International Women’s Day: Liz Ackerley

Our latest exhibition by Liz Ackerley and Hugh Winterbottom entitled Landscape Inside Out opened at Gallery Oldham on 5 March and runs until 4 June. To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we’re chatting to Liz Ackerley about her experience of being an artist.

We’re thrilled to have your work on display at Gallery Oldham.

What is it like being a woman artist?

It’s a combination of a lot of things! It’s really inspiring and exciting to have a creative profession, but that also brings some challenges. As artists, we are our own boss, but we also have a lot of other aspects to our work that is more than just the painting and creating. There is all the organising and logistics, the marketing and the other business aspects. I think as women, we are used to juggling a lot of different tasks and so this does play to our strengths. I think there are challenges around getting noticed and selling work. The fast-moving pace of online marketing and selling is also both an opportunity and a challenge. The reality is also that we often do other things in addition to selling artwork, maybe teaching, coaching or even other part-time work. 

Abstract painting by Liz Ackerley entitled Down into the Valley
Down into the Valley by Liz Ackerley

When you were at school what did you want to do when you grew up? 

I always knew I wanted to have a creative profession but, when I was at school, I don’t think I knew I wanted to be an artist. To be honest, I was encouraged to study subjects other than art. I loved to draw, and I also loved nature, the landscape, and the environment. But I don’t think I thought I could have a profession that allowed me to explore those in my work!

Abstract painting by Liz Ackerley entitled Autumns Rich Tapestry
Autumn’s Rich Tapestry by Liz Ackerley

Have you always managed to work as an artist? Where did you train?

No, before developing my art into a profession I was previously a landscape designer. I trained at Birmingham School of Art and Design (as it was then). I became a landscape architect and then, through drawing, an illustrator. From there I have evolved my work into painting and mixed-media art.

What motivates you to get into your studio or out into the landscape each day?

I think I am quite a driven sort of person. Working in the studio and out in the landscape are my passions. I love the processes of creating and of being absorbed in the act of creating. The main thing I need is some sort of a framework for it. If I am just exploring and playing, then I label it as that! Specific projects and lines of enquiry are motivators for me.

Are there any other artists who inspire you? Does your inspiration come from anywhere else?  

Oh, yes, where do I start! There are several artists (mostly abstract artists) whose work I love and look at quite regularly. These include Joan Eardley, Barbara Rae, Joan Mitchell, Howard Hodgkin and Roger Cecil. There are several other sources too: nature, the landscape itself, the seasons and the weather are all sources of inspiration. In addition, design and Japanese design and philosophy are also inspirations, alongside photography and travel! 

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? 

I think I would just say, get going, do what you enjoy. Do more of it. Try different things and learn to listen to what it is that lights you up, what it is that inspires you. The main thing is to be you – that way, your art will be unique, and you will love to create it. 

What inspired your latest body of work in Landscape Inside Out?

The landscape around me, in Mossley where I live and have a studio. I am very lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing panoramic views of moors, valleys and woods. At the time when we were selected to create an exhibition in Gallery 2, it was just before the pandemic hit. The restrictions meant that our remit became closer to home, and I think that has strengthened the work. It has allowed a focus that has resulted in a deeper exploration. 

Abstract painting by Liz Ackerley entitled Spring Sunlight
Spring Sunlight by Liz Ackerley

How do you choose which colours and materials to use?

The colours for me come from the landscape and I start each work or group of works with an exploration of colour palette. This may then evolve during the painting development but essentially it all stems from the initial colour palette. In terms of materials, I use a range of acrylic paint, pencil, charcoal, inks and collage. These materials enable me to create the work in layers. Each painting has many layers. I am building up texture, depth and a richness and sense of time. The paper also supports my process of building up texture and pattern in the work. 

Have you got a favourite piece in this exhibition?

Ha, not one single painting. Several of them stand out for what they have taught me about myself and painting and for what I hope I have portrayed about the landscape. 

Is there a thought or feeling that you hope visitors to Landscape Inside Out will leave with once they’ve spent time in your exhibition?  

Yes, I hope that visitors will get a real sense of the atmosphere and energy of those places. I hope their experiences evoke the dynamics of those landscapes and encourage them to get out into the countryside.  

Thanks for talking to us Liz!

Find out more about our forthcoming exhibition programme by visiting our Exhibitions webpage.

Gallery Oldham