Absolutely Sussex speaks to Linda Foskett of the little art gallery to discover its origins and why West Wittering is the perfect inspiration
How long have you been an artist for now and how would you say you have evolved?
When I left school after taking A level art, I became a cartographer, which I imagined would combine my interests in geography and art. Family life took over until 1996 when my youngest child started University and I decided it was time to pick up with the art I had always loved. I started with courses in watercolour at Chichester College and then went on to study with many other artists and teachers taking short courses at West Dean College, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Earnley Concourse and I took private tuition in Print Making and Silversmithing. I am delighted to say I now count some of these inspiring teachers as my friends.
I enjoy working with oils and prefer to work mainly in this medium. Once colour is committed to paper with watercolour your work has taken a direction which is not always where you wish it to be. With oils there is more freedom to change and lighten an area.
I enjoy the freedom of painting now after the restrictions of cartography, I can now place a road or a tree wherever I wish!
Is it possible to sum up the style of your work?
If I am honest my most popular work is based on the local scenery from the South Downs to the coast. As a multimedia artist this can be either realistic scenes in oils or printmaking taking a subject towards a more abstract image. If I find myself in my studio on a dull or rainy day I tend towards a painting of place I would like to be.
As I also have found working with silver and copper very rewarding, and the thrill of taking an enamelled item out of the kiln has the same unexpected twists and effects in the same way as print making. This means every day I can do whatever medium I fancy and produce something different.
What inspires you?
Memories of places I have visited and the colours of nature.
How did the little art gallery come about?
My friend was looking to move to my area and found a house with and empty shop unit because the butcher had moved to the larger premises next door. As he knew I had friends who had discussed setting up a gallery together, he asked if my friends and I would like a little art gallery, which is how the little art gallery in West Wittering came about. It is only a small space and the name just stuck. Although it has been described as a little gallery with a surprising amount of different things to offer.
Why West Wittering as the location?
I live in the parish of West Wittering and there are a tremendous number of skilful artists locally and in the surrounding area, giving us a variety of styles and price ranges for the locals and tourists to choose from.
As many of the local properties are second homes and holiday rentals there are a lot of visitors all year round. It does mean for a small village there is a constant flow of visitors.
Who do you look to display at the gallery?
When the gallery started, I had a large group of artists I had exhibited with for many years and they became our core artists. We then were approached by many more professional artists looking for a new place to exhibit their work. We used to have themed exhibitions or shows by specific artists. When Covid came along this all changed – we had 63 artist we had represented who had all lost their planned shows and events so we changed our displays to mixed work rotating and changing on a regular basis to give them all as much exposure as possible, sometimes featuring a specific artist.
We found that many people during the lockdowns had moved or redecorated their homes and they were coming to us for the finishing touches. As space was limited, we decided to offer private appointments so people could contact us saying what they were looking for be it subject, size, style or price. We would then bring in from storage a selection we felt would suit them. They had the gallery to themselves to look at leisure and not feel worried about someone else wanting to enter our small space. If they lived locally, we would then offer to take a selection to their home to help decide which best suited them in situ.
We have been delighted to have people travel from Surrey, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Kent and London knowing we may have a variety to choose from for a special gift or for themselves.
What’s coming up this summer?
At the moment we have the Festival of Chichester show with two popular artists displaying new work on the theme of “from the downs to the Sea” until mid July. We will then follow this up with a mixed summer show of mainly scenes of the sea and local countryside as that is most likely the type of customer who will be looking for something to take home from a holiday, day out or visiting friends locally.
In the autumn we will bring in work which moves away from just local scenes. We will have a more eclectic mix of styles and subject matter, then by November we will bring in items suitable for festive gifts which will take us through to the new year.
How long have you lived in the area?
I have lived in the area for 46 years. We have a very mild climate and big open skies, which gives us wonderful light and cloud formations, sunsets and sunrises in addition to the variation of the sands and sea, tides and harbour views.
Whilst it is lovely to travel and see other areas and countries, it is a place that is always a delight to return home to. No two days ever feel the same.
The little art gallery aside, where else do you love visiting in the county?
We are lucky to have so much choice in Sussex. East and West Sussex both have a different appeal. The low lying flat land along the coast and the rolling hills of the South Downs and farmland in West Sussex open out to more undulations in East Sussex and the striking cliffs beyond Brighton. Chichester harbour is full of activities on the water and the wildlife to be spotted is always changing.
In my local area I would choose The Trundle above Chichester for the views both ways out to sea and inland towards the downs.
West Wittering beach and East Head, which changes with the tides giving vast expanses of sand and dunes or the waves, which are excellent for surfing and bird watching as well as painting.
A third place would also be Harting Down, which has terrific views both North and South it is also part of the South Downs Way.
Chichester harbour changes with all states of the tides the little inlets, reed beds and harbours each have a different character.
With summer approaching, do you have any favourite Sussex outdoor spots?
I love the variety Sussex has to offer both East and West Sussex have a different character. One of my signature paintings comes from a lovely walk up to Chanctonbury Ring. I sold the painting years ago but it has proved a very popular card and giclee print. I intend to visit the area again soon and also make a visit to Lewes and the Seven Sisters. I would like to walk a bit more of that end of the South Downs Way.
What’s next for you?
I hope to spend summer and autumn collecting fresh images and sketches for a new body of work. During Covid travel has been curtailed for most people and it is good now to be able to travel freely and visit other countries and areas around Britain to reinvigorate my imagination.