Meet the Yorkshire artist who paints with twigs

Anita Bowerman who is artist in residence at RHS Harlow Carr''Picture: Simon Dewhurst
Anita Bowerman who is artist in residence at RHS Harlow Carr''Picture: Simon Dewhurst
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Artist Anita Bowerman is a familiar sight on Harrogate’s Stray or in Harlow Carr gardens. Catherine Scott meets her.

Take a visit to Harlow Carr Gardens or even take a stroll across Harrogate’s Stray and the likelihood is you will see Anita Bowerman and her eisel.

For the last year Anita has been artist in residence at RHS Harlow Carr, charged with capturing the changing seasons in the stunning gardens.

But what makes her creations even more interesting if that she paints nature with nature, using fallen twigs, leaves, moss and the odd feather instead of paintbrushes - dipping them into acrylic paint and creating marks on the watercolour, paper or canvas.

“I adore depicting nature and to have the opportunity to paint in Harlow Carr is paradise for me,” says Anita who grew up around Adel where she would love nothing more than spending time outdoors.

“I paint nature with nature and have been at the garden painting outside ‘en plein air’ in all weathers. I have selected well-known vistas within Harlow Carr and have created at least one painting a month showing the changing seasons and colours.

“I love painting with twigs and moss. They give a finish and texture that you just couldn’t get with a brush, although I do still use a paintbrush for some of my pictures.”

She mainly works in acrylics and gooash - a type of thick water colour - and colour is all important to her.

“Some of my paints come from France and you just can’t buy them in this country.”

Anita has also enjoyed observing the wildlife. A robin in particular has often been spotted hopping onto the paper to get in on the act and appears in many of her painting.

“I love to put small creatures into my paintings, a robin, a squirrel or a rabbit.”

She was approached by Harlow Carr after she gave a talk at Rudding Park about her work, which including a painting she had done of the Harrogate hotel’s kitchen garden, using the herbs to paint with instead of a brush.

“I love being at Harlow Carr, it is a dream job for me as I love to be outside. People come at talk to me and tell them what I am doing.”

Although it has also had its challenges.

“Sometimes, the sun was so hot my paint dried in a few minutes, other times the heavens opened and the rain added another dimension to the painting.”

When it gets cold she just adds another layer of clothing as although Spring is her favourite time to paint, she can be found pretty much throughout the year so long as it doesn’t rain or snow.

The fruits of her artistic labours in the garden went on display at at her solo exhibition at RHS Garden Flower Show in June which proved to be a huge success.

Before becoming a professional artist Anita studied retail and business in Newcastle before moving to London where she worked at the likes of Burberry, Liberty and House of Frazer as an accessories buyer.

“I loved working in fashion as it combined my creativity with a job I really enjoyed.”

Through out the time she was working she continued to pain in her spare time, as well as taking an art course.

But eventually her tutor said she should consider becoming a professional artist as he felt her works aof nature and landscapes would sell.

So she set up a studio in London and started selling her work through galleries.

Then 16 years ago she decided to move back to Yorkshire.

“I missed the countryside and all my family were here.” She moved north with her husband and quite quickly had son Hector now 16.

At first she worked from home but then decided to open Dove Tree Art Studio on a quiet back street in the centre of Harrogate.

“It had been an astrologers for quite a few years before becoming a studio and gallery,” says Anita who sells her paintings from her gallery which is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and by appointment.

It has a very calm feel with the walls adorned with Anita’s work, amnd a white and gold baby grand piano which reputedly was at the opening of the Eiffel Tower.

As well as her paintings, Anita is an accomplished paper cutter some of which has been recreated into stainless steel by her brother who is an engineer.

“It is a very precise way of working I use smaller scissors. I have done maps of York and Harrogate which can take up to three months to make,” explains Anita.

“They all have to been drawn and then cut out backwards which makes it even more challenging - especially when it comes to numbers.”

She recently worked with a closed order of nuns in North Yorkshire, teaching them a 400 year old skill perfected by their forbares, but lost to the current generation.

She was the first official artist for the Tour de Yorkshire in 2015 and is also working on commissions for next week’s World Championships.

She has become well known for her work with the Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen.

For the last four years she has painted the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Charity Christmas cards.

But her first love remains nature. So even though she loves being in her gallery in Harrogate, her real studio is the great outdoors and the world around her.