Who inspires me... the first of many I love . #bywbootcamp assignment week one



This is my first post on inkpaintpaper about who inspires me. I discovered Mary Newcomb shortly before we left our London flat to live in Norfolk when I came across this book in a rambling book shop in Charing Cross road.

[caption id="attachment_1415" align="aligncenter" width="640"] "Mary Newcomb" by Christopher Andreae published by Lund Humphries in association with Crane Kalman Gallery, London 1996[/caption]

I loved her work immediately. There are over 160 full colour images of Mary's work - including sketch book images and notes.  This is one of my favourites. She has a wonderful way of juxtaposing scale in her paintings making them magical, illustrative and, with her use of strong lights and darks, graphic at the same time.

[caption id="attachment_1416" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Sweet corn wedding 1976 by Mary Newcomb[/caption]

I was lucky enough to see a large collection of her paintings in real life at a retrospective a couple of years ago at Norwich Castle where her daughter Tessa gave a talk about some of the work. Tessa is also an accomplished artist whose style is not dissimilar to her mother's in subject matter, but from what little I have seen they are more illustrative and detailed. I love some of the deceptive naivety of Mary's work mixed with the dreamlike; some images remind me of the work of Odilon Redon. They have a gauzy transparency - a fleeting glimpse of something beneath a veils of colour.

[caption id="attachment_1417" align="aligncenter" width="640"] The girl with the dalmation 1988[/caption]

Mary has a knack of distilling subject matter to its essence. There is humour in her work, you see quirkyness and fun in her paintings. Look at the pattern like white flowers here on a slab of hedge busy with bees and it's impossible to tell what the tiny man in green is up to on the road as another approaches over the hill... but I would bet that this is what Mary sketched from life.

[caption id="attachment_1418" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Half men, bees and bell flowers 1975[/caption]

This is part of her appeal for me; I think she simply painted what she saw but allowed herself to play around with composition, texture and colour and importantly scale.

[caption id="attachment_1419" align="aligncenter" width="640"] A Hedge in November- Spindle_Sloe_Oldman's Beard- Blackthorn- Blackberry (with trailing Goosegrass) 1984[/caption]

I never use black in any painting I do but the way Mary uses it is beautiful to me.

Another inspiring thing about her is that she was self taught and not 'discovered' until she was in her early fifties. Mary lived in Suffolk and Norfolk so the images in the book resonate with me as I lived in the Suffolk countryside as a child. On my way home to Norfolk from a trip to Lincolnshire I saw this view and painted it a week later from memory which was a joy:

[caption id="attachment_1420" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Journey home via Melton Constable 2010 © Gabriella Buckingham[/caption]

I return to the book I have every now and then and each time I see something new. Seeing Mary's work in real life shortly after she died moved me to tears, it's very special and when I look at her paintings it spurs me on to look around me and paint.

Which artist/s inspires you? I'd love to know..



  1. Thanks for the intro to Mary Newcomb's work - new to me. There are many artists who inspire me, but one of my favourites is Michael Morgan http://www.marinehouseatbeer.co.uk/catalog/artist.php?artistid=68&galleryid=17
    I never imagined that watercolours could be so rich.

  2. Oh they are stunning Sue - thank you so much for sharing that. I have not seen Michael's work before. Will take a closer look now x

  3. Love the girl with the dalmation painting and you are right there is definitely humour in Mary's paintings! I discovered Carol Aust a while back and really love her paintings. You might like them too... http://www.carolaust.com/carolaustfineart/
    Jane xx

  4. You write beautiful, Gabs. Any wonderfully clearly about art in a way I never could.
    I love your blogs!
    Alice XX

  5. That should be 'beautifully' of course!!! Ax

  6. Oh Alice what a lovely things to say! thank you. I suppose I just write about it purely from my own stand point as someone who can imagine how Mary puts paint on the canvas. :) x

  7. Oh I do Jane! thanks so much - someone new for me to discover. I really appreciate you posting that link :) x

  8. Stunning work - thank you very much for that link Sue! I thought i'd replied to your comment yesterday but I must have not pressed reply! Very glad to introduce Mary Newcomb to you !

  9. You are so lucky to have a copy of that book!! I have recently discovered Mary Newcomb and went looking on Amazon as none of the libraries I can access (in Victoria, Australia) have anything on her. You'll never guess how much a copy costs - £800 for a second-hand copy and £1250 for a new copy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great blog post about her. Thank you!

  10. One thing i have learnt about her is that she didn't keep a sketchbook but jotted down descriptions in words and then worked from those observations.

  11. That is incredible Deb! I don't know that it would go for that much in the UK but I am very glad I bought my copy.. wish i'd taken better care of it though as I left it out in the rain accidentally once :/ LOVE LOVE Mary. Have you seen her daughter Tessa's work? It's more detailed I'd say but a similar colour palette and subject matter not that far removed.

  12. I know - I was astounded to see those figures (not sure why that part of my comment hasn't shown up here). I have a friend in the UK who will look out for the book for me - fingers crossed he finds one! I have had a quick look at Tessa's work. It's also has a lovely feel about it.


Post a Comment

I love to have comments and read every one.. thank you!

Popular Posts