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Miniaturist artist Joyce Rowsell

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 April 2016

Woods above Porlock

Woods above Porlock

Archant

Artist Joyce Rowsell creates beautifully detailed paintings on a small scale, as Sarah Ford discovers

Joyce Rowsell Joyce Rowsell

The Hilliard Society of Miniaturists - whose members produce artwork in a smaller than usual size - is based in Wells and it is one of the foremost miniature art societies in the UK.

Joyce Rowsell, who exhibits widely in this country and abroad, has become president of the society and she is preparing for the forthcoming annual exhibition.

A view of Bath by Joyce A view of Bath by Joyce

Speaking from her home in the countryside near Milverton, she says she first became fascinated by art at infant school.

“All through school teachers seemed to think that I was good at art, so in the end I started to believe it myself. My art teacher, who had graduated from the Slade, wanted me to go there too on a scholarship, but there was no way we could pay for accommodation. So, leaving school at 18 after Higher School Certificate, I worked in the drawing office at Telephone House, which was then in The Crescent at Taunton. My husband was promoted to the Bristol Office and we moved to Easton-in-Gordano.”

A sauna in the woods in Finland A sauna in the woods in Finland

While she was bringing up her family, Joyce went to art classes in Bristol.

She recalls: “I met Louis Ward, the Bristol illustrator. He was a member of the Bristol Savages and gave me lots of advice. As a result I illustrated a book and did a couple of book jackets and I became interested in miniature painting as a result of painting some tiny pictures for a doll’s house shop, which opened in Clifton. When my younger son left home for college, I applied to do a history of art degree as an external student with London University. At the same time I joined the Hilliard Society in Wells, which was just starting up. It has been going now for more than 30 years and I have contributed to every one of its Annual Exhibitions.

The Pilgrimage to Maro The Pilgrimage to Maro

“This led to my taking part in Miniature Art Exhibitions in the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in London and various other galleries in London, Oxford, Scotland, Tavistock and France and in the United States. There are many miniature art societies in America and I am a member of the Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington DC, the Miniature Art Society of Florida, Cider Painters of America and the New Mexico Miniature Art Society, exhibiting with these societies every year. I have been elected a Miniature Artist of America.”

Joyce is a full member of the Royal Miniature Society, which has an exhibition every year in October, at the Mall Galleries in London. She has won a number of awards there, including a lovely engraved silver plaque in the shape of one of the bowls from the Armada treasure.

Joyce enjoys painting people and water Joyce enjoys painting people and water

She has has quite a number of rosettes too, in various colours, to decorate her gallery!

Joyce, who has lived in Somerset for 85 years, tells me her favourite subjects are people, horses, trees, landscapes and water.

A scene from Minehead A scene from Minehead

“I like to paint what is going on around me in Somerset. But I have also been asked to paint pictures of Oxford Colleges, Salisbury Cathedral and did a series on St Paul’s Cathedral in London for the 300 year anniversary of its opening.”

I wondered if artists needed particular skill to produce miniature paintings which are no more than 4.5 inches across.

Joyce explains: “It can be quite hard work and takes time so one needs a strong desire to paint and the determination to finish what one has started.” She adds: I work with Winsor and Newton artists oil paints in permanent colours using an easel.

“My watercolours are from Daler Rowney - also very permanent. For miniatures I work on stretched silk and for larger pictures, canvas.”

Joyce makes most of her sales through societies.

“English ones do not give out the names of the buyers so it is difficult to know if one is selling to the same collector. In the United States though, the societies are keen to encourage contact between buyers and sellers. One of the joys of selling in America is that buyers often write to you thanking you for their picture.

“I did ask the secretary of the Royal Miniature Society if I could have the name of the buyer of a picture of Finland because I was particularly fond of that painting.

“She gave my address to the buyer who wrote me a beautiful letter saying how much he loved the painting and explaining why he had bought it. Apparently he had been a long distance skier and knew Finland very well. He was president of his skiing group. The previous president had died and left him a small legacy, which he used to buy my painting to remind him of Finland and his friend.”

Attention to detail

The Hilliard Society is named after portrait miniaturist to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Nicholas Hilliard. One of the society’s aims is to encourage interest in miniatures from painters and collectors and it stages one of the largest international exhibitions of miniature art in the UK each summer.

The free show will take place at the Town Hall, Wells, from 25 June to 3 July. There is a size limit for artwork of 4.5 x 6 inches for rectangle images, 4.5 inches for square and 4.5 in diameter for circles. Last day for entry is 19 April. Judges will be looking for work which can stand up to the closest inspection. For information visit hilliardsociety.org or why not try out a workshop on 26 June?

Details from secretary Heather Webb on hilliardsociety@aol.com

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