Gardens have long been a powerful source of inspiration for many artists – and remain so today.
As a keen gardener and artist who loves to paint blooms, Hilary Burnett Cooper says her new role as RHS Harlow Carr artist in residence 2022-2023 is a dream job.
The Harrogate-based artist began her career as a watercolour landscape artist and now creates figurative and floral scenes in mainly oils and acrylics.
She has won national awards including the Rexel Prize, the Daler-Rowney Award and Best in Show at the Great North Art Show in 2018 – and has exhibited widely, including at the Bath House at Harlow Carr a few years ago.
She said: “When I heard about the position I was like ‘Oh my God I’ve always wanted to do that’. I love gardening anyway and to come here and be able to paint flowers in such a beautiful location is fabulous.”
She knew from when she first clapped her eyes on an easel – when she was just four or five years old – that she wanted to be an artist.
One of her favourite vistas at Harlow Carr is the area around the little stream that runs east to west through the gardens and is awash with colour from plants that flourish in its moist, cool environment. Hilary plans to be at the gardens every other Wednesday from August 10 and says she welcomes people coming up and asking questions as she paints.
She is hoping her first day as artist in residence will be a sunny one – so she can paint looking into the light and “create drama” with silhouettes and halos round people.
Her style of art is representational – recreating an aspect of reality, in a more or less straightforward way.
Hilary said: “I’ve loosened up over the years, I like to be a bit more abstract now. I do love the Impressionists and like to dabble in that area.
“I always seem to come back to that representational style. I’m hoping while I’m here I can loosen up a bit more.
“I’ve never wanted to be pushed into a mould.”
The final details of her programme aren’t yet fixed, but she intends doing a course for senior citizens and one for 16 to 18-year-olds, where she can give budding artists the tips she would have liked to have heard about at that age. Another will be for people with mental and physical disabilities.
Harlow Carr says their residency programme allows them “to support and build a legacy of talented artists while giving them the freedom to explore and record the ever-changing landscape of the garden as it develops and grows over the years”.
The residency will last a full year, culminating with an exhibition at the 2023 Flower Show.