In the last of our series on some of Yorkshire’s favourite artists, Chris Bond talks to Lucy Pittaway whose bright and often playful artworks have become her calling card.
For Lucy Pittaway, art has always threaded its way through her life but she didn’t take the plunge and make it her career straight away.
“In true Grand Designs style I fell pregnant with twins whilst living in a caravan on site and my world was turned upside down,” she says.
“I’d been helping my husband in his business but I kept painting if ever I had any spare time and I always used to say to him that when our children were old enough to go to school he’d have to find a replacement for me because I was going to throw my heart and soul into becoming a professional artist. That was five and a half years ago and I’ve never looked back.”
Indeed she hasn’t. Lucy now has two galleries, one in Richmond and the other in Brompton on Swale, and runs her family painting business with her husband, brother and sister-in-law.
Lucy’s colourful paintings, often inspired by the Yorkshire landscape, have become popular with members of the public and art collectors alike. Her Butterflies and Babies picture encapsulates her warm, playful style.
“It’s about the coming of spring,” says Lucy. “It represents the arrival of a newborn into the family and the closeness between them. The lamb looks up at the loving parents for guidance.
“I think people can see that in the painting and they connect with it. There’s a little nod to Yorkshire in there with Roseberry Topping in the background but ultimately it’s about nurture, love and support and we could all do with a bit of that.”
Lucy has quickly become well known for her eye-catching works and was chosen as the official Tour de Yorkshire artist after putting her name forward in 2015.
“It was an open competition so any artist could apply. I had to submit sketches and also ideas of how we would market the work along with Welcome To Yorkshire. I was selected and must have done a half decent job because they asked me to do the 2017 and 2018 Tours, too.”
The Tour de Yorkshire is now one of the county’s flagship sporting events and through her vivid paintings, Lucy tapped into the spirit not only of the race but Yorkshire’s distinctive landscape.
“It’s been wonderful for raising my profile as an artist and helping us to get our brand seen. After three years, however, I decided I needed to let somebody else take up the reins and bring a different style of art to the event.”
Her route to becoming an artist has been a circuitous one. Born in Teesside she lived there with her family for the first 10 years of her life before moving to Darlington. Art, she says, was always something she enjoyed.
“As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in art and craft. When I was a very small girl I spent hours drawing, colouring and making things. I just loved being creative. It’s part of my make-up. My school reports always said ‘Lucy is in a world of her own’. It’s only now I realise that I was in my own creative bubble.”
Her father was a professional sportsman and it was her mother who, she says, was the creative one. “I come from a background of self employed and self made parents, but my artistic talents come from my mother,” she says.
Lucy studied art and graphic design at college and gained a national diploma before studying graphic design at degree level.
“My tutor advised me to do a graphic design degree as there would be more career opportunities. I often wished I had never taken her advice and followed my heart but now, I realise that it was exactly the right course for me because it has really helped me both in establishing my new style but also in many other aspects of the business.”
After leaving university she spent a year working as a craft maker creating everything from jewellery to hand painted furniture, before later moving into teaching at Darlington College of technology and then Cleveland College of Art and Design.
“I knew when I was teaching that I was on the wrong path but I didn’t know exactly how to fix it and get on the right one. I took a year out to travel the world to try to open up new horizons. When I came back from my travels I took a job as a full-time florist whilst I decided what my next career move would be.”
But after meeting her husband and settling down in Richmond, things started to fall into place and her bright, distinctive style began to develop.
“Over the years I have experimented with many styles but this is by far the one I am most comfortable with and enjoy the most. I think it’s a lot to do with having children. When I got married and had children it felt like the pieces in my life were finally falling into place. That contentment, along with the fact I was able to express myself through my art, has made me create better work.”
She’s also been influenced by past masters such as Claude Monet. “I have always loved Monet’s work for its colour, freshness and lightness. By the latter I mean how it makes you feel when you look into one of his paintings of his garden and pond. I like art that doesn’t make you try to think too hard, instead it just makes you feel good when looking at it.”
The Yorkshire landscape, and its people, is also a recurring feature in her work. “Living so close to so many beautiful areas like Richmond and the Yorkshire Dales has been such an inspiration to me.
“To be able to draw from such stunning scenery is an absolute pleasure and I know I’m lucky to have that right on my doorstep. Of course the coastal areas in Yorkshire are equally as stunning and I’d like to incorporate more of that in my future work.”
The past six years have changed her life and seen her become a successful artist (winning four national awards in the process). Not that she takes it for granted. “I have to pinch myself when I think of all my achievements as an artist and also as a team in getting the business to where it is now. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the smiles on people’s faces as they walk around our galleries.”
And this year already looks like it’s going to be another busy one, with plans to expand her range of merchandise. “I really enjoy creating the designs for this side of the business,” she says.
“It’s important to me to keep things fresh and to keep introducing new things. But people tell me the sheep art resonates with them in particular, and I like to create art that people feel an attachment to so I won’t be straying too far from my popular work.”
Lucy Pittaway Art Gallery, Unit 7 & 8 Station Road, Brompton on Swale, North Yorkshire. DL10 7SN. Tel: 01748 810 965. And 22-24 Finkle Street, Richmond. DL10 4QB. Tel: 01748 824688.