Chameleon Contemporary Colour Artist Spotlight #3: Andrea Shearing

Andrea Shearing works primarily with 2-D and 3-D sculptures, inspired by the natural environment of the Sussex coastline and the movement of nature itself. Andrea shared with us what brought her to become an artist, her inspirations, and her works “Sunset Glacier” and “Spring Waterfall” that will be on show in Chameleon Contemporary Colour Open.

Andrea Shearing,  Sunset Glacier . On view at Surface Gallery.

Andrea Shearing, Sunset Glacier. On view at Surface Gallery.

Who are you, what is your primary medium, and what is your background as an artist?

I am a semi-abstract abstract painter basing my work on a variety of locations around the world. I create two and three dimensional structures from MDF which I paint using acrylic paint.

I was trained at Edinburgh College of Art in painting and sculpture. I've always been inspired by nature and at one stage in my career was Head of Natural History Illustration at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art  and Design. Although my work is detailed I am not simply a representational artist. My mission explores the emotional symbolism of my subject matter. My focus is on interpreting nature, not simply rendering it photographically but trying to embody symbolic and spiritual meaning of my chosen subject. I work in a slow meditative way trying to simplify forms in an attempt to eliminate the superfluous detail. 

I had a top quality classical training, firstly at Eastbourne School of Art followed by five years at Edinburgh. The first two years were devoted to observational drawing with 2 hours anatomy a week for two years with anatomy exams at the end. We had a day's life drawing and a day's costume life drawing. The college had an amazing wardrobe stocked with every type of costume and props you can imagine run by a wardrobe master. The other three days were devoted to painting, painting techniques, sculpture, bronze casting and basic design. This gave us a wonderful foundation to develop our own personal language on.


How have your life experiences influenced your artistic career?

I was bought up abroad from the age of seven where I had a very traumatic experience. This has certainly driven my creativity and personal connection I have developed with my subconscious mind. Had it not been for this I would have trained in medicine like many in my family. This experience and my genetic background have given me an unusual combination of a problem solving mind with a highly charged emotional inner world. At one stage of my career I was invited to develop 'original' concepts for children's books where I discovered how to combine these two elements. This was the drove my creativity in a deeply meaningful way. I produced over a hundred children's books, games and puzzles with twenty three international awards for writing, illustrating and games devising. However, my roots have been in fine art  where there is more freedom to follow a personal path than in the commercial world of publishing. 

Just at the point when I was about to give up the children's book and focus on painting and sculpture, I became a carer for my elderly mother so devoted ten years of my life looking after her and having little time for creative work. During this period I had time to think about my mission to get back to my fine art and it raised the question ' How do you start afresh when you haven't painted for over a decade?' You can't go back to work on the last series of paintings you did as your life's experience has moved you. For several years I mulled on finding the answer to finding the thread that had been severed and setting off into the unknown. The I started to visualise free standing paintings. This excited me enormously as the idea combined my passion for colour and love of space. I had to wait until my mother died to set off on this new challenge but my time as carer gave me the time to think hard about the direction I was taking.

At the same time I met and married a former student's father who is also a professional painter. Jerry had worked in advertising in London as he had four children to support but at the point we met had also decided to return to his fine art roots. It turned out we had both been taught, all be it at different times, by the same tutors at Eastbourne School of Art. This is the most significant life experience to influence my work as we share the same passion for nature and drawing. I put this down to the number of hours we spent drawing and painting the Sussex coast. We have recently had a joint exhibition called Coastal Resonances as we share a passion for seascapes and landscapes. Although we share the same aesthetic roots our work is very different. Jerry is fast, gestural and very expressive. I am slow and meditative. When we first met we set ourselves the task of doing a page in our sketch book each day. We took  it in turns to set a brief. This took us both in unexpected directions and we realised we had the basis for a very significant and interesting creative relationship. Many artistic marriages I have known end up as competitive negative creative relationship.


Tell us a little bit about the work you've submitted to the Chameleon Contemporary Colour Open. What does your work aim to say? What inspired you to create your pieces of work?

My reason for applying for the Chameleon Contemporary Colour exhibition is that I am particularly passionate about colour. I had the most amazing training in colour in my first year at Edinburgh. The first colour home work we were set was to paint an image without using blue on our palette. Our challenge was to create the illusion of blue in the painting. This was my introduction to colour induction. It was a complete revelation and inspired me to do colour exercises every night. It is a path I am still on. There is always more to discover. In my current work I have developed gradated lines in my work and have been exploring using multiple palettes in one piece which is like conducting a full size orchestra.

My husband and I have a studio in the Dordogne close to amazing waterfalls. I won a solo exhibition in London on the theme of H20 last year. I broke it into six sections. One was Falling Water focusing on waterfalls. The Spring Waterfall was one of these pieces. As students we were taught to look and respond when drawing from observation. Now I sit and observe and also listen before making any marks. This is a long meditative process to try and get to the essence of my subject matter. With the waterfall series I have attempted to portray the sound of falling water visually so the Spring is not so much a reference to the season as the mood of the tune played by the waterfall.

My second piece Sunset Glacier was produced for the Frozen Water section. Part of my mission is to inspire people to value one of the most important compounds on our planet namely water. Most people don't want to be lectured to so by trying to capture the different forms water takes I hope to alert people to the importance of the glacier crisis and be determined to do what they can to help preserve these rapidly melting structures.


What is your favourite part of the process? 

This is the hardest question to answer as there is no single part of the process that can really be termed 'my favourite'. I am tempted to say colour but having decided to abandon the traditional rectangular shapes of paintings for carefully designed shaped pieces, the excitement of composing  on irregular shapes is probably top of my current practice. The irregular shape creates a totally new dynamic for breaking up the two dimensional areas and the process of composing on the three dimensional forms and consequently in perspective, has put composition to the top of the list.

What, or who, has been the biggest influence in your practice?

Nature, light, energy, inner development and spirit.

Describe yourself in 5 words. 

Talented. Passionate. Hardworking. Individual. Imaginative.

Andrea Shearings’ work “Sunset Glacier” and “Spring Waterfall” will be on display in the Chameleon Contemporary Colour Open, running from the 5th October to the 19th October. Opening night is the 4th October 6pm-9pm at Surface Gallery. Free entry for all.

You can follow Andrea on Instagram @andreashearing, or visit her website

Andrea’s upcoming solo exhibition, H2O, is on show October 20th - 28th at Apthorp Gallery The Arts Depot