Fleur Cowgill is a painter. Now living in West Sussex, Cowgill was raised in the tropics which has left a lasting impact on her colour palette. Her painterly style is concerned with capturing light and the essence of natural forms, often underpinned by a loose grid drawn in mixed mediums.
She attended several art schools, gaining a BA Fine Art in London, at the same time visiting galleries and museums to study and enjoy art from the Renaissance to the late 20th century. Regular city breaks have also enabled her to tour major galleries in Europe and the USA. Elements of these artworks influenced her own experiments with mark making as she evolved a loose, expressionist, style of her own. In 2018, Cowgill achieved an MA Fine Art Research at Brighton University, which has led to exciting developments in her work reflecting a deeper appreciation of processes within her art practice.
She was Laing Landscape/Seascape National Prize winner in 1990, her work has been exhibited across London and the UK, and she has also exhibited and sold work in New York.
I like working in my own studio – away from home life – my only truly personal space. I like large canvases, responsive to shoulder muscle gestural sweeps of brush or knife. I often work nose-to-canvas with small pieces of charcoal or pastel making loose grids on which to lay the paint.
My paintings evolve slowly. I work on square, ready-primed, canvases and enjoy the hopeful expectation of white spaces. Often, they sit around the studio for a while as works in progress. whilst I gather thoughts and ideas together.
Although I often draw in a doodling, pensive way, I do not use sketch books in any formal sense. My doodles are merely explorations of an idea and may bear no relation at all to the forthcoming painting.
I have two methods of physically starting a new painting – either I flood a canvas with a colour I really like, or I draw out a loose grid of lines. These lines are a yard long because I use a beautiful brass bound mahogany rule I inherited from my grandfather – a typesetter. The ruler is heavy and I have never mastered a dead straight level line so the grid is randomly slanted.
My favourite colours for grounding my canvases are Naples Yellow with a strong pinkish red tint, golden yellow or Cerulean blue. These are chosen to light up and play through the colours which will follow. Old Masters and more recent Great Painters such as Constable and Turner used red to support their greens.
I don’t draw out an image with charcoal but I love the effect of charcoal lines subtly buried beneath brush marks so will use charcoal to sweep across the surface leading the eye from place to place.
Most of my inspiration is rooted in natural forms delicately balanced against poetic or philosophical thoughts and notions. I don’t wish to ‘illustrate’ but rather to ‘evoke’ something of these inspirations in my painting.
10,000 hours of practice is meant to lead to proficiency. I have repeated my 10,000 hours many times over and feel happy with the mature confidence in my practice that this has given me.
At the same time, I am constantly open and eager to learn new things. Always curious and enquiring, I read, watch, listen and study from innumerable sources and love the sense of an ever-expanding brain space filled with a life time of memories.
Many of my paintings are expressions of all these memories.
I have a hairdresser’s trolley to house my materials and this can be wheeled across the studio floor – currently covered in flattened cardboard boxes. The drawers are filled with colour! Oil paints top right, with a few spares or less-used colours in a drawer below. The left-hand side has the shallow drawers for hair clips, and these perfectly suit little trays of pastels. Deep bottom drawers hold tins, bottles and jars of mediums for mixing and thinning and varnishing.
Favourite brushes get carefully wiped, cleaned with special soap and dried before standing proudly in tall tubs next to a glass jam-jar of wooden handled palette knives. I have tried using a ‘proper’ traditional wooden artist’s palette but they don’t suit me, I prefer peel off and chuck-away grease proof sheets in a pad. I have found a lovely range of mediums from Jacksons which smell of herbs – rosemary and lavender predominate and I can smell my studio from downstairs! So uplifting!
My paintings can be enjoyed at multiple levels. Simply for the colour, form and movement of marks. Or for the narrative which may be obvious in some and rather elusive in others – the titles can help with interpretation.
As they are painted over many hours, days, or even a year or two, the original inspirations can become buried beneath layers of overlaid paint leading to a deeper level of communication I ultimately hope to offer a viewer.