Lesley Brooks is a painter and printmaker; she divides her time between her home in Leicestershire and a ‘bolthole’ in Norfolk. After a Fine Art BA at Coventry Art School, she took a post graduate qualification in teaching at De Montfort University. She is experienced in teaching young people and senior people in schools and community education and now coordinates special needs education at a large Leicestershire primary school, where her work also involves drawing therapy.
I organise my painting time and think of the next set of paintings as campaigns, collecting up ideas and motifs. I am currently exploring still life ‘caught in a sunny corner’, setting up an intimate space, thinking about the atmosphere, gathering objects and sorting things into groups.
Lesley Brooks. Spring Swell', oil on canvas
I am playing with the shapes and space and colour and texture at this stage, thinking about the ambiguities of spatial planes, perhaps finding a narrative, doing little thumbnail sketches. When I step away from my set up and am busy with other parts of my life my brain is still working on it in a subliminal way.
Lesley Brooks studio
My studio at home is set up for oil painting. Although painting is an obsession for me, I can avoid getting started so I need to have art materials and supports ready to go.
I have a selection of papers and canvas supports which I coat in tinted gesso; they are so beautiful I just want to place a paint laden brush onto the surface and –WOW! - followed by a few lively pencil marks, that can drag a droplet of paint into a very satisfying flourish and then the painting takes life!
Lesley Brooks, 'Jug and Cherries', oil on canvas
I start with a coloured ground, which I put on with big brushes and clothes. I find the under painting very enjoyable. Sometimes I use water-soluble Derwent graphite pencils on the canvas, which is a lovely way to start. Although composition planning and judging tonal values are skills that have become more important to me, I am also very aware that taking a risk can result in a bigger gain, so I don’t like to over-plan my paintings.
Colour mixing has always been a passion. Sometimes a bold gesture or a sensitive brushstroke can yield an amazing outcome.
Lesley Brooks studio
Then I prop my paintings up and spend some time looking at them, problem solving, aiming to get down to the essence of each one. I sometimes use a small viewfinder, and scan across the surface.
I like to let the materials speak for themselves - one shouldn’t over control the paint.
I try, as many of us do, to live two or three lives simultaneously. One of those is my life as an artist. I experience personal and professional achievement, daily through my family life and my teaching career.
Lesley Brooks, 'Sea Thistle Green', oil on canvas
When I was in my twenties, my father said, ‘be true to yourself’ and that was good advice. I have had many successful moments, and have achieved many of the things that are on my ‘to do’ list as an artist, including becoming a member of Leicester Society of Artists, having work selected and sold through the Mall Galleries in London, and running a ‘pop up’ art gallery in Glenfield.
A turning point for me as an artist happened when one of the owners of the Sutton Gallery (then in Allandale Road, Leicester- now on Dundas Street, Edinburgh) asked if he could see some of my work, with a view to offering me a solo show in the gallery over the Christmas 2012.
Lesley Brooks, 'Central Road', oil on canvas
Some things in life are just too good to be true, but on this occasion – everything just fell into place beautifully – they valued my work enormously; organised the exhibition and were true to their word in every way.
It was just an amazing experience and gave me self-belief as an artist. I am now a ‘gallery artist’ – which gives me great pleasure.
Thank you to those galleries and organisations who value my art work.
Lesley Brooks, 'Chapel End', etching
I am a member of Leicester Print Workshop and go there once a week. It is uplifting to work alongside other artists at LPW as part of an art community.
Recently I have been etching using a sugar-lift process printing. I enjoy the processes that are involved in making etchings, a combination of methodical planning with expressive work on the platenext
My favourite artists are so many and varied, but today I’m going to say – Paul Klee, John Piper and Winifred Nicholson. I have seen solo exhibitions by each of these artists that left a lasting impression on me and the inspiration I get from seeing their work has not diminished over time.
Lesley Brooks, 'Gazania Sun', oil on canvas
I am now beginning to think about the landscape beyond the windowsill; there is just a suggestion of this at the moment in my set of paintings for ‘Shadow Space’ at Cank Street Gallery.
Lesley Brooks, 'Mint Cup and Stars', oil on canvas
I enjoy the whole process of painting and allowing the paint to take on an energy of its own. One of the delights as an artist as you get older is that you get less bothered about what other people think.
The best piece of advice I was given about painting was: “Look at everything around the problem area and make some adjustments, if they are necessary – rather than focussing on the problem.” This, I think, applies to life as well as painting.
A new series of paintings by Lesley Brooks can be seen at Cank Street Gallery Leicester, see below
Lesley Brooks, 'Sea-thistle Blue', oil on canvas
W: lesleybrooks-artwork.co.uk - visit Lesley Brooks own website