Lizzie Cornelius, has always had a creative mind. She filled it by embarking on a range of courses studying ceramics, stained glass windows, life drawing, interior design and even catering before she found her ‘thing’. And her ‘thing’ is a refreshing twist on coastal art with vibrant, crisp coastal paintings that add colour and a touch of humour.

The 55-year-old came to art quite late. ‘I worked for the Inland Revenue for 10 years and it nearly killed me,’ she laughs. ‘My dad was a civil servant so there was a pressure to get a “proper job”’. In 2000 she enrolled on an access course in art and design. ‘It went across all disciplines - textiles, painting, ceramics, sculpture and it was my first experience of life drawing. It was brilliant. We had a trainee teacher who was giving us extra lessons in painting. He said, “I really love your work, you have a good handle on colour”. Previously I was more textured in the way I painted, more traditional but the course encouraged me to experiment.’

She left the course but surprisingly didn’t pick up a paint brush for another six years. 'After losing my way in a relationship, my sister said, “Just go a buy some canvasses and do something.”’

Lizzie at work in her studioLizzie at work in her studio (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)

Lizzie started painting from her home studio on Hayling Island, joining the Hayling Island Arts Trail the same year. She feels the arts trail is a really good introduction for both artists and the general public. ‘It gives people the opportunity to open their studios and see what sells; you also get feedback from people and that’s invaluable.’

Her first painting was taken from a scene outside her seafront house where she has lived for the past 22 years. It’s also led to her adopting her business name of I Can See The Sea. ‘It shows birds on a groyne, looking in different directions. It was quite unusual as they normally sit towards the wind. When I started to paint, I was trying textures, and then went flat. When I separated it with black lines it just worked. It just makes all the other colours pop.’

The oil pen forms the outline to separate her vivid colours giving a crisp, clean quality. She calls it a ‘full stop’ and it has become her signature style.

Red Sky at Night by Lizzie Cornelius. She uses an oil pen to separate the coloursRed Sky at Night by Lizzie Cornelius. She uses an oil pen to separate the colours (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)

In another early painting Humble Beginnings, she created her signature pink seagulls. ‘It had the yellow sand of the beach, brown groynes and the blue sea and sky. I thought I can’t do a grey winged seagull it just won't work, so that's where the pink seagull was born.’

Lizzie has been asked to do other colours but maintains the seagulls should always be pink. ‘I have been known as the ‘pink seagull lady,’ she laughs.

Capturing a digital image first, Lizzie then deconstructs it, simplifying it by initially sketching and then painting using acrylic paint and the black oil pen. ‘Basically, I look at it and think what do I like about the image? When I begin sketching it takes on a different feel. It’s not always accurate but I pick out the things I like and disregard the things I don’t; I do like signs; they can be quite apt sometimes.

‘When you put it on to the canvas, things change dramatically. It’s quite a bare bones picture, but all those people or extra boats or birds, those interesting colourful bits of detail are added last. The process is very organic.’

Sisterly Love by Lizzie CorneliusSisterly Love by Lizzie Cornelius (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)

Her art is simple yet effective and by outlining the block colours they come to life. Reconstructing and simplifying the subject matter, her pictures take on a contemporary feel. ‘We are cluttered by things and lack time to stop and look around us,’ she says.

Her inspiration for her coastal artwork comes from the sea, living on the beach at Hayling Island and the places she visits. She also admires artists like Michael Craig Martin, Antony Gormley and Andy Goldsworthy sharing: ‘I love their structure and colours.'

After 10 years painting from home, an opportunity arose to acquire a studio at Portsmouth's Hotwallls.

'There are these huge windows, so while you are painting people can look in and that absolutely petrified me. But actually, it was really good training and now I love it when people come in.’

She moved to her studio in Porters Lodge in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard last year. You can see Lizzie at work; her studio and shop are open to the public every day and entry to the area is free. Visitors can follow the story of her work – from the original picture which inspired the artist through to the finished artwork.

Sundowner by Lizzie Cornelius. Visitors can see Lizzie at work in her studio at Porters Lodge in the Portsmouth Historic DockyardSundowner by Lizzie Cornelius. Visitors can see Lizzie at work in her studio at Porters Lodge in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)

‘They can see my sketchbooks and photographs and then watch me painting on my easel with huge canvasses. The space is amazing, lots of lovely light and I have lots of new customers that I wouldn’t have reached.’

Her artwork is so bright and vibrant, I am surprised to learn that she has had bouts of uncertainty. ‘I am always optimistic but do suffer from imposter syndrome at times. I am my own worst critic, I never known when to stop.

‘As soon as I sit down and paint, I love it. People say you've got to feel in the mood for it but like any job sometimes you just don’t want to do it, but once I start, I lose myself.’

Emsworth BoatsEmsworth Boats (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)

One special painting is 4 Ice Creams which came from a unique friendship. ‘I painted the sea wall on the front of my house with mermaids, fish and bright colours. One day this old guy walked past and said, “have you got four ice creams please?” He thought I was a café! I befriended this Peter who was mid-80s and he would pop into my studio in Portsmouth. I painted four seagulls and four ice creams and presented it to him – he was so thrilled. He passed away a year ago. As well as a print it’s now also a greeting card – it’s dedicated to Peter Elkins.'

As well as an array of originals and art prints, Lizzie has also created a range of greetings cards and homewares including mugs and placemats, her latest addition is cushions. She likes the business side adding, ‘I love selling it because it means people like it. Not everyone wants to buy a painting to put on their wall., I call it having a bit of Lizzie in your home.’

4 Ice Creams was dedicated to friend Peter Elkins4 Ice Creams was dedicated to friend Peter Elkins (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Cornelius)