Cornwall has a long history of inspiring artists, and there are countless historic works associated with the county, from Turner’s sketches of 1811, to the social realism of Newlyn School painting to the abstract art of St Ives Modernism. What is wonderful about that history is that we are still living it: art in Cornwall hasn’t faded away, it is as active and relevant as ever, thanks to a vibrant community of artists, gallerists, and educators.

Louise Bougourd is one such artist, a painter whose career has blossomed thanks to her lifelong relationship with Cornwall. As a child she holidayed here, as a painter she draws inspiration here, and as a professional artist she has invested in studying and developing her career here.

In 2021 she was accepted for the acclaimed One Year Mentoring Course at Newlyn School of Art. The programme supports talented artists in the development of their practice and is tutored by Cornwall’s finest contemporary artists. It represents the essential sharing of art knowledge that exists in Cornwall, and challenges students to expand their work and their potential.

Great British Life: Louise immerses herself in Cornwall's scenery to feel inspiredLouise immerses herself in Cornwall's scenery to feel inspired (Image: Louise Bougourd)

‘One of my artist friends told me that the mentoring course had literally changed her life,’ says Louise, ‘which is quite the recommendation! I flirted with the idea of applying to the course for a couple of years, but lack of confidence held me back. Then I realised that by applying, I was investing in myself and my work, and ultimately my future, as someone who wishes to be taken seriously by art collectors and gallery owners.’

Perhaps, I suggest to her, committing to a course like this is actually about taking yourself seriously as an artist. ‘I think that’s true,’ she agrees. ‘The most significant aspect of the course, for me, was recognising that my work deserved this kind of focus. At the school you are suddenly part of the story of art in Cornwall and are submerged into an abundance of support and feedback from tutors, guest artists and fellow students who enrich the experience immeasurably. It had the most profound impact on me and my art practice. I would go so far as to say it was earth-shattering, and I credit the growing career I have now to that turning point, and to every inspiration Cornwall has given me.’

Great British Life: Lemonade and Crisps by Louise Bougourd Lemonade and Crisps by Louise Bougourd (Image: Louise Bougourd)

Having created a series of beautiful collections since completing the course, all inspired by the landscape of the South West, Louise is gaining attention as a rising talent. Her paintings are distinctive, defined by low horizons and wide skies, and created with gestural marks and linear details that trace the flow of the rural landscape. Her latest collection, titled Past & Present, is a personal one, inspired by childhood memories of Cornish beach days, moorland walks, and happy times spent with family. Her touching and deeply nostalgic painting ‘Lemonade and Crisps’ takes us all to that memory of our smaller selves, hot and tired on a summer walk, when we paused for some much-needed salt and sugar, and gazed at the endless view.

‘Summer Light’, ‘Journeying Together’, ‘Raspberry Ripple and Suncream’ and other works all follow the theme of family adventures in the landscape of Cornwall, brilliantly conveyed through views remembered, warm sun felt, and the zing of ice cream flavours on the tongue. Those experiences, and therefore these paintings, are part of the modern history of Cornwall, beyond its industrial and agricultural past.

Great British Life: Raspberry Ripple and Suncream by Louise Bougourd Raspberry Ripple and Suncream by Louise Bougourd (Image: Louise Bougourd)

‘The history and the historic art in Cornwall are a wonderful backdrop for any artist who is painting here now,’ says Louise. ‘I am constantly drawn to Penwith, with its raw beauty and history of toil and hardship, its tin mines sitting perilously on cliff edges, all relics of past times. The echo of those who lived, worked and laughed here inspires me deeply, holding me in a moment that spans many lifetimes, including my own.

‘I seek to paint the way these locations make me feel, the way memories drift back of holidays spent with my siblings and parents, those joyous memories of golden beaches, of splashing in the sea, of lemonade and crisps and laughter. The conundrum is how to translate that depth of feeling, its lyrical, poetic effect on me, onto canvas.

‘I strive to capture emotions and a feeling of deep connection to place. I have discovered that I need to feel before I paint, and then I paint intuitively, without being hindered by a desire to represent reality. My colour choices are particularly significant, as they embody feeling and radiate emotion’.

Great British Life: Summer Light by Louise Bougourd Summer Light by Louise Bougourd (Image: Louise Bougourd)

Louise cites the work of Newlyn School of Art tutor Gareth Edwards RWA as an important influence.

‘There are so many talented artists working in Cornwall, but the one I find most inspiring is Gareth, and his use of paint and colour to convey what he calls “emotional weather”. His work is powerful yet gentle - landscape based, yet so ethereal and atmospheric. That is what I aspire to. Cornwall offers every inspiration to artists, in terms of art and landscape and history. There is a rich diversity of both historical and contemporary art here to inspire and inform. The work created by Stanhope Forbes and others a century ago, for example, is so full of humanity and life, while the artists who taught me at Newlyn have a 21st century angle on creative expression in Cornwall right now. There is still nowhere better for artists to study and work.’

Great British Life: Together We Share by Louise Bougourd Together We Share by Louise Bougourd (Image: Louise Bougourd)