Meet Tonbridge landscape artist Nick Hebditch

Artist Nick Hebditch

Artist Nick Hebditch - Credit: Archant

Nick discusses his love for Venice, the beauty of local Kent scenes and working with with acrylics, oils and watercolours

Nick Hebditch may live in Tonbridge, but his canvases suggest wide travels around Europe. He works in an upstairs room at home where there is good lighting and stands or sits to work with no easel, rather painting onto board pinned onto the wall.

He has been here since 1987, following periods of time spent in London where he worked as a scenic artist, but “soon realised I preferred the countryside.”

London, with its galleries and shows, is easily accessible from south Tonbridge, which Nick describes as “a great location as it is also close to the continent and airports. It has wonderful surrounding countryside as well as being busy.”

Educated in art from his schooldays in Sevenoaks, Nick did a Foundation year in Canterbury before going up to Nottingham, where he studied Fine Art. He specialised in painting and ended up creating large geometric abstract works, influenced by artists such as Frank Stella. He has exhibited widely around southern England, including at Henley, Blackheath, and Woburn. While he remains not totally convinced that formal art training is essential, since he knows many artists who were self taught yet still successful, he loved his graduate studies, saying: “It was the only thing I wanted to do.”

Nick has always worked with acrylics, sporadically with oils and watercolours and he’s also experimented with collage and mixed media, which he describes as: “A lovely experimental way of working that results in more unexpected outcomes.”

He finds acrylics very versatile, quick drying and adaptable for use with collage and mixed media, the downside being that “they can dry a bit flat.” Oils on the other hand are, he says “very expressive and the brushmarks remain true.”

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Nick has used watercolour in a less conventional way to create very precise, accurate textures and details and recently he has gone back to oils in his painting, for the “luscious quality” of the paints.

I ask Nick how he goes about choosing what to paint. “For many years I was fascinated with architecture, crumbling walls and views of Mediterranean cities and places like Venice and Paris,” he says

“More recently I have been pulled towards landscapes, something I was experiencing everyday, walking locally and working on the spot.

“I have moved away from architectural details, doorways and windows.”

These lovely canvases had a highly impressionistic feel to them, with the high colour of Der Blaue Reiter, shapes sketched in and not deeply lined.

So it was no surprise when Nick cited the Impressionists as among his artistic heroes, along with Picasso and contemporaries Robert Wells and Ken Howard, with those lovely Venetian scenes.

Gradually, however, Kent landscapes and scenes in Yorkshire inspired his interest. “I respond to light and mood and to the paint itself, so I allow abstract elements to come through,” he explains.

Light, he says, is fundamental. “I look for and respond to light and nature, as in landscape, it is becoming more and more appealing and important to me.”

Preparing for his projects involves gathering reference materials and trips to different locations, frequently Venice.

“I love painting or drawing on the spot whenever possible and also take loads of reference photos. One’s experience of working on the spot helps keep studio work fresher and less rigid.”

It is often a useful exercise to paint more than one work at a time, rather than getting stuck on one particular piece, he says. “You can move on more smoothly and keep the flow going by having two or three works on the go.”

Nick works very methodically to the set sizes of A3, A4 and two larger sizes close to A2 and A1. This, he says, helps framing and avoids extra cost and complication.

It takes him a varying amount of time to create a work, anything between 10 and 20 hours, although an on-the-spot sketch can be as rapid as one hour’s work.

Nick tells me that there is a fine line between a painting being complete and overworking it. “Experience and intuition are the best judges. Sometimes it’s like a bell ringing, it just sings out and it’s complete. It’s such a finely balanced thing.”

Nick created a London Underground poster and this is among his most exciting works, but he is also very fond of his ‘Barcelona Balconies’ and ‘Autumn, Lake near Penshurst.’

While essentially responding to light and atmosphere, Nick admits that he is driven to paint, that it’s a passion and a sort of quest. “There’s something that I’m always trying to resolve and this keeps me creating,” he says.

Nick’s advice to a young artist is not to give in to fears. “Follow your intuition, but remain disciplined and allow yourself time to work through mistakes and disappointments.”

For himself, he plans to do more landscapes and encourage the loose, more abstract qualities in the work.

“I have loads more to develop in the way I use and handle paint and mixed media, or oil or acrylic,” he tells me.

There are opportunities for seeing Nick’s work in Kent, so explore and enjoy. n

GET IN TOUCH

Watch out for Nick Hebditch in future South East Open Studio events, held every June.

There is a selection of Nick’s work on display at the Portico Gallery, Riverhead, Sevenoaks TN13 2BU until 10 September 2014.

Nick will be also exhibiting with the Kent Painters Group at Sevenoaks School, 20-24 September.

Contact Nick on 01732 362233 or visit www.nickhebditch.co.uk