Susie West is looking out over the sea from a hill above Brighton. She lives here, but it's a rare moment as normally she is off travelling the length and breadth of Britain, painting our lovely cities, towns and villages, for her series of popular, contemporary travel posters.

Her journey literally began about 10 years ago when she was stuck on a train outside Wimbledon.‘We were there for about four hours as there was something wrong with the train. I was desperately trying to pass the time and started to sketch a row of little terraced houses at the top of the embankment. I couldn’t get them out of my head and kept drawing them.’

It kicked off a fascination with architecture and the 57-year-old began painting and drawing imaginary houses and selling to galleries before moving on to real places special to her.

Susie in her studio. She has recently moved just along the coast from Brighton  (Image: Susie West)

‘I started out with Battersea Power Station, St Ives, a London skyline and Brighton's Helter Skelter. When we got a printing kit, we decided to print one up and my husband Blair said I wonder what it will look like if we add text at the bottom.’

The idea took off and after being inspired by the old travel posters they both loved, they couple began working as a team producing prints from the paintings adding the name of the place and selling them through Susie’s Etsy shop. She was soon swamped with requests for other towns and villages.

‘The old travel posters had text that was more than perfunctory. Initially, it was to convey information, train times, etc, but they soon became more inspirational, hoping to persuade people to travel to new places. I find it interesting that nowadays people usually collect them to remind them of places they've already visited or lived, rather than inspiration for new travels.'

Inspiration has come from artists like Norman Wilkinson, who studied at Southsea School of Art. 'His work is absolutely gorgeous,’ she says. ‘He traditionally painted boats and seascapes, but by the 1920s he was doing travel posters. Although he still painted in a fairly traditional media in oils, he started painting pictures of Scotland and Wales for the travel companies in a more simplified older fashion so it was still a traditional painting but with an eye on being a travel poster.’

Brighton West PierBrighton West Pier (Image: Susie West)

Susie’s background in graphic design using text, shape and colour very much plays into this art form. The self-taught painter loves the impact of the posters, feeling that they engage from a distance.

‘Even with the simple place name at the bottom it makes it more than just a landscape of a town; it gives people a connection.'

'I realised how much we all identify with the places in our lives - where we grew up, now live, went to university, got married. It still gives me a real buzz when someone tells me how special one of our travel posters is to them and the memories it invokes.

‘The connection to places can come from anywhere,’ she says. ‘I did a painting of Putney Bridge with a red London bus driving across and a visitor to one of our stands recognised the bus as being the one their grandad used to drive.’

Susie makes sketches on location firstSusie makes sketches on location first (Image: Susie West)

How does she decide on her next town? She is customer led and collects votes on her Instagram to see what is popular. ‘Sometimes it is just a town, but sometimes people give me suggestions of a particular street or a place to stand with a good view. This is really handy for a place I don’t know. Then I go to the place, have a wander round and try and work out for me what sums it up or makes it special.

‘I take photos and sketches, then spend about a week laying out different ideas to see what's going to work best. I then spend about 20-25 hours painting. Finally, it’s then printed up with the name of the place at the bottom.’

Susie paints in layers, preferring to work in acrylics.‘I like the colours, they can be very bright, and dry quickly. My paintings are broken up into lots of different shapes, any one of those shapes whether it's the side of a building or the sky, can have anything up to 12 different layers and that’s how I get it really bold and solid. I'm quite often asked if they are screen prints as opposed to a painting because of that solid nature.’

West WitteringWest Wittering (Image: Susie West)

She moved from Leatherhead in Surrey into her home studio just along the coast from Brighton a couple of months ago.‘I've always wanted to live by the sea and adore the vibrancy of Brighton. Obviously I paint a lot of buildings and there is an amazing mix of old and new architecture. The old Victorian and Art Deco architecture is stunning, and they haven't been afraid to build new right next to it. When you put that with the mix of landscape - a 15-minute walk to the beach or five minutes' walk into the hills of the South Downs behind us, you have everything on the doorstep. I now regularly swim in the gorgeous Art Deco lido in Saltdean, which is a joy in all weathers.

‘The weather has been the biggest revelation since moving here. I can start my day with sun flooding through the house at sunrise, find the hills totally obscured by mist an hour later, watch a storm come rolling in and hear thunder ricochet around the hills, often in a single day and all played out with spectacular wide, open skies.’

She is reluctant to pick any favourite posters but Chichester, Brighton, Hastings and Horsham have all been added to her collection. ‘Horsham is such a beautiful town,’ she adds. ‘I painted what I thought would be my one Horsham print, the colourful houses of the historic Causeway, but the good people of Horsham asked for more, so I added the Carfax with its pretty bandstand. I'm now up to three Horsham prints with one of the park as well. ‘I love the infinite variety of the landscapes and architecture of Britain, the old and the new.'

Susie tours the country painting scenesSusie tours the country painting scenes (Image: Susie West)

At the moment Susie is working on a painting of the Amex Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. 'It's an amazing structure, a simple, white, curved roof set against the background of the rolling hills of the South Downs, and with vibrant yellow fields of rapeseed in front of it.

'I have painted castles and stately homes and I’ve painted beach huts, yachts and puffins. It’s been a real surprise to me the variation in our country. When I started doing this, I thought this is fun, but they're all going to be pretty much of a muchness and they are absolutely not. From every place I have painted, I think there are 50 different views I could have chosen. It's coming up with the view that people will recognise, but I don't necessarily want the view that everybody else has painted.’

Occasionally things haven’t gone to plan. ’I went to Yarmouth with a view to painting the pier. I travelled to find that they’d dismantled the whole thing which taught me to do plenty of research first.’

Susie has so far painted 192 of Britain’s cities, town and villages from Aberdeen to St Ives. For clients who have a special place of their own in mind, she also paints one-off commissions. ‘According to Wikipedia there's another 48,000 towns to go, other people have a to do list but they don’t have a to do list like mine!’

Susie has published a book Passport to Painting, (Search Press, £14.99) where she shares her process and provides projects, tips, techniques.

Find her work on Etsy at

She has captured Chichester and its stunning cathedralShe has captured Chichester and its stunning cathedral (Image: Susie West)