Who inspires me… the first of many I love . #bywbootcamp assignment week one



This is my first post on inkpaintpaper about who inspires me. I discovered Mary Newcomb shortly before we left our London flat to live in Norfolk when I came across this book in a rambling book shop in Charing Cross road.

“Mary Newcomb” by Christopher Andreae published by Lund Humphries in association with Crane Kalman Gallery, London 1996

I loved her work immediately. There are over 160 full colour images of Mary’s work – including sketch book images and notes.  This is one of my favourites. She has a wonderful way of juxtaposing scale in her paintings making them magical, illustrative and, with her use of strong lights and darks, graphic at the same time.

Sweet corn wedding 1976 by Mary Newcomb

I was lucky enough to see a large collection of her paintings in real life at a retrospective a couple of years ago at Norwich Castle where her daughter Tessa gave a talk about some of the work. Tessa is also an accomplished artist whose style is not dissimilar to her mother’s in subject matter, but from what little I have seen they are more illustrative and detailed. I love some of the deceptive naivety of Mary’s work mixed with the dreamlike; some images remind me of the work of Odilon Redon. They have a gauzy transparency – a fleeting glimpse of something beneath a veils of colour.

The girl with the dalmation 1988

Mary has a knack of distilling subject matter to its essence. There is humour in her work, you see quirkyness and fun in her paintings. Look at the pattern like white flowers here on a slab of hedge busy with bees and it’s impossible to tell what the tiny man in green is up to on the road as another approaches over the hill… but I would bet that this is what Mary sketched from life.

Half men, bees and bell flowers 1975

This is part of her appeal for me; I think she simply painted what she saw but allowed herself to play around with composition, texture and colour and importantly scale.

A Hedge in November- Spindle_Sloe_Oldman’s Beard- Blackthorn- Blackberry (with trailing Goosegrass) 1984

I never use black in any painting I do but the way Mary uses it is beautiful to me.

Another inspiring thing about her is that she was self taught and not ‘discovered’ until she was in her early fifties. Mary lived in Suffolk and Norfolk so the images in the book resonate with me as I lived in the Suffolk countryside as a child. On my way home to Norfolk from a trip to Lincolnshire I saw this view and painted it a week later from memory which was a joy:

Journey home via Melton Constable 2010 © Gabriella Buckingham

I return to the book I have every now and then and each time I see something new. Seeing Mary’s work in real life shortly after she died moved me to tears, it’s very special and when I look at her paintings it spurs me on to look around me and paint.

Which artist/s inspires you? I’d love to know..