In the studio with Teresa Lawton


In her studio in Weymouth, abstract landscape artist Teresa Lawton talked about her work to Edwina Baines

All images: Courtenay Hitchcock

In the peace and solitude of her Weymouth studio, alongside her beautiful Weimaraner dog Logan and with Radio 6 for company, Teresa Lawton is in her happy place. Here she paints the coast and the surrounding landscape. ‘It is a meditative process which absorbs me entirely,’ she says.
Born in Dorset, Teresa spent most of the 1970s in London before travelling in Greece and Argentina. She also spent a great deal of time in Cornwall through her developing years as a painter. The mid-20th century St Ives artists have always been a great inspiration in her work and, as an Associate Member of the St Ives-based Penwith Gallery, she has remained true to that influence. Painting from the age of five, she always wanted to go to art school but was prevented by both an unsettled early life and the fact that ‘it was not considered a career at the time’. She was, she says ‘a bit of a rolling stone’ and it was not until her son started school that she completed a BA (Hons) Fine Arts degree at Winchester School of Art.
However, as a mature student she was able to gain a different perspective on her art, and had the time to develop more of a practical, business-minded approach.

image Courtenay Hitchcock BV Magazine April 2023

After graduating, Teresa moved to a remote studio near Corfe Castle, right at the edge of Poole Harbour looking out onto Round Island. This idyllic cottage was her home for ten years before she relocated to Weymouth. ‘I loved living in Corfe, really out in the wilds, but I ended up doing more gardening than painting!’

‘I need absolute peace in order to do this job. I walk the dog and I paint and that’s a peaceful life for me. Total commitment to my work.’

The Dorset coast and surrounding countryside remain an important influence on her work but a slightly different style is emerging since the move. The farmed hilly landscape around Weymouth, with its patchwork of fields, is a change from the Corfe heathland. There are fewer distractions. Teresa says: ‘I like solitude. I don’t have a problem with it. I’m a bit obsessive about my work. I like to walk on my own in the woods and on the hills, getting “far from the madding crowds”. I don’t tend to sketch or photograph. I’m always just soaking up the landscape around me. I need absolute peace in order to do this job. I walk the dog and I paint and that’s a peaceful life for me. Total commitment to my work.

Teresa in her home studio, where she works in the company of her dog Logan

I view the coast from up on the hills. Every day is different here – the skyline falls into the sea, forming a space between heaven and earth. The Dorset coastline fills my work.’
Teresa does not give the impression of being a quiet and reclusive person – but she is, without doubt, dedicated, single-minded and disciplined with regard to her painting.
Teresa successfully exhibits in London and Cornwall as well as Dorset. The ordered studio stacked with paintings ready for a solo exhibition at The Gallery on the Square in Poundbury reflects her discipline: ‘I don’t like working in chaos. To make a living as a painter is no easy thing but I’ve managed to do it. I’m always busy. I paint every day if I can.’

Quarryland – Teresa’s version of the Isle of Portland

An emotional landscape
’I need to take the viewer on a journey with my paintings. I want to convey the bliss of being out in the middle of nowhere.’ Colour is no doubt important to Teresa and the influence of the Cornish artists of St Ives is evident. ‘It’s about the landscape. Describing it in a more emotional way. It resonates with me. When I started visiting Cornwall it opened a door for me.

On The Rocks, showing fish escaping from storm-damaged nets in Weymouth harbour

‘I draw straight onto the canvas. I like the immediacy of painting – too much sketching is restricting for me.’ Her muted palette of greys and ochres has changed somewhat with the season and some hints of green have entered on occasion, as evident in The Ridgeway (image next page, bottom).
Teresa found that she walked further into the hills during the lockdown and her style began to subtly change. Abstract shapes and forms are still there but now little buildings might appear in the landscape: ‘A tree or a shadow might inspire me … I like to play with the shapes. It becomes instinctive,’ she says.

Teresa’s Weimaraner Logan is a happy artist’s assistant

Freedom in the abstract
Quarryland (previous page) is Teresa’s version of the Isle of Portland: ‘I embellish with my own ideas. The paintings are not an exact replication of the view, otherwise it might become clichéd. I am trying to record an immediate, personal moment – to convey what is fresh in my mind. I focus on constructing areas of space and clean lines interrupted by colour.’

image: Courtenay Hitchcock BV magazine April 2023

On The Rocks (above) is a wonderfully strong, harmonious image showing fish escaping from storm-damaged nets in Weymouth harbour. Teresa’s application of the oil paint is carefully considered.
‘The abstraction gives me a certain freedom, as the layers may show through. I don’t always know where the painting will go, to begin with. The layering can make the painting more interesting, creating a balance with shapes in tones and colours. I scrape back with a palette knife, scratching into the paint. I’m drawing as I go along – in essence, it is simplification through abstraction.’

Unusually for Teresa Lawton’s preferred palette, hints of green are evident in The Ridgeway

Teresa may work on a number of canvases at any one time which may change and alter over the days: ‘Beyond all the technical skills of constructing a painting which is about knowing your craft, there lies a magic which is inexplicable. Those are the things that can’t be taught; they are about immersing yourself in your own world and imagination, which is instinctive.’

Teresa’s solo exhibition runs at the Gallery on the Square, Poundbury from 2fifth March to 29th April 2023.


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