An interview with Alan Cotton, one of Britain’s most distinctive Landscape Painters

Alan, all your paintings seem to have a very real sense of place

Yes, I like to absorb the atmosphere and lifestyle of a region. I love Provence with its vineyards and olive groves, the smell of wild thyme under my feet and sitting in shady courtyards, drinking wine, or drawing with the sun on my back.

The two paintings in this exhibition were done from a courtyard in Tom Stoppard’s former home, at Lacoste looking across the Luberon to the hill town of Bonnieux.

When you travel to different parts of the world, how does this affect the way you work?

Oh, every place is different, of course. In Provence I can relax and draw for hours, but often you have to improvise and work according to the conditions. When I travelled to the Southern Hemisphere as tour artist with HRH The Prince of Wales, we were always moving on and the drawings were fleeting sketches. When I went as expedition artist to Everest with Sir David Hempleman-Adams, the temperatures were 15 to 20 degrees below freezing and I could only draw for very short periods, before putting my gloves back on. In Ireland, I am forever chasing the light and dodging the showers, so many of my paintings are about stormy skies, with sunlight streaking through dark clouds, illuminating the landscape.

With your oil paintings you work entirely with painting knives and you clearly love the marks the knife can make

Yes, I think the painting knife is more versatile than a brush. You can pick up a knife heavily laden with sumptuous oil paint and make large sweeping marks on the canvas or you can allow the paint to dry and then scumble wet paint over the top. The edge of the knife can produce a fine stem of wheat or barley and the tip will make the tiniest seed head. I am still finding new ways of using the knife, which I started to use soon after leaving Art School.

Alan, you have now been with the same London gallery for a long time

Yes, I have been with Messum’s Fine Art in Cork Street for over 25 years and they represent me internationally.  I have had over 20 one-man exhibitions with them and David Messum and I have become very good friends He and his wife Millie frequently join Tricia and me, when I am working abroad and they have been with us to Provence, Morocco Piemonte and several times to the West Coast of Ireland. I am currently working on paintings for my next London Exhibition at Messum’s, which will be in 2019.