Drawn to be an artist

PUBLISHED: 16:50 07 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:13 20 February 2013

Louise Diggle creating another masterpiece

Louise Diggle creating another masterpiece

Louise Diggle loved painting at school but it wasn't until years later that she found the confidence to make it her life's work. By Jack Holt

Louise Diggle loved painting at school but it wasn't until years later that she found the confidence to make it her life's work. By Jack Holt

Try forming a sentence a few letters at a time.
T-- --t --t -- t-- --t.
T-- -at -at -- t-- -at.
Th- -at -at -- th- -at.
Th- cat sat on th- mat.
The cat sat on the mat.
At the beginning, it's hard to know what the completed sentence will be. It takes skill not to end up with: The sat mat on the cat.
Substitute a Kolinsky Sable number 12 brush for a keyboard and you get a measure of Louise Diggle's skill.
For her, the cat does sat, I mean sit, on the mat - while she applies layers ('washes' to arty types) of paint to build up a portrait. She explains: "I use the transparent quality of watercolours to build up colours on the paper." The accompanying photograph of the four stages of a lion's head painting will make everything clear. Starting with dilute washes of yellows (e.g. raw sienna and raw umber), oranges (e.g. cadmium orange) and then browns (e.g. burnt sienna and burnt umber), Louise moves on to various blues (e.g. cerulean blue and French ultramarine) to make new colours and add form. Only the darks at the end are pre-mixed on the palette (usually from burnt sienna and French ultramarine).
At school, Louise was one of those children who enjoyed art lessons rather than messing about at the back. She recounts: "A new art teacher took over and just spread out a pile of bark for us to draw. When we'd finished, she looked at each drawing and singled me out for particular praise. "
So, a gold star for Diggle L. and acknowledgement of her artistic bent. However, a career as an artist did not follow. Instead, Louise decided to pursue her interest in languages, though she often sketched her surroundings, especially during various periods spent working in France and Germany over the next few years.
Louise gained a degree in Modern Languages from Aston University, worked as production manager on a tri-lingual trade magazine, and then obtained a post-graduate diploma at Bradford University in translating and interpreting.
Art was brushed aside once more as Louise built a career in translating and interpretation, starting her own business in 1986. She says: "Eventually the business grew to five staff and I had to decide whether to expand or shrink it. I decided to shrink it and go back to working on my own from home. I suddenly thought there's more to life than working and wanted to get involved with art again."
Then, Louise was given some acrylic paints for a Christmas present by an aunt who had herself been a good artist. When Louise went on holiday to Shetland she was amazed by the wonderful effects of light around the islands and totally captivated by the puffins there, and knew she had to take up art properly once again.
She says: "I knew I wasn't going to be able to start painting again at the standard I'd achieved when I left off. It's like running - if you stop for a few months, it takes a while to get going again.
"I decided to try watercolours, which I hadn't used before. That way I wouldn't compare my new work with what I'd done as a teenager."
A course at a local adult education centre got her started with the techniques of watercolouring and she supplemented this with books and by watching television programmes - Watercolour Challenge, presented by Hannah Gordon, was on at the time.
An early painting was of a friend's dog (called Freda) as a surprise 40th birthday present. He liked it because the painting captured both the look and character of Freda.
Her first paid commission followed soon afterwards - a painting of a cottage.
Louise then moved to Chirk Bank near Oswestry - choosing a house spacious enough to work from home in comfortably and with a room with good natural light for her studio.
Then Louise hung a few paintings at her local public house, the Last Inn at Hengoed. She says: "A customer there saw them and asked me to draw portraits of his two dogs as a surprise birthday gift for his wife. More pet portraits followed, plus other commissions, including a watercolour of a client's cottage in the snow which he subsequently asked me to print as Christmas cards."
Further commissions followed - of houses, a favourite tree, a church where the clients were married, and some standing stones. Louise was, by now, not only painting many different things; she was also working in acrylics, acrylic inks, coloured pencils and pastels as well as watercolours.
Louise displayed her work at another local pub and then held some exhibitions - including in the Heritage Centre in Oswestry.
Seeking to develop commercially, Louise started producing prints and cards, which she sold alongside her paintings at craft fairs.
The time came for her to approach retail outlets, hoping they would stock her cards. It was less of an ordeal than she had feared - mostly, the responses were positive.
"I've visited quite a few places now and met some interesting people," she says, "It's good for me to get feedback on what people like and which cards sell best."
Louise confesses that a lack of confidence initially held her back. "I thought I would take it all very personally, but in fact it was a lot easier than I imagined. I get a real buzz when someone likes my work enough to want to own it, but it doesn't worry me when people don't. You have to be critical of your work in order to improve but this needs to be balanced with self-confidence. I couldn't imagine life without art now."

[box out]
Louise Diggle draws and paints mainly animals, buildings and local scenes. Her work is displayed at the Last Inn, Hengoed, and the Fox Inn, Oswestry. She exhibits locally and her work will be displayed at The Navigation Inn, Maesbury in June. Louise's cards are sold in many places, including Pickles & Co. and the Heritage Centre in Oswestry, Canal Central in Maesbury Marsh and The Mere Gallery in Ellesmere. She accepts commissions, gives demonstrations to art societies and other interested groups and private classes to individuals and groups.
To contact Louise, telephone 01691 773014 or email: diggle_l@yahoo.co.uk

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