Look Through The Eyes Of An Artist And The World Looks Different, As I Discovered When I Interviewed Local Artist, Eleanor Ludgate.  

Silver Washed Fritillaries by Eleanor Ludgate
Silver-Washed Fritillaries by Eleanor Ludgate

I love the precision and clarity great wildlife artists display. So discovering more about Eleanor Ludgate’s life and art was a real pleasure. 

Eleanor has lived and worked in France and the UK. In fact she used to have a gallery in Sidmouth, and her son now runs Ludgate Gallery in the town. But Eleanor now has her studio and second gallery in Chagford. 

Our discussions have been far ranging but here are the answers to some of the questions I asked Eleanor.

It’s clear from your work that you love wildlife and that it inspires much of what you do today. Where did your love for wildlife come from? 

Nature has always been a big part of my life. Starting from a very early age, when like most children I spent a lot of time at ground level watching the grass, daisies and insects. Then as soon as I could walk my father took me to explore the woods and heaths where I grew up in Surrey. He was also interested in nature and he was like a walking encyclopaedia and could answer all my curious questions and encouraged me to look carefully at things.

Did wildlife inspire your work when you first studied art and design in Guildford? 

I studied design during the 1960s when anything realistic was frowned upon. However, I did not really take much notice of my teachers and still continued to draw and paint from nature and most of my designs were inspired by it.

How important is wildlife for you beyond your easel? In your everyday life?

Wildlife is really important to me; in fact, a lot of my time and energy is spent worrying about it! Or the lack of it. I lived in Provence for eight years, which was a wonderful experience as there was so much biodiversity there with so many insects and flowers that have become scarce in England, or vanished altogether. It was a shock when I returned to find such a paucity of everything including things which used to be quite common. Who would have thought, for instance, that there would be so few sparrows, greenfinches, badgers or even rabbits? Every time I go for a walk I am aware of what I no longer see.

Walking around your gallery it’s clear that birds and butterflies are subjects you frequently focus on. Why them? What is it that fascinates you about, for example, butterflies?

My first love was painting wildflowers, but naturally I saw these with the insects that were attracted to them, so I started adding these to my flower paintings. Then later on I started painting birds, and from then my range has grown to anything I see and am inspired by, mainly on my walks. Butterflies are one of my favourite subjects, I love their fragility and beauty, and when I started painting them very few artists seemed to be doing so.

Some of your paintings are very detailed. How important is it for you to get it right? And how do you do it?

I am very keen on getting the detail correct in my paintings; I usually try to paint everything to more or less the same size as the actual flower, insect or bird. Although this makes getting the minute details more difficult. I do not like seeing paintings where for instance, the birds and insects are far too large and clumsy, especially the beaks on birds!

I have a large collection of dead birds in a freezer, some of which I have had for many years. These were usually found or given to me and were either road or window casualties. I also have a large collection of butterflies and insects acquired over many years, some dating back to my childhood! Most of these, I either found dead or bought from a butterfly farm which used to be in Dorset. This was many years before butterflies became so scarce and I no longer approve of butterflies being sold, especially those taken from rain forests etc.

There is a section in the back of my butterfly book which explains some of the techniques that I use to paint my butterfly paintings

Do you think people generally care enough about wildlife and biodiversity?

I do think that there are a lot of people who care about wildlife and biodiversity, especially through watching some of the wonderful TV programmes that are produced regularly and are always enthralling.

However, I do worry that the younger generation are less interested in it and a lot of them look at life through a screen and do not notice or seem to care about the “real” world, and this really worries me.

You can see more of Eleanor Ludgate’s work on her website and in the Chagford and Sidmouth Galleries. 



A Final Thought About Eleanor Ludgate’s Attention to Detail

What I really love about Eleanor’s work is how she records imperfections. So many artists paint perfection, scenes as we think they are. Eleanor notes the imperfections of a scene and records them as well. For example the bramble leaves in her Silver-Washed Fritillary piece shows the brown ragged edges of some of the leaves. It’s this attention to detail that delights me. 

There’s more on butterflies if you follow this link.

Stefan Drew 

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