Gill Erskine-Hill has been painting for 35 years in a variety of locations, being fortunate enough to live and work in Devon, Scotland, Norfolk and the Dordogne area of South West France. Following a move back to Devon, she is re-experiencing the beauty and diversity of this part of Britain and drawing inspiration from the people and landscape there. Most of Gill’s early work has been in watercolour and gouache, the medium with which she won the Margaret Carter prize for four years running in Devon. Over the past 15 years, though, she has worked increasingly in oils – and now does so exclusively – making the most of the texture and depth they can convey. Until 2014 Gill painted under the name Gillian Mitchell. Gill’s work is held in many private collections in the United States, France and the UK.
Here below, Country Squire Magazine interviews Gill about her work and passion for painting:
Q: How did you get into art & painting?
Gill: I have drawn since I was a small child, so can’t remember a time when I couldn’t do it. It began to be a big part of my life after University, after the birth of my first child when I needed a means of expression beyond being at home with a baby!
Gill Erskine-Hill in her Devon Studio
Q: What do you prefer to paint and draw now?
Gill: That depends – sometimes I get the chance to paint portraits, which I love, and always my love of landscape gives me inspiration. Usually it is a play of light on objects which first attracts me, or wonderful colours. I still paint animals too, especially in natural settings. One of my favourite subjects is water, especially rivers and streams; the different elements of surface reflections and shadows and what is happening on the riverbed provide great subject matter and endless variety. The play of light on water and the effects it produces always intrigue.
Q: You taught and teach others how to paint?
Gill: I taught Art and Art History at East Devon College for nearly 20 years, all post 16, and now teach private groups of water-colourists and oil painters. For many years I ran holiday painting courses in both Brittany and the Dordogne in France.
Q: Which artists do you admire most?
Gill: Wow! The list is very long, but I have loved Samuel Palmer’s work for a long time, many Impressionists and Post Impressionists like Van Gogh and Gauguin, the unfashionable Pre-Raphaelites to some degree, and many 20th century artists, especially Sergeant and Marc Rothco, whose flat still lives elicit a strong emotional response in me. Rembrandt’s portraits and Vermeer of course. Last year in Madrid I saw a retrospective of a favourite American artist Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie – stunning. I wish I could paint like that.
Q: You spent time in France. Where do you most prefer to live and paint?
Gill: That’s tricky. I love France deeply and the landscape can be stunning, but in order to paint professionally there you have to pay thousands of euros to affiliate to the relevant professional body, so it is more restrictive. Living again in Devon is also lovely and we have more than our fair share of beautiful landscapes, plus it is easier to work here and the opportunities are greater.
Q: What would be your advice to aspiring artists?
Gill: To paint what really inspires them and try to see as much good art as possible. Be open to influence but true to yourself as well, and always choose your own subjects, not second-hand sources.
Q: What inspires you to paint?
Gill: For me a painting is a voyage of discovery – a way of understanding more about the world. Portraits feel almost intrusive because of the intensity of looking.
Q: Below there are six paintings you are listing for sale on Country Squire Magazine in liaison with Maclachlan Acquisitions. Can you please give the background to each painting?
The Gamekeeper’s Cottage, £1430
I pass this cottage on walks near where we live and wanted to paint it in snow, which is a rarity these days. I wanted to use a lot of the underpainting for marks on the road and textures in the bank and woodland, which is a technique I use a lot.
La Jolie Vache, £1870
This is a large painting, one of a small series I did of cows. She is a typical French cow! I like painting cows – they are very satisfying subjects and work well on a larger scale.
Cock, Hen & Dragon, £1210
This is a larger than life tribute to my bantam pair. They didn’t stay long with us, but I did some paintings of their lovely plumage while I had them! I was intrigued by the symmetry of the cockerel’s tail and the dragon on the pot.
Cooling Off, £1320
Our present garden borders this river and one day this man splashed down riding these horses. The beautiful black one is an American paint horse, like the ones native Americans rode, the splashes of white being quite natural. His story intrigued me – he was trying to help the black horse overcome her fear of water – she used to shy at a puddle – and was obviously succeeding as he didn’t even need a bridle. A real Horse Whisperer.
A Thoroughbred Head, £990
This beautiful mare was at a stud in Hampshire.
Stable Companions, £1100
Driving through the lanes near where we lived in the Dordogne, I glanced into a field and saw these two walking along together so companionably that I stopped and took some photographs from which this painting was done.
Q: Thank you Gill for the lovely cup of coffee and piece of cake. We at Country Squire Magazine wish you well with your painting and teaching.
Should you be interested in acquiring any of Gill’s work, please use the contact form at Maclachlan Acquisitions which can be found here. Mention Country Squire Magazine in your message to snaffle potential discounts.