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Artists Of Frome

With Abigail Reed

What is your artistic background? After completing my Art Foundation in my hometown of Bath, I then went on to do a BA in Fine Art Painting at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

What made you follow this path? After my degree I moved to Bristol where I balanced being a young mum and forging a career in the arts. I have always been drawing, since I was very small and that was always really valued in my family, along with an appreciation for nature. Once my kids went to school I started to get involved in community art projects at places like RWA Bristol, Bristol Children's Hospital and various care homes across the city. I have always felt the need to use my skills as an artist to be involved with my community. Making art can be a very solitary act so being around people and helping them can be extremely gratifying.

What is your physical creative process? What materials and techniques do you use?

It’s always been about drawing for me. I’ve dipped in and out of phases of painting but I am always drawn back to the simplicity of drawing. The way you can take very basic materials (a piece of charcoal and paper) and conjure up a place or animal that has real weight to it is just magic to me. Drawing can be as expansive as you like, from a tiny landscape sketch on a piece of A4, to a life sized drawing of a bear, I’ve tried it all. I use a lot of charcoal and tend to fill the ground I am working on with it heavily first, then with a rag or putty rubber (sometimes my fingertips)I tease out the light and start to bring out the image. Recently I have started to explore colour with soft pastels. I just love the freedom of drawing, there are no barriers, you just pull out the paper and start drawing immediately and that suits the way I think.

What inspires your work?

I walk a lot and take photographs that become drawings. I love the forests and landscapes around Frome, they are transformative. On a hot sunny day, on entering the forest, it can suddenly feel like night time. When walking next to the deserted quarry, it can feel as if you are in a totally foreign landscape and I like how this affects my mood. I am inspired by animals too, from huge bears that are powerful and fierce to delicate moths that flutter in the darkness, hidden from sight. I like to bring these subjects into view for an audience to look up in wonder at and be drawn into.

How did lockdown affect the way you work and create? After the initial shock and worry about my financial future, I took the time to get my head down and create as much as I could. Time is precious to busy artist mothers, so I took it as a gift, albeit one shrouded with anxiety. Once I learnt to sit with that and form a balance between supporting my family and working in my studio, it was ok. Schemes like the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram have been a lifeline for me. It’s been sad not continuing to visit the Children's hospital where I was visiting artist for the last few years.

Where do you work from? Tell us about your studio.

I moved from Bristol just over one year ago where I had been lucky enough to have a space at Jamaica Street Artists for 13 years. Now I have a space at the beautiful Silk Mill studios - a bit of a contrast to the streets of Stokes Croft! I am definitely one of those artists who needs a space to go out to everyday. Once I am in my studio in my creative bubble, I can connect fully with that part of me and to be around like-minded creatives at the Silk Mill too, that is just essential for me.

What is your favourite place to be for artistic inspiration?

In big epic landscapes. If you can’t get there then the local park will do. It’s all about looking and connecting with a place for me. Once you draw a place the connection is deepened, you see it change over time and you notice more. With the animal drawings its different, it is about preserving what may be lost one day, human fear and wonder of beasts, big and small.

What artists inspire you, and why?

Nicola Hicks, Eva Jospin, Hannah brown, Sarah Gillespie, Beth Carter, Carolein Smit, Esther May Campbell.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what would you have done?

I would work with children as I like how they see the world. They are in a constant state of discovery and wonder.

How do you find Frome, in terms of creativity and artistic community?

We are very lucky to have so many established art galleries and spaces here, there is a lot going on and that is partly down to the will of the people who live here. It was definitely what pulled me here, along with family who lived nearby and a need to be nearer the countryside.

Are there any artistic processes/disciplines which you haven’t worked in/with, but would like to?

I’d like to become more confident at painting, especially in colour.

How can people see and buy your work? @abigailreedartist Or @abigailreed_artworkshops on Instagram. For prints: Or you can email me and I can send you a catalogue of available works, including prints.

I have plans to start up some art clubs for kids at the silk mill and drawing workshops for adults whenever it becomes safe enough to do so. I can also offer one to one drawing tutoring for kids and young adults – readers can get in contact if they interested. One off workshops in schools can be arranged.


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