Finding the Moo-d with Lucy Tidbury


Lucy Tidbury’s moo pictures have a popular following –Edwina Baines asks the Dorset artist about her work

New Corfe Castle painting for Purbeck Art Weeks
© Lucy Tidbury

When Thomas Hardy described the Blackmore Vale as the ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’, I doubt that he envisaged a dairy cow photobombing the scene. But many readers will be familiar with Lucy Tidbury’s ‘Moo Selfie’ range of paintings and designs, inspired by Dorset’s scenery. Curious cows are not her only models, however – she also paints alpacas, sheep and even camels in her usual vibrant style, as well as pet portrait commissions. ‘The only thing I don’t paint is people!’ she told me on my visit to her shop and gallery. Lucy’s farm is in one of Swanage’s quirky side streets, which are full of similarly independent shops. The gallery showcases Lucy’s original oil paintings and prints – alongside a wide range of items including greetings cards, tea towels, coasters, aprons, mugs and cheese boards.

Inside Lucy’s Farm shop in Swanage
© Lucy Tidbury

Lucy lives near Wareham, with the scenery of the Purbecks as constant inspiration. She studied Fine Art at the Bournemouth Arts Institute and went on to complete a BA Degree in Fine Art at the University of Chichester, graduating in 2007 and becoming a full-time artist in 2014. She enjoyed art at school and was encouraged by some great teachers and a parent who wanted her “to work in a subject she loved.”
Her passion for art has developed into an expanding business, helped by the fact that Business Studies was a minor part of her degree course – ‘it helped me understand accounting and tax returns. If you do a degree in a creative subject, it is important that you understand what goes on in the real world. So I have the business head as well as a bit of a scatty artist’s head!’
The Moo Portraits were a turning point in Lucy’s career.
‘I was painting a lot of pet portraits and farm animals but when I first wanted to exhibit during Purbeck Art Weeks I realised I needed something different from all the other artists. They were nearly all painting Old Harry, Durdle Door, Corfe Castle… so I decided to combine the animals I was already painting with iconic Dorset scenes. It was really successful and I realised I had hit on something a little bit different. I do like artwork which makes you smile.’

Lucy Tidbury
Image: Edwina Baines

Too commercial?
As the business expanded, it became hard to juggle the various commitments and still fit in the time to actually paint. Lucy has two assistants, Jenny and Julie, who have helped in the shop from day one, and also the now-indispensable general factotum Patrick, who handles all the incoming orders and liaises with stockists.

Ned the Sprocker
© Lucy Tidbury

Lucy carefully balances her time now – either going for a run or taking her dogs Ned and Nelly for walks in the Purbeck hills in the morning, often painting in the evenings.
‘Painting never feels like work! I will work on two or three oil paintings at a time. There is a degree of pressure when I have a commission and I have to get a good likeness, but I like the challenge. Sometimes I paint vintage tractors, too – which I love – and even Land Rovers. These have to be really accurate, as there is sure to be someone who notices!’

New Swanage Pier painting for Purbeck Art Weeks
© Lucy Tidbury

It can be easy to dismiss a successful artist as overly commercial but Lucy doesn’t worry about it. ‘I like that my art is accessible to everyone. If nothing else, a customer can always buy a greeting card and have it framed. I love it when a child can buy a coaster of a pony with her pocket money and keep it in her bedroom.’
The steady flow of customers into the shop includes as many holidaymakers as loyal local shoppers. Many are familiar with Lucy’s work and making return visits. One lady purchases items for her daughter in Canada to remind her of Dorset, others call in to see new work – or simply come across the shop while exploring Swanage.

Highland Cow
© Lucy Tidbury

Forward thinking
Lucy also sells her work online and shows her designs at craft and agricultural shows around the country. When travelling to shows, Lucy has a towable shepherd’s hut. It’s a mini version of her shop inside and doubles up as accommodation. This year’s local bookings include Sherborne Castle Country Fair, Dorset County Show and the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival.

In the future, Lucy hopes to develop the wholesale side of the business – she feels it is important that all the items for sale are made by small British suppliers. A family-run business in Stoke on Trent supplies all of Lucy’s pottery ranges, printers in Weymouth produce the cards (of which there are 120 different designs) and the canvas prints are made in Swanage.
The cow theme is popular for kitchen art and the canvases can be wiped clean, with the added advantage of no glare from the glass.
During Purbeck Art Weeks Lucy will be exhibiting some new original work as well as framed prints at Rollington Barn near Corfe Castle.
‘They’re just happy pictures!’ said Lucy.


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