Think watercolours and you may imagine pretty landscapes with trees, fields and burns. It is not a description, though, that often applies to the work of Liz Myhill.
The Perth-based artist discovers inspiration as far afield as a colourful market in India.
Her work Glimpse of the Bazaar is set to be a highlight of the 141st Open Annual Exhibition of The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW for short), opening tomorrow at Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Academy.
‘Freedom to roam’
Liz is one of several Tayside artists selected to participate.
A keen traveller, she has long been fascinated by remote locales, something she puts down to growing up by the coast, the painter explains, where travel, folklore and oral history were key parts of her childhood.
“There was freedom to roam, wildlife to watch and with so many folk associated with maritime work it was natural that members of the community would return from months at sea in far flung parts of the world.
“I suspect it planted an early seed in my mind of how travel should be – a lengthy period away gaining knowledge of the world then returning to the village.”
In the Gujarat bazaar
In the historic bazaar of Gujarat, Liz based herself for several weeks, squeezing herself in among what she describes as a “seething mass of porters, stall-keepers and customers”.
She ate lunch with market workers at an open-air kitchen, allowing for chance encounters, she remembers.
“I became a familiar face and despite no common language my activity was a source of much curiosity. I would frequently be requested through hand signals to make a drawing or portrait for someone and then plied with cups of chai as I worked.”
One of her peers, meanwhile, finds inspiration closer to home.
Carnoustie resident Jim Dunbar finds many vistas to recreate in the surrounding Angus farmland, where the farming calendar’s annual cycles provide the context to a couple of his entrants:
Breirded Field, Pitskelly Farm was painted on the edge of his hometown – breirded, according to Jim, is a Scots word that means “the first flush of green in a field, when the crop has sprouted” – while Hairst was captured on the road to the village of Arbirlot.
“They are both inspired by the passage of time from sowing and germination through to harvest,” he says.
Jim has served as RSW president and is proud of this show’s role as a showcase for talent across the nation.
“The RSW plays a vital role in the visual arts. The Open Annual Exhibition showcases members’ work and gives non-members the opportunity to exhibit alongside leading Scottish artists. This is our flagship show.”
Another RSW member, Morag Muir, finds inspiration from the window of her home studio looking out over the Tay from Newport.
Still lives like stage sets
Surrounded by objects and bric-a-brac amassed over many years, Morag uses these to fill still lives composed like stage sets, as with this one of this year’s works Blue Sky Day.
Morag creates narratives inspired by her own life, though she is keen for viewers to come away with their own interpretations.
“These stories that reflect everyday situations and happenings in my life will inevitably resonate with shared experiences of heartache, pain, parenthood, loss, love and joy,” she says.
Another important component of Morag’s works is the backdrop of the estuary and the Dundee skyline, something she has come to appreciate more during the pandemic.
“During the challenges of recent times I’ve come to understand and appreciate how lucky I am to live in such beautiful surroundings.”
Jim, meanwhile, took the opportunity to learn a new skill – wood
engraving – which he will be showing in a group exhibition in London early next year. For Liz, lockdowns meant an opportunity to immerse herself in stillness and solitude.
“I visited places I thought I knew well only to discover how many secrets they held,” she remembers.
“There was time to experiment, try new ideas and develop technique and materials. In many ways it was a bit like an artist residency with all the freedom and space that implies.”
The 141st Open Annual Exhibition of The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour is at the Royal Scottish Academy, from December 11-27 https://www.rsw.org.uk/rsw-exhibitions/.