Liz Dalton’s Sydenham studio is light and airy. Images of flowers and leaves abound. Liz has always liked drawing, from her schooldays through her years as an illustrator to her present status as a free-lance artist teaching and working to commissions.

How did you start?

I did a three-year course in Illustration at Harrow then moved into publishing. My drawing skills, initially developed at college are practised in life classes and in my sketchbook. After practising as an illustrator for about ten years, working to very tight deadlines, I began to feel that the commercial briefs were dictating how I worked. So I decided to branch out on my own. It felt as though I were starting again from scratch, so I started where I always begin, with drawings. In 1990 we moved to Chicago and it was there that I began to start painting again. It felt like the right time to do it and I had personal ideas I could work through.

What influenced you there?

A group called the ‘Chicago Imagists’ painted in a vibrant, figurative way. The wide open spaces, huge skies and monumental buildings influenced my compositions. Over in the US I painted in oils, on paper and canvas.

How did things change when you returned to the UK?

When we returned to England I got a studio in Crystal Palace and worked part-time as a teacher and carried on painting. My work changed again, quite radically. I was sketching on the computer and began to paint using flat colours. I was teaching post-16, exhibiting nationally and internationally, and now I teach drawing on the BA in Theatre Design at Croydon. This year I’m also teaching The Dynamics of Colour, drawing and painting at Westminster Adult Education Service.

What art do you do outside your teaching?
Most of the time I’m doing commissions and working for exhibitions. The skills I learnt as an illustrator come in very useful –‘Your work has a graphic clarity which is calming and easy to live with’ commented Susan Wood during this interview. The joy of a commission is that your work will definitely be seen outside the studio! It’s important for people to meet the artist, and nowadays people are keen to sustain the local economy. Normally we aim to have an Open Studio twice a year, but people can contact me any time.Fennel flower, Switzerland (oil on canvas, 89cm x 122cm) was a commission for a couple living in Sydenham. It’s based on a flower from my father-in-law’s garden. I tend to do what I call ‘photo drawings’ – I take a photo then base the drawing on the whole photo or one small part of it. Sometimes I start from the flower’s actual shadow. Most of my works are of plants, but they also remind you of other things. My son, for example, said that my fennel flower painting reminded him of a Roman candle. Dioxzine Cadmium (oil on canvas, 135cm x 135cm) (see image at top of page) was commissioned by a collector of mine. She wanted one image to spread across 3 canvases. As it was for her library, which had little natural light source, I used a very bright warm yellow to compensate for this. The client is a very keen gardener, hence her passion for flowery images.‘I-U’ was a collaboration with artists Bruno Maag and Dan Prescott for a charity auction at the ICA. The theme was to capture the true meaning of love, set by Love-in-the-Sky TV. I drew a heart shaped wreath which I wanted to be quirky and whimsical. The concept was that we all would use a heart shape – in the end the middle section departed from that shape: it was an abstraction of the letters I and U, this introduced another dynamic. Collaborating was great. We all bonded during the project and found the artists’ dialogue motivating and inspiring.

‘I-U’ (mixed media, 46cm x 122 cm. Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

What are your plans for the future?
I am at the drawing and conceptual stage, of some new work with the SLWA BANKSIDE show in mind. …Readers, over to you!  

Posted: 2010-01-07 04:52:00