It’s been nearly two decades since award-winning painter Lesley Birch swapped her keyboards for a canvas.
Born in Glasgow and based in Scotland until her late 30s, Lesley was a full-time musician writing songs and touring as a session keyboards player for chart-topping band Hue & Cry. Nowadays, she paints from her studios in York and has shown in the Royal Academy Exhibition, The Mall Galleries and is a past winner of The Artist Magazine Prize.
She said: ‘Moving from music to painting was a natural progression in my creative life. That touch of my fingers on a piano seems to have transferred to the expressive mark on a canvas. And I can’t get enough of it!”’
Born into an artistic family – an architect father and a mother who took her out sketching at Loch Lomond – Lesley’s love of painting was always there.
Mainly self-taught, her expressive paintings are responses to the landscapes she loves – from Scotland to Cornwall to Ireland. She seeks out wild places, with winter painting trips to the Isle of Islay and Ireland as well as art residencies in Cornwall and Wales.
She continued: ‘Anywhere with water and sky appeals to me. And preferably in autumn or winter because I love the changeable weather and the drama of it all. Dad had a boat on Loch Lomond and I always remember as a child being excited by dark skies and choppy waters crossing from Balmaha to Inchmurrin Island.’
Lesley makes brief on-site sketches and says sounds affect her just as much as shapes and colours.
She explained: ‘I notice a line, a shadow, a brooding sky and a soft or wild wind. I try to capture the roar of the ocean on Islay and the sea and sky merging into one. I notice gritty textures in the sand and the snippet of a blue-black stone on the shore.’
Working mainly in oil, she has contributed to a USA book about oil and cold wax techniques.
Lesley said: ‘I use cold wax for the textural element in my rugged oil paintings … It’s a wonderful medium, drying quickly and adding a lovely translucency.
‘Painting is a journey and I find it fascinating that certain combinations of colours, certain marks and movements can convey an atmosphere, an emotion. I’m aiming for that exciting moment – when materiality and emotion meet – that is the joy of painting for me.’
Lesley is returning to Scotland to exhibit at The Borders Art Fair, where she’ll be showing new North Coast paintings and recent pieces from her Islay Monotype Collection. This takes place at Springwood Park, Kelso, from 15-17 March, from 10am–4pm.
Click HERE to find out more about Lesley’s art.