Stephen Pitt’s realistic landscape paintings to be exhibited in Ashford
- Credit: Archant
Sellindge-based artist Stephen Pitt’s landscapes are almost hyper-real in their detailed accuracy
Steve Pitt paints landscapes in such detail that when these representations are reduced to postcards, it’s difficult to tell them apart from photographs.
He depicts astonishing minutiae and tells me: “I paint not just landscapes, but what I see, not an impression.” They are almost hyper-real, the depictions of mansions and stately homes he creates seeming just like material portraits.
Steve’s studio, near Ashford, moved from the upstairs room to the lounge with the telly on, where he says he did more work. The original studio has now been converted to a bedroom, but the whole house is in effect a gallery and the garage has been kitted out with pegboard so that it can function as an exhibition space in summer months.
Steve has lived here for about 30 years, previously commuting into London as a print representative, but now enjoying the rural life – bar the odd concert at the Barbican or Royal Albert Hall.
Steve’s whole family painted, he tells me: “I was brought up with it. I have been a member of the Ashford Art Society from a very young age.” The late John Ward RA was one of its Presidents.
He studied at Canterbury College of Art, gaining a Graphic Design qualification, but of formal art education in general, he says: “It depends on what one wishes to do with one’s art. In my case a knowledge of typography, printing and photography gained at college has served me well over the years.”
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Steve painted almost constantly and currently has around 50 paintings hanging in the Cambridge Conservative Club, while some of his work has been displayed in local pubs.
Perhaps the most successful and gratifying occasion was a trip to the Canadian Rockies, where other tourists were so impressed with his paintings that he sold all the watercolours he had been working on and paid for the entire trip.
There is a very pragmatic reason for Steve’s choice of the watercolour medium: “They are so easily portable. I have oils and acrylics also, and dabble with other media from time to time, but I am best known for the watercolours.
“I use the little half pans of Winsor and Newton Artists’ watercolours and I know by heart where each colour is in the tin. There is no searching around for a particular tube that always manages to be at the bottom of the box.”
Steve wouldn’t be drawn when I asked him if he would choose one colour to paint in: “I don’t choose to paint in monochrome. Life isn’t monochrome. Let’s have glorious technicolour as it is available to us.”
However my perception of his work is that of his fantastic range of greens, verdant, lush, like the bucolic English countryside. As he gets older, Steve says that he prefers working on a large size of paper, say 56 x 78cms.
As to his subjects, he says: “I enjoy painting landscapes but I also enjoy the challenge of portraiture. The difference between getting a likeness and not is so very slim.
“I am always amused by the crime scene sketch artist who has to base their portraiture on someone else’s description. The odds of a likeness seem slim to me. I can usually achieve some kind of likeness with someone modelling in front of me and there are probably one or two models I have painted so often I could do them with my eyes closed!”
Admitting that he goes through phases of painting series of things – castles, waterfalls, pubs, windmills – he says the catalyst for this was painting a set of calendars for a printing firm, with scenes that included the River Stour, the Royal Military Canal and local stately homes.
He works fast. “On a trip to Venice I did seven sketches in seven days. I would start in the morning until the light had changed so much I had to leave it and return the following day, but then I would find another view in the afternoon and start that.
“At home I can complete a 31 x 41cm picture in about three hours actual painting time.”
He does admit, however, that sometimes he is very productive but sometimes he doesn’t want to pick up a brush at all.
Steve’s artistic heroes form a catholic list: Turner, Claude Monet, John Ward, Salvador Dali, Disney animators and Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit fame). However, he says that he is still searching for his inspiration.
I ask if painting is important. “It is to me and to those who paint. It can be challenging, enjoyable, frustrating, enlightening, sociable, anti-social, fulfilling and depressing. What more can anyone want?”
Steve will be exhibiting at The Mission Hall, Stubbs Cross, Magpie Hall Road, Ashford, TN26 1HG on 5 to 7 May, from 10am to 4pm.