Heather Duncan: artist

Heather Duncan admits she has no ‘off button’ and that if she isn’t making something she will either be out walking with her beloved ‘scruffy grey’ dog or reading a book. Unless a Strictly series is in progress – that’s her one weakness it seems.

It will be her love of colour and drama that attract her to the show – two elements that are clearly evident in her expressive landscape paintings which are splashed with spicy reds, sparkling blues and invigorating orange. Their vibrancy jumps out at you in the way the television dancers woo their audience.

Heather, who lives in a cottage with views of rolling countryside at Kirk Ireton, was brought up on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border surrounded by expansive open moorlands.

“I grew up on those moors. The landscape was my friend and I escaped into the openness whenever I could, whatever the weather,” she said with a wistful look.

“It is the same today I love all weather. There is no bad weather for me. I like the varied climatic qualities of our temperate landscape.

“There is something calming about a misty morning and exciting about an approaching storm. If it is raining I love nothing more than to pull on my wellies and go outside to splash about on a walk.

“I don’t ever draw the curtains I like to see outside when I am being forced to work inside. As soon as I saw the view from this room when we looked around the house seven years ago I knew it was where I wanted to live,” she added.

Heather was always drawing and making as a child, and knew she wanted to study fine art by the time she was 16 but in fact she went to college to study landscape architecture, a job she then did until she took up teaching. Art was her subject of course.

“I was lecturing one day a week in landscape architecture and enjoying it so much I decided I wanted to teach my real passion which was art.

Her life took a new direction when she gave up work to live briefly in the USA with her IT consultant husband Angus.

Heather wasn’t allowed to work so she painted and it was at that point that she realised that life was too short to waste.

“When we returned home I decided it was what I wanted to do  and eventually I moved into a studio at Banks Mill in Derby where I was able to gain confidence in what I was doing.”

Since then, she first moved to a studio in Darley Abbey Mills, and now she has a purpose built studio in an extension to her home. She has had many solo shows and has work in international private collections.

What the artist does like to have is a challenge and a goal to aim at, whether it’s to get work into a specific gallery or meet a difficult deadline.

“I like to push myself. I can’t stop. I am an absolute perfectionist and beat myself up about my work if I am not happy with it.

“Painting is how I make sense of things, so it is critical I get it right. Sometimes I find I have just painted myself out and then I have to force myself to stop,” she said.

That’s why Heather has more recently taken up pottery. She was persuaded to go to a class by Angus who was sure she would enjoy it.

Of course, as you might expect, she more than enjoyed it – she found she was really quite good at it – and since then she has gone on to help set up the Claywirks pottery collective in Wirksworth.

“It just came naturally to me and I found throwing the pots really relaxed me. It is something I can do to create something functional, decorated in the colours of the landscape I love.

“Each pot is unique I have no interest in making pots that are identical but they do hopefully all work together.”

Heather has a solo exhibition at the Old Lock Up Gallery, Cromford, which is opening tomorrow (November 11) with a preview from 5pm-7pm and then runs until December 17 from 11am-4.30pm. She also has work exhibited at Tarpey Gallery in Castle Donington. Go to http://www.heatherduncan.co.uk for more details.

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