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Friday, May 18, 2012

Meet Pat Southern-Pearce--Interview #19!

I've been waiting to do this interview for ages, it feels like--and I'm delighted to be able to introduce you to the talented and innovative Pat Southern-Pierce, at last.

Let's let Pat offer her OWN introduction, up front, and then our questions and answers will follow.  


I was born in the North of England. My mother was a weaver, true "Lancashire"...and a beauty, with jet black hair. People said she must have had Irish in her. My hair used to shine blue, too, like hers.

I went to Grammar School, then to Burnley & Leeds Schools of Art (Painting, Lithography and my teaching qualification: 6 years in all, married straight after I qualified and went into Primary School Teaching ( 4 - 11 year olds).

Because of my Art Training I was asked, by the local authority, whilst still a classroom teacher, if I would run Art Courses for other Primary teachers. I did... and, later took up a post as Senior lecturer in Art & Education at the University of Cumbria. I was there for 8 years then left to work for myself...which is where I am now... 20 years on...running Art Conferences for teachers, courses and workshops for teachers and classroom assistants, whole school in-house Training, art residencies with children, Leisure courses for adults: sketchbooks and watercolours, and also Artist-in-Residence placements. I love what I do..and am fortunate to work with so many warm, caring people and be invited to return to them. again and again rather than just do one-off visits. Relationships are strong.... and I love what I do.. Such a variety of media and subjects come up.. many, of late, on canvas. Much of what I do in schools with teachers and children..and parents, sometimes, is hung as a lasting legacy...there to stay...and treasured.

Be sure to click on this to see the wonderful textures and shapes...Pat's calligraphy adds a lot to her pages, as well.

For the last 12 years I've worked in partnership with my husband Julian, also a painter.... and Gallery educator. He brought new life and new thinking with him and it was a joy to work in tandem...and grow and develop. He died earlier this year but the joy he brought ..and his sense of fun and creativity..and the contemporary scene will live on in all I do. ..and my thanks to him..and my love..

My latest series of paintings is a set of 3ft x 2ft free landscapes in watercolour and inks.. Exhibitions are being planned for the following year.... and prints and cards..... on my website...which is almost but not quite activated. It's awaiting my final input! Details later.


Q: What kind of sketch journal do you prefer?

A: I prefer a hard backed sketchbook so that it's rigid and firm to work on.
Spiral bound books break up double page.images so I steer away from
these. At Art School I kept a large format, close-to-A3 sketchbook, with
a mix of differently coloured papers, including black and brown Kraft paper,
but nowadays I buy much smaller books, which will fit in handbags easily
and are good to handle and balance in my hands especially on the odd
occasions I end up drawing standing up outside. I have a mix of shapes
and sizes: squares from 8 inches down to 4...and rectangular books from
A6 upwards in both landscape and portrait format.

Q: Do you ever make your own?

A: I did, just once, make my own... in my final year at Art School, ready for use
in the big wide world. I filled it with wonderful papers of all different kinds and
surfaces, bound it in black cloth and gave it a strong glued spine. Unfortunately,
it was lost before I had chance to use it.

Beautiful range of values and shapes...

Q: What paper surfaces work best for you?

A: I much prefer strong. bright white paper to thin cream which can look dull and tired and I
hate it when I buy a new book only to find the paper is so thin that the drawings glimmer
through from one page to the next. A handmade sketchbook I bought in Venice is like that,
but it's so beautiful with its hand blocked flocked Venetian cover that I use it anyway!! 
Rough water colour paper is wonderful to draw on and I have a couple of books of that which
I love!....for both drawing and painting. I'd just die for a book with a mix of white rough watercolour paper, dark & middle grey Ingres pastel paper, skye blue, golden ochre, ribbed brown Kraft paper, black and a really zingy cerise. Now wouldn't THAT be something!!!

Is this inspiring, or what??

Q: You have this wonderful collection of inkwells; how long have you been using them with your journal?

A: My ink wells have been in use for writing for some years, not all..just some, for letter writing and such...but it's only this year that I've begun to use a collection of them, with differently coloured inks in each, for my sketchbook journals. It was my husband's idea. He saw me setting out a mass of jars and plastic containers for water, diluted paints and inks one day and the next, my ink well collection emerged, from the depths of a deep cupboard. Thank you, J..they've been a joy and inspirational to use..very practical, too, with their different tops and ridges for pens.

Pat uses the palette knife on both paintings like the one at the top of the page, and on sketches like this, for a lovely, linear effect.

Q: How did you start using a palette knife in your work?

A: One memorable Summer I went on a week's residential art course to St David's in Wales ( UK) with a friendly, inspiring tutor who drove us out to a different location each day to paint..glorious therapy!! One evening he held an evening class in his studio loft room up in the eaves of his old house and, because I was art-trained he introduced me to the possibilities of palette knife and water colour. Wow. I was hooked. Tried it each day, on the spot for the rest of the time and have been using it ever since.

Q: Any tips on how to control it?

A: I mostly use a No 25 Winsor & Newton pointed knife, whippy and sharp. I load it with diluted paint or ink...test it first on scrap paper to get it going, then draw with the side edge of it, pulling it away from me mostly, pressing down with the edge of my thumb.I bend the knife to make curving lines and use the tip, at times for tiny lines or shapes. Dragged sideways, with a confident, firm movement it's possible to make swathes of flat linear textured rectangles, which can be wonderful for foliage, fields, square windows (real precision needed for these!) and any larger areas of colour which would benefit from interesting surface treatment.

Q: Do you use just ink, or watercolor and palette knife too?

A: It varies. I use what the mood brings. I usually know the kind of colour palette I
want to work with and put a range of colours out, ready..a mix of diluted inks, ready mixed water colours in different dilutions and inks direct from their bottles for intensity. I mix them all together with total freedom, picking at will, as I work, overlaying ink with watercolour and vice-versa.I have acrylic, permanent, water soluble and calligraphy inks and the reactions, of these with one with another and watercolours can be wondrous. Brushes are used for mixing and for laying down an occasional part wash of starter colour on a page. This then has to dry before I can move in and begin drawing on top of that with my knife. I often have 2 knives of the same type on the go at once so that I can move swiftly from one co,our to another.

Q: I remember some of your stuff also uses sticks—thoughts on that?

A: Sticks are fun and free. If I'm that way inclined I'll nip out into the garden and pick a few up from the paths. It's good to have an assortment of diameters and types. Knobbly ones can be good. Bamboo and canes are useful too, for finer, straighter lines. I find I often twist the sticks around as I'm drawing, and dip them back in the ink or paint quite frequently to keep the liquid flowing. There's no line quite like the irregular unexpectedness of sticks..so much sensitive than Rotring or other regular flow markers. Steel nibbed dip pens are good too!!!

Q: You mention that you prefer to work on the spot or from life—can you expand on that?

A: Given the choice I would ALWAYS work from life, be it a vase of flowers, a landscape or
a group of buildings. There's a sense of "being there"..a sense of place that comes fromdrinking in the feel of something real, the softness of petals that never quite comes acrossin a photograph, the life of things...the atmosphere of the shadows under trees and the dappledshade..the sounds all around whilst you draw. Whenever I look back on a drawing I've done on thespot it all comes flooding back to me..all the richness and the feeling I had when I was there. Memories flood in....snapshot glimpses of details...and I read through my journal notes and it'sricher still. Something I've drawn from a photograph is far more 2-dimensional. However proficient. It only tells half the story.

Q: WHY do you do what you do?

A: I do what I do because I love it and it's as much a part of me as living and breathing. I have periods when I draw little and I miss it so..but life takes over and that's how it is. Sometimes when I look back at earlier journals I realise that there were periods when I drew for therapy, to take me out of myself when things were difficult. Drawing or painting for me, can be a quite magical thing. I can be so totally absorbed that all worries fall away and I am totally in the moment. One of my leisure students, a professional in the health field found this, too and used my methods and approaches as therapy with her patients...it helped them, too.

Pat's calligraphic lettering follows the shape of her drawing, here.

This pencil drawing shows a range of values and textures.

Q: Do your journal sketches ever end up as finished paintings?

My journal drawings rarely, if ever end up as finished paintings. They're books of living memories, pages that exist in their own right and it never really occurs to me to browse through them with a view to painting. Maybe it should! Apart from my mixed media collages almost all of my work stems from direct observation. I respond to something real...but don't necessarily copy it!


Thank you so much, Pat!  It's been a joy...I love your Flick sets with the beautiful views of your home, as well.

And all, don't miss Pat's Flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/37479296@N06/,
where she's known as skyeshell (and be sure to browse her sets, especially the Palette Knife one!) 
Those of us who love travel sketching will particularly enjoy her Venice set and the one from the USA!

You can find a bit more of Pat's work in our book Artist's Journal Workshop, on pages 130-131, and contact information on page 138.

As noted, do keep watching for her planned website.  It will be stunning...and we'll make sure you see it!  I've asked Pat to let us know when it's ready to go.


  1. Fabulous interview! I've been a fan of Pat's work for some time now.

  2. enchanting!! So glad to "meet" this artist...inspiring!

    1. Generous-spirited, Jennifer...thankyou!!

  3. thank you BOTH - very much - for a wonderful interview!

  4. Great post but the clicked-on pictures are barely larger... with Blogger all you have to do is upload a large one, then reduce it once it's on the page. That way, it gets really large when you click on it.

  5. Glad you all liked it, I'm very pleased! Gina, it depends on what you have to work with in the first place...if the images aren't that large, that's what you have...sorry!

  6. Kate, thanks so much for this.. I thouroughly enjoyed every word, every sketch.. (with my morning coffee) what could be better than reading and seeing such a talented artist... BJ

  7. Beautiful sketches! Where does Pat live now - is it Cumbria, or somewhere else?

    1. Betty, I'm about an hour's drive from Cumbria. I live on the outskirts of Blackburn.

  8. Lovely to learn more about your work and I can't wait for the website!

  9. Great interview, thank you both!

  10. Thanks, all...and Betty, I'm not sure. Perhaps Pat will see this and respond...

  11. Pat Southern-Pearce, SkyeshellMay 20, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    Cathy, Thankyou SO much..lovely to see and read. Really happy that I finally made it here.And what heartwarming comments you've left for me... such a spreading smile they've brought. I'll keep you all posted..promise x

    1. Pat, I'm so glad to have you here! I knew people would love your work. Yes, please, keep me posted!

    2. Great to be here, Kate...so warm and friendly...I shall keep popping back!

  12. Wonderful interview, both of you!! Pat, your work is stunning and it would be so grand to see you with palette knife in hand. I bet it's like watching a ballet.

  13. wow wow wow!! Thank you for this wonderful interview. I want to know more about painting with the palette knife. the results are amazing!

    1. Liz..so happy you liked it. A whippy steel palette knife is just a joy to work with..hold it firmly between thumb and forefinger, bending the blade as you draw with the fine edge..magic!!! Thankyou :))

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  15. Kate..was reading your book this morning.. a Christmas present..and came across some familiar images which I immediately recognised as Skyeshell from flickr. My husband and I have been admirers and followers of her site and artistic works for the past 18 months. I was so pleased to learn more about her...her work is truly inspiring..so much that I put away the brush and have discovered the joy in working solely with knives and sticks as well rediscovering ink and washes for the past six months. I have found it very liberating. Thank you to both of you for sharing.

    1. Pat is TRULY inspiring and a wonderful person. Glad you enjoyed the book and the interview...and yes, I found her on Flickr, as well!

  16. Pat, stumbled across this purely by accident. I was so happy to have known you and Julian during the time I visited and occasionally helped out at Mid Pennine Arts when it was based in the Town Hall.
    You were both very patient and lovely people to know and I am so sad to learn of Julians passing. We must have lost touch before you were married but it makes me very happy to know that you had those years together.
    All my best regards, Peter Cicero


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