Liz Wellby: Artist-in-residence, Scarthin Books

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Visiting Scarthin Books in Cromford is always something to be savoured, so being able to combine your work with such pleasure must be considered very fortunate indeed.

Artist Liz Wellby is one such person and, as I was meeting her there for our interview, I guess I am another.

“Hunt me down I will be drawing somewhere,” she said, which meant I got to meander slowly through the maze of shelves on several fascinating floors before finding her.

She was sitting in her favourite chair in the art room, busy sketching. For almost a year this is what Liz has been doing as part of an artist-in-residence project in conjunction with the Scarthin’s team.

The idea is that she creates a body of work celebrating the bookshop – its exterior, interior and the people who work there. What makes it even more interesting is that Liz has chosen to create all the artwork on an iPad.

The venture was supposed to be a year long project but as we settle down for hot drinks in the cafe Liz confesses that she has persuaded them to let her stay for another 12 months.

“I was not ready to finish. There is a lot more that I want to do, so I asked if I could continue,” she explained.

“This is a very special place. It’s quirky and more than just a business. When you come here it is not just about coming to shop it is about spending time here and enjoying the atmosphere.”

The 49-year-old is a very versatile fine artist who enjoys sculpture, print-making, drawing and painting. The influences on her work are also wide-ranging including still life, interiors, figures in the landscape, birds and animals – the one constant theme that is important to her is living and working in Derbyshire.

Liz was born and brought up in the county and after gaining a degree in Fine Art at Loughborough in 1990 she embarked on a long career as an art teacher back here.

She reckons that it was the 20-plus years encouraging young people to enjoy art that has made her so dexterous with her own work.

“When you are teaching you are always spinning lots of plates and I think that has influenced my love for variety in my work now. There are many processes I want to try, and  I can’t see myself ever sitting down and doing the same sort of work day after day,” she said.

Liz, who has just moved from Matlock to a new home in Carsington, had always planned to devote more time to her own art work when she retired, but was able to do it sooner than expected when she was made redundant a few years ago.

“I loved teaching but having been forced to rethink my plans I am now really enjoying life as a full time artist. Now I can say yes to more opportunities to exhibit and run workshops.

“I like to take on new challenges as it takes you away from what you do normally. Working in a public place like Scarthin has been interesting and very stimulating. At first I thought I would concentrate on the interior but gradually I started to draw staff portraits and I am planning to feature more of the people who enjoy visiting the bookshop.

“I do not enjoy IT at all, but I was intrigued by the drawing apps on the iPad having seen the work Hockney was doing. I tried it out and found that it was quite an intuitive process and one that I enjoyed. It is perfect for this residency as I can sit myself anywhere and just get on with drawing.”

The completed pieces will be displayed in the shop. They are also being posted on facebook and on both Liz’s website http://www.lizwellby.co.uk and scarthinbooks.com

Liz is also a member of the Peak District Artisans and her work can be seen at the group’s exhibition at Chatsworth House, which runs until March 17. She will also be exhibiting at the bookshop as part of Derbyshire Open Arts in May.