Love and dedication go into every stroke of pastel on paper in Lucy Pittaway’s studio. It’s a family-run business that embraces everything we know and love about North Yorkshire. Elysia Agnew swings by the studio to catch up...

Lucy Pittaway is a local, Yorkshire girl who celebrates her love for the area, keeps her finger on the cultural pulse and is constantly inspired by her home on a farm near Richmond.

Family is at the forefront of everything Lucy does. And after compiling a collection of artworks and establishing herself as an artist, her tight-knit family stepped forward to help her develop the brand and grow as a business. With her husband, her brother and her sister-in-law in situ, there’s a warm and friendly welcome as soon as you step through the door.

Smiling faces greet me in the gallery and a hive of activity meets me upstairs. A creative space above the ground floor gallery where Lucy’s family and staff team come together to put heart into the art. From the open-plan office space to the printing room and Lucy’s studio space, it’s got a fun and friendly vibe. Everyone is happy to be here and I’m
happy to meet such an enthusiastic and creative family.

“We all get on together really well – we all share the same goals,” smiles Lucy.

“What you see is what you get here – and that’s what I wanted to create from the very start. It’s important to me that people who come to our gallery feel comfortable, that they feel the positive vibes and that they don’t feel like they’re walking into a clinical place where you could hear a pin drop.”

For Lucy, despite finding her feet in art early on, being an artist is not something she actively set out to do. It’s a passion that comes from within – passed on from her innovative mother and her time spent creatively making in her family home as a child. The artist’s dad is the late Boro hero, Willie Maddren who sadly passed away in the year 2000 following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

“My love of art started from day one I guess,” says Lucy.

“I always liked to sketch and I used to spend a lot of time just sitting and sketching my pets at home. It goes way, way back – I’ve always enjoyed doing it.”

Admitting to being a bit of a hoarder, Lucy speaks about the difficultly of letting go of childhood memories and nostalgic pieces she’s created over the years.

“I’m a real hoarder,” she says.

“I’ve kept most of my sketchbooks and portfolios and even have some of my very first colouring books! I sometimes look back through them for inspiration and a few laughs – it’s quite clear that I was obviously always very concerned about going over the lines.”

Lucy attended school in Darlington and unsurprisingly, she was always top of the class in the art department. She recalls a project mishap that has stayed with her forever.

“Art was obviously a standout subject for me,” she explains.

“One thing I’ll never forget is my GCSE project. I decided that I would do batik for my exam piece. I had done plenty of practise and everything I’d done leading up to my exam was great. I was scheduled for straight As and it meant a lot to me with it being my key subject.

“I knew exactly what I was doing, but on the day of my exam, I was using an electric Tianting tool that melts the wax you are drawing with and is used like a pen. On this particular day, the school had a power cut which meant my tool of choice would not work. I was in a complete panic but my art teacher insisted I complete the piece in the science lab using a Bunsen burner to heat the wax, which wasn’t effective at all. My exam piece was a complete disaster and I cried buckets over it.

“I didn’t get my A and I was totally heartbroken.”

Lucy then went on to Darlington College where she achieved a BTEC National Diploma in art and design. Following this she headed further north to complete a graphic design degree at Northumbria University, where she picked up the skills to help focus on the technical side of the business.

But it’s her home comforts and her love affair with North Yorkshire that really brought things to light. From sketching farm animals as a kid at the family farm, to finishing award-winning pieces that hang in her local galleries, she really has brought things home.

LUCY PITTAWAY“North Yorkshire is a beautiful place,” says Lucy.

“I feel so lucky to live in such a lovely area. It’s a constant inspiration for me.

“I’ve always been able to draw on my personal experience and paint from the heart – so I tend to focus on places I’ve been, people I’ve met or my emotional state at the time of painting.

“I grew up on a small holding, so I was surrounded by dogs, cats, chickens, black sheep and Shetland ponies.

“It feels like I have always had a connection with animals, which on a subconscious level has obviously heavily influenced my ideas.

“My in-laws have a farm and we also live on a farm, so I’ve literally got sheep within 10 yards of the front door.

“So you could say they’re definitely an inspiration, but it’s not something I set out to do, it’s more just about the journey I’ve taken as a person and the way my life has been mapped out for me.”

Taking inspiration from her life, her feelings and her surroundings means when Lucy puts pastel to paper, it all comes from the heart. Each piece means something to her, her family or her life in North Yorkshire. But we’re keen to find out just how her journey from idea to easel pans out.

“I have several sketchbooks full of ideas. They’re constantly coming into my mind, so I just sketch them and refer back to them at a later date,” she explains.

“I’ve never been one of these people that has sat down and stared at a blank canvas, not knowing what to draw. I actually have far too many ideas to know what to do with.

“They come thick and fast and at the most inappropriate times. I’ll be trying to drop off to sleep and my mind is full, so I have an awful lot of ideas to draw from,” adds Lucy.

Lucy and her husband are the proud parents of two lovely, little people. The twins are her biggest fans and even have a say in what she produces.

“Sometimes I ask my kids for advice, but everything in their eyes is rosy isn’t it – they always say it’s brilliant,” she laughs.

In 2016, Lucy won a place as the official artist for one of the region’s largest sporting events, the Tour de Yorkshire. Following the Tour de France with her husband on several occasions, it seemed the perfect fit.

“Welcome to Yorkshire opened it up as a competition inviting artists to submit their ideas and a proposal on how you would go about marketing your work. So I created ten sketches, submitted them and weeks and weeks went by before I heard anything at all – so it came as quite a shock.

“This year I didn’t submit for it because I’d figured it as somebody else’s turn if you like. But they actually called and asked if I would be interested in doing it again.

“I just saw it as a huge challenge and too good an opportunity to miss.

“They liked the sketches and so it all happened again this year. It was brilliant. The atmosphere is always electric and we love being involved.”

This year, Lucy was a finalist in the ‘Best Selling Published Artist’ competition and has won previous awards including the ‘Up and Coming Artist 2016’ and ‘Best in Show 2016’. But now, she’s very much focusing on her new collections and exciting prospects for the New Year.

“There are a couple of irons in the fire,” she says.

LUCY PITTAWAY“I’ve got some new work coming out this autumn and I also plan to release new work in early 2018 that’s completely different to what I’ve done before. It’s always a bit of a gamble to try something new, but you’ve got to constantly re-invent yourself to grow. You can’t just be churning out the same stuff all the time.”

Being a family business, it can be difficult to switch off from working life. But she snatches every minute of downtime.

“We spend most of our time in the region. I love to go for a meal at The Oak Tree Inn at Hutton Magna. It’s a very unassuming little place – a real hidden gem and probably my favourite place to eat,” says Lucy.

“No one week is the same. I don’t always get my weekends off, so when we do grab our family time, we make the most of it.

“We love our days out in the Dales, fishing in the steam, taking the dogs out, going for walks, days out at Newby Hall – that kind of thing.

“But similarly, we also love our time on the farm. We’re building a fairy garden and an ogre’s garden at the moment – it’s all very creative. There’s all sorts going on at our house. It’s like a little project in itself and it changes with each season!”

Lucy still gets excited to see her art dotted around the North East – in friends’ homes, in local businesses and even on the TV.

“People have told me that they think they’ve seen my work on Emmerdale and a piece has been spotted on the Yorkshire Vet programme. It’s really nice actually, and some days I still can’t believe it. I pinch myself – sometimes I have to step back and think, oh my goodness – look at this, look at the journey that I’ve been on and look where we’ve got to in such a short space
of time.”

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