry!

As a painter, do you have a favourite colour?
Turquoise, or is it cadmium orange, perhaps Prussian Blue or Indigo or….

It has been said that creatives are often great cooks as they know how to balance food colours, flavours, texture to create that perfect tastebuds experience, do you like cooking? What is your signature dish?
I do like cooking and I used to do elaborate dinner parties until I became a single mother and had to cook every single meal that any of us ate. My love of cooking is coming back now, especially anything from an Ottolenghi cook book, but it is even better when one of my boys (now grown) cooks for me.

What are you exploring at the moment, artistically speaking?
I am doing what is turning out to be a Pandemic series. They are small icon type paintings and drawings that resemble in some ways medieval paintings from the time of the Black Death. They are faces partly obscured by silver gilt or copper masks, the heads fill the space and overlap the margins giving a sense of being hemmed in. They have been very therapeutic for me to do and have a sense of sadness but hope about them.

What makes you laugh/cry?
My dogs and my children and sometimes a good film.

What is your favourite tipple?
Unfortunately I can’t drink because I get really bad migraines, I do love a nice cup of tea though.

What is your “naughty but nice” comfort?
 I absolutely love looking through Interior design magazines, art magazines too, but if I am honest I much prefer ‘World of Interiors’.

If you could travel, where would you go?
Straight to my partner John’s house. We have been together 15 years but live in separate houses 50 miles apart. I haven’t seen him since lock down and that has been the hardest part of this.

Finally, going forward, what would you hope we could learn as society/humans from this pandemic. What is your message to the world?
Oh I think there are so many things that we need to learn, I am hoping that this crisis has underlined the things that are really important, people, family, nature, art and… toilet paper!

THANK YOU so much GILL for sharing these thoughts with us. It has been most informative and insightful!

I hope our readers would have enjoyed listening to you. I, for myself, found it extremely interesting to hear more about you, your artistic practices, interests, love, wishes and views. It really helped reveal the person behind each of your exquisitely executed and poignant paintings.  Thank you.

If you want to know more about GILL, please CLICK HERE

And of course, feel free to send us any comments/questions at  CONTACT US
Thank you for reading and please do stay safe!

ps.: Our next episode of THE FULL PICTURE will be published at the later date of 4th June 2020

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