For Speldiburn Café’s second online exhibition of 2020, we are delighted to present the paintings of artist and illustrator Heather Christie.

Heather's Pictures

All pictures are Acrylic on dibond aluminium plate

Artist Q&A

Please introduce yourself and your work.

Working as a digital designer and illustrator for twenty years, I longed to get back to physical painting. I have only recently found a route and a rationale.

Focusing on botanical subjects, I am drawn to form and presence. I search for narrative, symbolism or storytelling, but always come back to the simple art of observation. I use selected parts of a plant that nevertheless capture a sense of the whole.

This new work has featured in exhibitions in The Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, and East Lothian’s 3 Harbours Art Festival. Some of the subjects find themselves visiting ‘home’ in Shetland.

Your paintings are beautifully observed studies from nature, could you tell us about your interest in botanical painting?

It came gradually, although I’ve always loved nature. I have a Diploma in Botanical Illustration, but want to make contemporary botanical work that is different from conventional Victorian-style illustrations.

Your work features both rare and more common species, what draws you to particular plants and flowers?

I’m interested in plants that are disregarded or less well known. I like plants at their ‘seed head’ stage that have a sculptural quality. The story or use of a plant also draws me to it.

Your exhibition includes a painting of Edmonston’s Chickweed, could you tell us a little more about this special flower?

This plant which only grows in Unst was discovered by botanist Thomas Edmonston in 1837 when he was only 12. A few years ago, I walked the Keen of Hamar and was lucky enough to find it - such a tiny but tough plant growing in such an inhospitable place! It’s a beautiful wee thing – white, slightly bell-shaped flowers and the hairy leaves you’d expect on a windy or salty site, reducing evaporation and providing some protection from wind. It’s a survivor!

The natural environment is clearly key in your work, is spending time in nature important to your working process?

I think it’s fundamental, but as a busy working mum there’s never enough time! I do appreciate what every season brings - nature’s yearly cycle. We currently live beside a coastal country park which is full of wildflowers, so am always observing and thinking about how plants might look as an artwork.

How does a painting evolve?

Sometimes I plan a painting, but sometimes I will be attracted to something that I see while I’m out walking. I may use multiple sources - collected specimens, photographs and scientific descriptions. A knowledge of how the plant works – how many petals, it’s growth patterns etc. are all essential. I try to give the subject some context. The background is really a reflection of my thoughts about the plant and can take a long time - it’s worked up in layers of different colours, until I get the ‘feeling’ I’m after. Composition is important too.

What draws you to the medium of painting? Do you work with any other materials?

At art college I was very attracted to the idea of illustration, but painting was more intuitive. I currently paint in acrylic on dibond aluminium panels - the smooth surface is like the hot pressed (flat) watercolour paper favoured by botanical artists - it allows for a lot of detail. I have recently started printmaking but am still experimenting. I also do loose ink drawings on paper and sometimes work directly into a computer or iPad.

What is your connection to Bressay and Shetland?

My family are from Bressay, going back a long, long time. I’m part of the Linklater family, originally of Gunnista, but from Beosetter for generations. So, I have close family here. I’m really lucky that my husband loves Bressay as much as I do, and we hope that at some point we can be more permanent residents. I’d love to immerse myself in the wildflowers here!

To see more of Heather’s work, please visit:

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