Ask the artist: Tyga Helme on landscapes

Abbey Art asked Tyga Helme, who's tutoring the Landscape Course - Draw & Paint in Wordsworth’s Garden 21st-22nd April 2019), about the approach she takes to drawing and painting landscapes. Read her engrossing answers below.  And Abbey Art is obsessed with her images of horses. She explains more about them as well.

Abbey Art: What's your favourite season to paint landscapes in, and why?

Tyga: I love working outside at all times of year.  I love the abundance of foliage in summer and being able to spend the whole day outside.

The winter months bring the difficulties of the cold and wind and rain, but this can give a sense of urgency to the work which can be really helpful, especially when drawing. You are forced to work quicker, and take risks which can lead to unexpected and exciting results.

Abbey Art: Who is your favourite landscape artist, and what is it about their work that speaks to you?

Tyga: It was Constable's small oil sketches at the V&A that first made me want to paint.  They have the most wonderful intimacy, like you could have been there with him, making quick observations of the changing skies.  

They were personal notations and investigations into nature and for me are more powerful than his large 'finished' pictures.

More recently I have been looking at Degas' landscapes a lot. I am really drawn to his economy of line and colour - they are full of feeling, saying so much with so little.

Abbey Art: How do you choose a landscape to paint - is it an organic process or a more conscious decision?

Tyga: I look for a hook to hold the rest of the picture to. It could be anything: a shape, a colour, the way the light hits something and once I find the subject I want, I like to return to the same spot again and again.  I like building up on memories, it helps me bring the personal into my work.

Abbey Art: What's been your favourite/best landscape drawing/painting experience?

Tyga: I have been lucky enough to do two artist residencies at Borgo Pignano in Tuscany.  It was time away working on my practice, exploring and experimenting without the pressures of needing results.  I find having time to play with new ideas and challenging myself is invaluable for tapping into my personal approach in looking and making. 

Abbey Art: What are your aims when drawing or painting landscapes?

Tyga: I am striving for that exhilarating space where my hand, my eyes and my materials are all one. I want their connections to be so close and unencumbered that their only business is feeling.

Abbey Art: What's your favourite medium to use?

Tyga: I particularly love drawing with ink because of the intensity of working where you are unable to make changes once you have made a mark. I also enjoy using chalk pastels as they allow me to draw with colour, in a quick spontaneous way. It feels like a hybrid of drawing and painting.

Abbey Art: What one tip would you give other artists for composing a successful landscape image?

Tyga: I would stop worrying about success and to make investigation your primary aim.

Abbey Art: Tyga, we LOVE your horse drawings. Although not technically landscapes, they evoke a real feeling of the land. Can you tell us more about the creation of these images?

Tyga: I made these at Pignano where there are a few horses on the hill.  I drew them everyday in my sketchbook.  I drew them in different positions and at different times of day, building up lots of intense observations of them. 

I then made the chalk pastel drawings back in the studio. I used my sketchbook to bring my observations together with my memories. I had built up a muscle memory from drawing them so much, that they sort of spilled out onto the page fully formed.

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Ask the artist: Beatrice Hasell-McCosh on landscapes

Abbey Art asked Beatrice Hasell-McCosh, who's co-tutoring the Landscape Course - Drawing and Painting (6th-12th May 2018), about all things landscape.  Read below for a fascinating insight into her artistic processes and techniques.

Abbey Art: What's your favourite season to paint landscapes in, and why?

Beatrice: Obviously summer means the weather is much nicer to paint because it's lovely and warm. 

But it's great to get a good, dry, frosty day, usually in January or February, to paint as it's brighter.  I'm not sure how long my toes are able to survive though.   In the winter I paint from drawings and videos a lot.

Abbey Art: How do you choose a landscape to paint - is it an organic process or a more conscious decision?

Beatrice: I spend a considerable amount of time wandering around.  Exploration is rarely a waste of time though and sometimes a walk of an hour means that you can paint something very useful in only 20 minutes. 

I tend to draw a lot of quick things first, so that even if I don't like the painting I do, I can use the colours to paint from the drawing of elsewhere.

Abbey Art: What's been your favourite/best landscape drawing/painting experience?

Beatrice: Painting with other artists is always fun.

I went to Scotland to paint with a friend and we got into a good routine of painting in the morning and then going to explore or go for a walk and then painting in the afternoon. 

I love painting abroad, somehow it seems easier.

Abbey Art: What are your aims when drawing or painting landscapes?

Beatrice: To find a good balance of actual representation and expressive mark making.  I never really aim for much, why is why I think some end up being OK - there is no expectation of the perfect painting.

Abbey Art:  What's your favourite medium to use?

Beatrice: Always oil on board, although I took pre-primed linen to Cuba with me and held it onto board with clips.  What I like is that it doesn't give in the way a stretched canvas does.  

Pencil on paper is so quick and easy, probably that over oils in fact.  If I had all the money in the world I would collect drawings.  The Gagosian stand at Frieze this year only had drawings and it was easily the most interesting.

Abbey Art: Who is your favourite landscape artist, and what is it about their work that speaks to you?

Beatrice: I don't really have a favourite, I have people whose technique I admire very much. Sheila Fell's snowscapes are wonderful, Emily Patrick is someone whose work I've admired since I was young.  

Sickert uses wonderfully tonal in his landscapes.  I am an avid and eternal fan of Martin Yeoman whose paintings and drawings in India are completely brilliant in terms of composition and understanding of colour.

William Russell Flint's watercolours are wonderful and Renoir's "Gust of Wind" is so inspiring. I could go on and on!  

Painting landscape is so varied and specific to you, so nothing is wrong, which I love.

Abbey Art: What one tip would you give other artists for composing a successful landscape image?

Beatrice: Paint what you want to paint rather than what you think will sell.  Your enthusiasm for your subject will always show.

Abbey Art: Beatrice, this is such a powerful landscape - the light, the composition, the sense of enclosure which contradicts the freedom of the landscape beyond the fencing and barbed wire.  Can you tell us a bit more about what was behind this painting?

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Beatrice: I painted this very quickly and got completely soaked while doing it.  It is from a farm just along from where I live above Ullswater in Cumbria.  I usually paint while sitting down - for some reason I find it easier to just spread my materials round me rather than having to deal with an easel being blown over by the wind.  I scratched the fence in right at the last moment as I had been looking through it and suddenly realised it was part of the reason I liked the view so much.

Abbey Art: Thank you so much Beatrice.

To find out more about the Abbey Art Landscape Course - Painting and Drawing that Beatrice and Tyga Helme are co-teaching, click below