Since first coming across contemporary artist Hettie Pittman’s inimitable paintings in the early days of ingénu/e, I have been captivated by them.
Her handling of colour and expressive mark-making create evocative summer meadows and, her signature subject matter, animated seascapes in which you can almost hear the crash of the waves and the cry of the gulls.
When not down by the sea, Hettie can very often be found working in her studio at the Shoreline Gallery in the West End of Worthing, a little off the beaten track. It is a little piece of independent loveliness. Here Hettie’s work is created, then displayed in the gallery section at the front of the studio, alongside some complementing home interior products from leading suppliers such as Linum, Archipelago and JJ Textiles.
We found her there, with paint on her hands as usual, and asked her about her work…
You are a self-taught artist, how long have you been painting, and what inspired you to take up a paintbrush in the first place?
I first picked up some paints 14 years ago. I was a foster carer in a remote part of Cornwall and realised I needed a hobby. I went out, spent every penny I had spare, £60!, and away I went. I couldn’t afford the canvas as well so used lumps of Cornish slate sourced from the river. I never looked back, a hobby became an all-encompassing passion.
Who were your early influences, and are there any contemporary artists whose work you admire?
My early influences were limited as I lived very isolated so didn’t have the internet or any real exposure to other artists. I was quite self absorbed in the early years, just me and the paint!
I have always loved collage so this drew me to Sir Terry Frost and I admire the deep passion of Lucian Freud. I admire Joan Eardley’s diversity, Winifred Nicholson’s use of colour and love the work of Yankel Feather. I also deeply admire Kurt Jackson whose body of work is immense.
Do you have a particular subject that you like to paint, or does it vary? And what are your favourite mediums and tools to work with?
My main subject of work would have to be landscape, heavily ‘sea’ inspired. At the end of every ‘series’ I tend to veer off course and have a figurative and naive phase. My favourite medium without question would be oil but I paint commercially so couldn’t survive without acrylic and its fast drying properties!
I always work with newspaper and palette knives and could happily live without brushes. For me it is making marks not necessarily brush strokes. Every piece starts with the sweep of a palette knife!
You are well known for your coastal scenes and seascapes, what is it about the sea that attracts you and, with such a large body of work on this subject, how do you keep your approach fresh?
For me the sea has such a pull as it is ever-changing with such a broad spectrum of colour. It’s that transitory quality, always different and new, which holds an attraction. To keep each piece fresh you only have to look at the sea to have inspiration and I challenge myself with every new artwork that it will be the best piece I have ever done! Trying to depict nature and its beauty is always a challenge.
Your work is sought-after for luxury homes and I believe you’ve worked with interior designers, how did that come about?
I never set out to work with interior designers, they find me! It is a side of my work I love as it often takes me away from my studio and out into the open. I work closely with Caroline Bond of luxurybeachhouserentals.com and have often been seen on one of her projects painting the back of summerhouses and the interior of a beach hut too! The last project I did for her was the whole interior of a bathroom so as you lie in the bath you are transported into a giant seascape.
Do you have any advice for new artists just starting out?
My advice to any new artist would be have fun! Never forget who you are as an artist despite heavy external influences.
Always set aside a studio space just for you, even if it’s just a table. Never pack away your tools so that you can just pick up and get going whenever the mood takes you. Finally, try and make your work as financially accessible as you can to others. Original art should be for all, not just the affluent.
Any future plans you’d like to share with us?
My goal for the forthcoming year is more ‘outside’ work. I have just moved home, closer to the sea, so I want to develop my work with the spray on my face and canvas. I rarely think further than the here and now and what my next artwork will be. I am open to all opportunities!
For me success is fulfilment and I couldn’t be more fulfilled than I am now.
Do visit the gallery, you’d be welcomed. It is open five days a week including Sundays, closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information visit www.shorelinegallery.co.uk