Liz Bradley’s exuberant paintings of flowers are marvellously uplifting. Her sheer delight in bright colours coupled with a meticulous eye for botanical detail makes her pictures a joy to behold.
In a way they are the 21st century equivalent of the Dutch Old Master flower painters of the 17th centuries, who depicted compositions of flowers, insects and sometimes shells. If you look carefully at a Bradley, you will spot butterflies, spiders and ladybirds and other insects. ‘I love insects,’ exclaims Liz, adding ‘I am a zoologist.’ She did a degree in Marine Zoology at Bangor University.
Her mother, a keen painter and a fanatical gardener, did everything she could to dissuade young Liz from becoming a painter. ‘She knew what a difficult career choice it is to be a painter, putting us children off going to art school.’
For a while she was an antique dealer with a special interest in Victorian samplers and Victorian woolwork. In hindsight this passion led to her next career: Liz is perhaps better known to older readers of this blog as the mastermind behind Elizabeth Bradley, the embroidery kit business. ‘I was always interested in needlework and started doing embroidery in my teens.’
In 1986, Liz opened a shop in Beaumaris, Anglesey selling needlepoint tapestry kits inspired by historical needlework. ‘I used to paint all the designs, for animals, botanicals and flowers.’ After 15 years she wanted a change and sold the company and enrolled on lots of art courses including one at the Slade. ‘Nobody liked my work as it wasn’t abstract,’ she says, laughing.
‘But I learnt an enormous amount about colour and using watercolour from Paul Riley. A Devon based artist who runs an interesting programme of courses throughout the year.’
Liz’s watercolour paintings, on thick creamy paper, look deceptively simple, but the reality is that they are painstakingly painted layer upon layer. It is a slow process waiting for each layer to dry before the next is applied. But this is what gives the pictures depth and an intensity which is often lacking in wishy-washy flat botanical paintings.
‘It can be quite tricky getting the particular colour that makes all the other work,’ Liz admits. ‘The images are relatively simple and flat but using the colour and shape of the various components of the composition I try to create luminosity, space and depth within them.’
She inherited her mother’s passion for gardening. She observes that many people think of gardening as a chore like housework but ‘if the bug takes hold of you – off you go.’
When Liz moved to Kent a few years ago she volunteered at Great Dixter one day a week. Fergus Garret’s and the late Christopher Lloyd’s love of bright and unusual colour palates have exerted a huge influence on Liz. ‘Before Dixter my paintings were much simpler. Now, I am always striving to make my paintings zing with colour.’
A recent show of her work, Floribunda, at Creek Creative in Faversham was a sell-out.
In the winter months Liz paints sheep, chickens and the Kentish countryside.
Next year we are going to have a selling exhibition of Liz’s paintings in the tea-room here at Doddington Place Gardens. They will certainly liven the place up. Come and see them.