Art - Louise Chavannes

“People tend to equate watercolour painting with wishy-washy chocolate box pictures,” says Louise Chavannes, who has an exhibition of 31 paintings in the Thebes Gallery from Saturday. “They think that you can’t get the vibrancy and depth that oils and acrylics give you. Well my message is… you bloody well can.” Louise has a very personal style about her work. “I put layer upon layer of watercolour on top of one another, sometimes masking one layer to maintain a particular light or colour, sometimes scraping back to reveal it.” The results are quite unique. She shows me a print of the Palace Pier, in moonlight (pictured right). “I use really heavy duty watercolour paper, otherwise it would simply disintegrate, because I give it a lot of abuse. Then I add up to ten layers on top of it to create the effect I’m looking for. My technique is entirely self-taught. Accidents have happened and I have learnt from them.”

Louise is a North-easterner, born and brought up in Northumberland, and she cut her teeth painting the countryside up there. “It has a stark, harsh beauty about it. I love it, I simply love it.” She started painting in her bedroom in impecunious circumstances, when she was renting the rest of her house out. This led to her choice of medium. “For one thing I couldn’t afford more expensive paint.” She painted at night, as she was working in the day, which, she admits, gave her colours a vibrancy all of their own. She is now a professional artist, but, like many of her techniques, this happened by accident. “One day a friend took a couple of my paintings without me knowing it. She put them in a gallery, because she knew that I wouldn’t. They sold.

Louise Chavannes gives the Palace Pier a moody, mysterious look